An angry angler has hit out at the decision to get rid of one of the last spots for free fishing in Exeter.
Whipton resident Pete Harrison was left horrified when he went with his five-year-old son to fish a stretch of the ship canal between the canal office to the Double Locks pub.
Despite having previously been free, signs now say that people must be a member of Exeter District Angling Association to fish those waters.
That means paying an annual fee of £52 as an adult or £7 as a junior, or purchasing a day-pass for £6 – something Pete said many can’t afford during an ongoing global pandemic.
He also claimed it would reduce the number of people who could enjoy the outdoors, possibly having a negative impact on their mental health.
“I went down there to fish the free stretch with my son and was shocked to see signs saying it was no longer free, and I think it’s a disaster,” Pete said.
“I have lived in many towns and cities and most have a few free stretches and I understand that is the only bit of free fishing in Exeter being taken away.
“Exeter is now the only place I have ever lived with no free fishing. People don’t want to drive miles for a free stretch. It would be very unfortunate as, for some, it is the only way they connect with nature and can boost their mental health as well.
“It doesn’t reflect well on Exeter. I have lived in Chichester, Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Norwich – and all had free fishing.
“There are lots of benefits to a community. It is effectively a service being quietly dropped. No longer being able to spend quality time outdoors and doing a mindful activity is a real shame.”
A city council spokesperson confirmed that the stretch of canal in question has now been included in the lease with Exeter District Angling Association, who now control and enforce fishing in the area.
This is not the first controversy to involve anglers in the city in recent weeks, with many left enraged by the decision to no longer allow people to fish in the canal basin.
A keen angler, Pete – who is from Hampshire but has lived in Exeter for the past three years – had spent several years working for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
He was in the process of switching jobs when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and although he could stretch to buy a fishing licence, he feels it will be a step too far for many.
He said: “I have had to buy a licence. I had already bought a rod licence and a particular set-up for my five-year-old to use so unless I wanted that to be a waste of money, I had to.
“I have had to find another £50 for my little one to enjoy what I enjoyed as a little boy. I have had to throw good money after bad.
“It also deters people from taking it up as people don’t want to have to spend lots of money when they start a new activity, so it’s really not great.”