Debate goes on over river anglers’ ‘close season’ - but it’s over for now

For many coarse fish anglers, the opening of the new season on the rivers last Saturday (June 16) is the magical day when the close season comes to an end.

The close season on rivers and many lakes is always fiercely debated with a number of anglers suggesting this long-standing rule needs to be looked at again, arguing that a close season is not necessary and rivers in particular should remain open for the whole year.

On the other hand there is evidence to suggest fish need time to spawn in areas without the disturbance of anglers and nature should be allowed to get on with what it does best.

The majority of anglers support this view and Petworth & Bognor Angling Club will continue to close for the season.

There has been a long period of drought followed by unseasonal heavy rainfall which is flooding the rivers, in particular the Rother, so please take great care and try not to fish alone when the rivers are in flood – they are dangerous places and best left alone until the levels fall.

So what kind of a season awaits us? The good news for the upper Arun is that following a major pollution incident a year ago the river is slowly recovering.

The pollution, apart from killing most of the fish, left the river basin devoid of weeds and plant life that was home to the many species of shrimps and invertebrates that fish feed on.

But gradually, with the help of the local angling clubs and the Environment Agency and the recent floods that have cleansed the river basin, things are improving and fish are moving back into the ten miles of the affected area.

A natural return of fish back into a river where they can spawn and grow is better than introducing fresh fish stock so let’s hope a lesson has been learned and such pollution incidents can be avoided in the future.

The Rother holds good stocks of chub in particular. Dace and roach are more difficult to find and there are some good bream to be found, especially in the Coates Castle stretch where some encouraging catches of barbel appeared as well as the Coultershaw area.

Barbel have appeared in ever-growing numbers on the Arun.

It is thought they originally found their way there from the Rother but it seems they may have been in the Arun for many years.

The Rother fished well last year and the Environment Agency and Arun & Rother Rivers Trust are working closely with Petworth & Bognor Angling Club to discover why the fish stocks vary so much.

But to take action to remove some man-made obstructions which stop fish moving throughout the river, but to also improve spawning area’s and recovery places where fish seek refuge from flash flooding.

All this takes time and money and volunteers play a vital role at club level and with the rivers trust, who are now a registered charity. There is a website – – for everyone interested in the welfare and condition of the rivers in the area.

Match anglers also have a busy season ahead and matches are held throughout the area – a lot can be learned by fishing them and the club would like to see some youngsters try their hand.

For full details and to see where you can fish and how to get there, go to ... and don’t forget your rod licence.

Roger Poole