It’s that horrible time of the year for those who like to fish the Rother and Arun - because March 15 is the start of the close season, which doesn’t re-open until June 16.
The close season - which is fully supported by angling clubs throughout the land - falls when spring has arrived and the countryside should be looking at its very best. The clocks have gone forward and where better for an angler to be than by the river?
On the other hand fish have other thoughts on their mind - it’s their spawning season and the last thing they are interested in is food. They have done a fair amount of eating during the long winter period.
It’s time to take stock of what kind of year anglers have had this past season. The weather didn’t help as an encouraging spring was followed by a long drought and both rivers and ponds were dangerously low, hard to remember now when we have had months of what seems like continuous rain, floods, and overflowing streams and rivers.
High rushing rivers wash away spawning areas and this has a big impact on the fish population.
Despite these conditions, Petworth & Bognor Angling Club members have had some good catches. Chub have been caught throughout the year on all stretches of the Rother and barbel seem to be moving throughout the river. Catches have been recorded almost everywhere.
Sadly roach and perch are hard to find and the number of reported bream caught are below previous years.
Building the new riffle - a man-made river basin area where rocks, large stones and gravel allow the river to speed up and which is shallow enough to allow some species of fish to spawn - below Shopham Bridge will start this summer. This Arun & Rother Rivers Trust project, together with a protected spawning area above the bridge, should improve the fish stocks in the lower Rother.
The club are partners in this major project and will be involved in the planting of new young trees along the river banks.
Sadly so many dead trees are to be found throughout the Rother Valley - their shade and cover provide a safe haven for fish while barren banks allow strong sunlight to destroy the river basin plants and weeds, home to the insects that fish feed on.
The Arun now seems to have quite a head of barbel. They’re not easy to catch but dedicated barbel anglers have caught some really big fish.
The Arun is a challenging river and the club’s tidal stretch at Watersfield contains some good bream, roach and the ever-popular dace.
The club have a new stretch of the Arun above Stopham Bridge. It’s still marginally tidal and members have yet to seriously fish this water. The feeling is it’s a good summer spot.
Flooded fields haven’t encouraged many to try their skills although one member had a red-letter day with a full bag of roach up to 2lb. The club have a number of ponds open throughout the year - www.sussexangling.co.uk gives full details.