A FISHERY owner has decided to close his ponds and is asking anglers to go to public ponds and rivers as he doesn't believe commercial fisheries fall within government guidelines.

Chris Walton, who runs the Rising Fishery in Higham, has said that he does agree with fishing being allowed during lockdown, but is asking that people go to larger, public spaces where anglers are less likely to run into others.

The Angling Trust has asked anglers to abide by the strict conditions allowing fishing and ensure that people stay safe and allow fishing to be part of the solution and not the problem.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport confirmed that "fishing is allowed as exercise so long as participants adhere to the rules on staying local, gathering limits, social distancing and limiting the time spent outdoors.”

Due to this, Chris believes that, due to the proximity of the rods in a commercial fishing location like his, closing his doors and asking people to fish in other public locations would be safer.

He said: "It's a big decision because this is my livelihood. I'm not saying fishing should be banned - if people need to go fishing, go fishing but do it in such a way where you are not interacting with anybody.

"Don't go to commercial fisheries, go to the canal, go to the river, go to the reservoir or the small club waters on your own."

The Environment Agency has revealed that over 100,000 more people are fishing, with a boom in rod licence sales by nearly a fifth (17%) compared to the same time last year.

Fishing retailers across the country have also reported a huge demand for beginners’ fishing kits and tackle since lockdown restrictions eased on 13 May, with Chris thinking that more people are fishing during the winter than ever before to give them something to do.

He added: "I know what the guidelines are. They are that fishing is allowed but to stay local and to be on your own. To me, how can you fish local when you are travelling to a comercial fishery and these fisheries are set up to get people in.

"Then there is the other area in the government guidelines that venues that provide sport and leisure outdoors have to close and there is a big long list with places - but surely a commercial fishery is a venue providing sport and leisure outdoors.

"Everyone is looking for loopholes at the moment and I don't want to be part of that, I want to be part of the solution to get this sorted and if that means not having an income for the next 8 or 9 weeks then so be it."

Chris is now calling on non-essential businesses which have stayed open, such as take-away coffee shops, to remain closed during the lockdown so that less people are going outside and potentially spreading the virus.

"It's the bigger picture now, there is too many people about, there's too many people looking for loopholes," he continued. "The attitude is wrong."

"It's not just about the fishing industry. It's other people as well - people like take away coffee stalls - yes they are allowed to open but they should be asking themselves should I be open."