Lockdown-weary Britons reached for their fishing rods after coronavirus restrictions were lifted, figures show today.
Anglers desperate to escape virtual house arrest hung “gone fishing” signs on their front doors as they grabbed their bait and hooks and headed for the nearest lake or river.
Environment Agency statistics reveal a huge surge in sales of fishing licences after the Government relaxed curbs on outdoor activities.
More than 100,000 extra people are fishing, with a 17% surge in rod licence sales compared with the same time last year.
Supporters say the hobby is a perfect way to flee the intense boredom of confinement while maintaining social-distancing and boosting mental health while perched on a riverbank or lake shore.
Angling Trust head of participation Clive Copeland said: “After an understandably quiet period during lockdown, we have seen huge demand on angling clubs, coaches and fisheries since restrictions have eased.
“We’ve known for a long time that the wellbeing benefits of our sport are considerable and are very keen to promote the mental wellbeing elements of fishing.”
More than 750,000 anglers in England and Wales have a licence – and the Agency today(THUR) sets a target of hitting a million by 2025.
Fisheries manager Heidi Stone said: “Fishing licence sales have risen to an exceptional high against the last few years and we’re seeing a true revival for the sport as people recognise all it has to offer.
“As lockdown restrictions have eased there has been a boom in licence sales as now, more than ever, people have a desire to get outdoors and escape their daily stresses.
“Fishing is a sport that can be done by a person of any age or ability and it provides a great opportunity for families to try something new during the school holidays.”
Previous figures showed more than 335,000 licences were sold between May 13, when restrictions were eased in England, and June 9.
That compared with 142,000 licences sold from January to the end of March – a rise of over 230% in less than two months.
The Canal and River Trust’s fisheries manager John Ellis said: “We’ve seen record numbers of people take up fishing since lockdown, many of whom are completely new to the activity and some of whom have taken up the sport through family members and friends at local clubs.”