Fishing is one of the most socially distanced sports. It is therefore reasonable to consider that angers should be allowed to go fishing during lockdown.
This is not always the case.
Bizarrely angling was banned during lockdown from March up until the announcement by the government on 13th May 2020. After that date fishing was once again allowed, encouraging many anglers to head back out to try and catch a fish.
The relaxation of lockdown rules was responsible for a boom in the popularity of fishing, with an estimated 100,000 people taking up angling during the Covid-19 lockdown. The relaxation of the rules was a key factor in my returning to fly fishing.
Nevertheless, it is best to continue to check the latest guidelines to ensure you are safe to go fishing without fear of a fine or a criminal record. With different opinions in the press, confusing statements form politicians and no real source of the truth it means that the legality of fishing during lockdown is still a debateable issue.
Can you go fishing during lockdown?
I’m not a lawyer, and I take no responsibility or liability for my interpretation of the rules. Based on the reports I’ve read this is my take on the current lockdown rules.
Can I go fishing during lockdown?
According to government advice there is nothing to stop anyone from going fishing, subject to a following a few rules. The rules depend upon the area of the United Kingdom you live in and which ‘tier’ of lockdown you are in.
You can go fishing without any worries as long as you:
Go fishing only with members of your own household. Adhere to the government advice. Don’t travel in or out of any area classified as ‘tier 3’. Hopefully this means that anglers across the nation will continue to enjoy the great outdoors despite the global pandemic that has blighted 2020.
If you are fortunate enough to live in an area that is classified as a ‘tier 1’ lockdown area then you are free to go fishing. As long as you adhere to government advice. The rules you must follow are those from where you live, not where you go to.
As long as you remain socially distanced, adhere to the rule of six and do not travel in to a tier 2 or tier 3 area then there is nothing to stop you from enjoying a day of fishing. As businesses can remain open during tier 1 lockdown there is nothing to stop fishery owners from opening for business.
In a tier 2 area you can go fishing as long as you adhere to government advice. I’d ensure that you do not arrange to go fishing with a friend. If you happen to bump in to a friend whilst fishing then that would be a happy coincidence.
As exercise classes and sport can continue to take place outdoors this means that fisheries should be open for business. People can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, so going for a walk with a fishing rod in your hand should be fine.
Under the rules none essential travel is not allowed. You are allowed to travel for essential reasons only. If you work at a fishery, are a ghillie or bailiff then this is not an issue.
Eating is essential. Therefore, leaving the house to get food is essential. My take on this is that If you go fishing and keep your catch to eat then this could be allowed. What’s the difference between leaving the house to buy some fish at a supermarket as opposed to leaving the house to catch your own and them bringing them back home to eat?
This means that anyone fly fishing for trout or salmon could be at an advantage. This could be bad news for coarse fishing enthusiasts.
A key consideration for anglers in tier 3 would be where to go fishing as you can not travel outside of your own area. So, if you were going to a fishery, in your own area, with the aim of catching fish to eat then it is reasonable to think that there is nothing to stop you.
According to Dr Mike Tildesley, an expert in infection modeling from Warwick University:
“In a Tier 3 area you are advised not to leave the area, but Government guidance does not say whether it is illegal and it unclear what the penalties are if you do.”
As yet I have not had any communication from the Environment Agency to tell me not to go fishing. Nobody has topped me whilst fly fishing on rivers or still waters. Hopefully this will remain the case and 100,000 more people will take up fly fishing during lockdown.