A lot of people have strong opinions when it comes to fishery rules and I am no different. I believe that if it's what a fishery manager reckons is best for fish welfare then that must be respected.
A perfect example is my recent visit to Messingham Sands fishery near Scunthorpe last week for a Fish 'O' Mania qualifier. This was my first visit to the venue and I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about the rules after several rumours came my way. So, I scanned the fishery's website and was pleased to see them all comprehensively listed. Not only this, the fishery had tried its best to explain why each rule was implemented. Perfect! Yes, some were a little unconventional but as long as everyone read them we all knew where we stood and there was no excuse for falling foul. It's as simple as that!
It is generally angler ignorance that's to blame for rule breaking. If they cannot be bothered to read them then it's their fault, not the fishery's. BUT the fishery is sometimes at fault. I know one or two venues that have bizarre rules that even the fishery owner/manager doesn't seem to adhere to! So why have them? There are also unwritten rules, for instance. Some venues don't allow you to fish past the next pallet, while others allow you to feed with a pole pot while fishing elsewhere with a feeder. Not everyone is aware of these rules, however, which can and does cause problems.
Every rule of a fishery should be written down and clearly visible for everyone to see – no excuses! Likewise, if they have a website, it is the fishery's duty to maintain and update the rules on it. Actually, this should apply to everything, not just rules. Poorly maintained websites are sloppy and give off a bad impression to would-be visitors. I find a badly maintained website is generally a good reflection of the fishery itself, however…
So, why not have a set of unified rules that every fishery adheres to? Well, you may be surprised to hear that I am not a fan of this idea. Every venue I fish is unique and has its own idiosyncrasies that give it its own character. Each fishery manager believes it knows what's best for its fish stocks and so implements specific rules, while others are brought in to cover things being abused: pole limits, bait restrictions and limits, tackle restrictions etc etc. Yes, I also have to admit that some other rules are daft, such as preventing you from slapping a pole rig on the surface... but that's a whole issue in itself I suppose!
Looking at three venues that I personally fish in my area, Tunnel Barn Farm is very different to Woodland View, which in turn is very different to Barston Lakes. Each has its own rules that each believes is best for its fishery. Barston has very few rules (other than the Angling Trust's model match rules) as this is a vast open venue that can cope with a lot of bait being introduced and doesn't need to enforce strict tackle limits, for example (although things like spodding and catapulting boilies have started to create a bit of discourse!).
Woodland View, on the other hand, receives much more match angler pressure and has had to enforce strict bait limits and restrictions to maintain the quality of the water. It is the fishery's stocks that are its livelihood so who am I to argue about what baits it does and doesn't allow? Importantly, it makes the effort to police them, which is something of a rarity! As long as everyone is abiding by these rules then everyone is in the same boat, so I see no problem with its policies at all.
Tunnel Barn is a canalised venue that doesn't need bait bans or limits as if you feed too much you simply won't catch much – it's as simple as that! In general, canalised venues are different to open-water venues, as there is no need to dump in pints and pints of bait to hold the fish in front of you. Smaller amounts are generally better, so the bait limits look after themselves and rarely get abused.
What I like about all three venues is the fact that they are all different. The rules are different and the fishing on each is different. If we were only ever allowed to take six to eight pints of bait to every venue we fished it would soon get boring. Let the international elite abide by their strict rules if they want to, but there's no need to restrict our own fishing as well. Some snake lakes, for instance, are 16m wide or more in places, so imposing a shorter pole limit would make them unnecessarily difficult to fish. Who wants to fish a rod and line at this range just because someone who has probably never even seen the venue reckons 'it's better for everyone'?
I love commercials as you can fish pellets, meat, maggots, casters, worms, groundbait, paste or whatever you fancy depending on the venue. It's this variety that makes it interesting. If suddenly everywhere insisted on the same identical pellets, banned meat, banned groundbait, banned hemp, banned bloodworm, and so on, and then stuck to a strict pole limit we would be no better than the boring Continentals (and I would have very little to write about!). I know where I'd rather do my fishing and it's here in this richly diverse country where I can fish one method on one venue and then do something completely different the next day somewhere else. Why would I look forward to traveling all the way north or south to visit a venue that's no different to what I'm used to back home?
I fear that a set of unified rules and restrictions would eventually create a very boring, homogeneous sport. It is the diversity we currently have that puts the Great into Great Britain – so forget this 'one set of rules for all' rubbish. Just make them clear for all to see and I'll be happy!