London’s Urban Fishing Scene

What is up with these people who spend freezing nights by the side of a canal?

As most of the locals will tell you, fishing is a well loved sport in England. In fact, as reported back in 2004 by the Independent, the ‘Our Nation’s Fisheries’ report found that fishing was actually Britain’s most popular pastime, and worth more than £3 billion per year!

Most people imagine fishing to belong in the nation’s rural areas, but that’s not always the case. Some, such as Buster Britton and Jake Selby, founders of a group called Urban Fishing London Docks can regularly be found setting up camp by the canals and rivers of Greater London. Who’d have thought it?

Urban Fishing London

According to Britton and Selby, the waterways of London have all manner of surprisingly quiet and idyllic fishing spots, which offer anglers a good chance of catching surprisingly big fish. The truth is that all sorts of fish can be caught in the capital: from the occasional flounder that’s made its way up the Thames, to England’s more traditional coarse species like eels, pike, roach and carp, and even the occasional migratory fish like Atlantic salmon.

The fishing is almost exclusively catch and release. As Britton reports, most English coarse anglers won’t eat what they catch:

“It’s not something we do, and it’s generally frowned upon. (But) there’s a pub in Bermondsey that will cook your catch,” he said.

“For £8, the all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ pub will clean, cook, and serve your eels and whatever else you can pull from the water,” Selby added.

6lb 11oz eel from Rutland Water

While the founders of Urban Fishing London Docks are doing it for the love of the sport, they say that others are doing it to make a quick buck. Carp fishing is big business in Europe and, as some might find surprising, it’s possible to earn thousands of pounds simply by moving one large carp from one waterway to another.

How is this possible? Well, fishery owners can charge fishermen serious money for the chance to catch a big carp, so it’s important that they keep their fisheries stocked with plenty of large specimens. It is suspected that some poachers catch carp on the British side of the channel, then transport their catches to France where the fish are sold to unscrupulous fishery owners for a large wad of cash.

“It’s definitely something we are not into or encouraging, and if it continues it could have a really disastrous effect on urban fishing,” says Britton.

For the British, who invented the very idea of gentlemanly conduct, this kind of poaching is hard to stomach. For little more than the cost of an annual fishing licence, British anglers can access all kinds of different waterways with a good chance of catching some fish. With so many Brits doing exactly that, the poaching of fish from public waterways poses a threat to the enjoyment of a large segment of British people.

As anglers, all we can do it to be vigilant, and report any activity we believe to be suspicious. If you see someone removing fish from a waterway, you should contact the police immediately. Fortunately, there are organisations in the UK, like the Angling Trust, who are tackling the problem head-on. Let’s do our bit and keep our eyes peeled for illegal activity. By doing so, we hope to protect our sport for generations to come.

Tight lines!

Featured Image: Urban Fishing London Docks

Contributed by F. Cherry

James Green About James Green

James Green loves nothing more than casting a fly in pursuit of salmon, seatrout or, when the opportunity arises, a tailing bonefish, tarpon or permit.