Colin Mitchell, our popular weekly blogger, is back with a close look at the rod licence - why sales are down, and why all anglers should all pay for one. If you like this blog, click the social media share buttons.

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THE subject of fishing licences is a hot topic at the moment.

First because of falling sales.

Second because the Angling Trust has taken over certain fishery duties from the Environment Agency – and the cash they receive could vary depending on licence sales.

And now I will add a third item to debate: should clubs and fishery owners be responsible for checking that their members or customers hold a valid licence?

Last week I visited the well-organised and friendly Beaver Farm Fishery near East Grinstead, Sussex, where they check you have a licence before selling you a day ticket.

It’s the first time I have ever been asked at a commercial fishery for my licence. But I give them top marks!

After all, the cash we licence buyers fork out does now directly help to protect our sport.

I stand to be corrected here – but as well as the public being able to call the Environment Agency to report pollution and incidents that need fish rescues I believe fishery owners can shout for help too.

I pay – so should others!

Also, why should law-abiding licence buyers have to fork out cash and those who dodge the fee still reap the same benefits?

There are those who will question the £27 a year fee for a standard coarse licence – yet they will have hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of fishing gear.

I always question the need to pay road tax for my car, driving licence fees, passports, council tax and the rest – but the fact is I have to pay them if I want to drive, go abroad, live in a house etc!

Like the taxman himself they are a fact of life.

So are numbers really falling?

I have seen the figures that reveal a mass slump in fishing licence sales.

Some will claim this is because of the falling number of youngsters coming into the sport and that angling is on the decline.

But is that really true?

Everywhere I have fished this summer I’ve seen more anglers than ever, on club, commercial and public waters. And they are not all pensioners!

Could it be that a fair number of people who go fishing are just not buying a licence?


I fish in all weathers, at all kinds of venues, but have only been checked by bailiffs of any kind a few times.

Like most Angler’s Mail readers, I fish in all weathers, at all kinds of venues… but I have only been checked by bailiffs of any kind a few times.

I’ve only been checked 3 times

I have still only been licence checked three times in the last decade, once on a commercial, once on a high profile club venue and the other during a well publicised Open match.

That figure – and remember I am not an occasional angler – will be the one that many of the dodgers will look at and wonder if it is worth paying or praying they don’t get caught.

In the past I’ve even wondered whether it is worth buying one because the court fines have been so low that it was worth the risk. However I didn’t fancy a criminal record, even a minor one!

Higher fines for dodgers

Thankfully there have been more higher profile court cases of people dodging licence fees or fishing illegally and these may now help to get licence sale nearer their true figure – especially with the high fines now being dished out.

Over the past 30 years or so angling has often featured in the list of highest participant sports, even hitting the top a few times.

Yet the sales of licences – even allowing for sea anglers not being taken out of the total angler figure – have never matched the number of coarse and game anglers in surveys.

That either means the surveys were all wrong – difficult to imaging when you look at how much tackle is sold – or that there have always been licence dodgers or those who don’t even realise you need a licence wherever you fish.