New figures from the Environment Agency show that angling has seen a dramatic resurgence in popularity over the past decade with a record 1.5 million EA rod licences having been sold in 2009 – a 12 percent increase on 2008, and an all-time record. In 2000, sales were around one million.
Better angling opportunities, free angling guides and the credit crunch are all believed to have played their part in creating the record-breaking trend.
Significant improvements in water quality in urban rivers and canals over the past two decades has also been key. Once grossly polluted waters like
the rivers Wandle, Taff, Mersey, Don and Irwell and the canals of Birmingham now support healthy fish populations and offer excellent fishing to local
Mat Crocker, the EA's Head of Fisheries, said: "Though there's still much to do, more and more of our rivers are now supporting healthy fish populations. The result is that major coarse fishing rivers such as the Severn, Thames and the lower Trent have been providing consistently good fishing.
"There are now salmon in all of the rivers of the South Wales coalfield that once ran black with coal and this year we have tracked one salmon to the
top of the Rhondda thanks to a huge turnaround in water quality and works to help fish swim further upstream."
Mat Crocker added: "As well as this boost to fish stocks, we have also distributed over a million free angling guides this year to make it easier to find a local fishing spot, and, with the recession biting, angling is becoming increasingly popular as a cheap and cheerful pastime. An annual coarse fishing rod licence costs
£26 which works out at 50p a week."
Licence sales generated over £23 million in revenue for the Environment Agency in 2008, and this year's increase is estimated to bring an extra £3
million, all of which will be re-invested in helping to maintain and improve fisheries.
The Environment Agency also has plans to revitalise and transform over 9,000 miles of river by 2015, creating new fisheries and fish passes to help fish to navigate man-made structures such as locks and weirs, as well as provide more angling opportunities.
To supplement this, the Environment Agency's fish farms put over 350,000 farm-reared fish into rivers each year to enhance angling at popular fishing spots and to re-populate rivers after pollution incidents.