Lines On The Water

The Angling Improvement Fund – Funding Support For Predation Defences

The latest round of the Angling Improvement Fund (AIF) focuses on support for clubs and fisheries that suffer with predation of fish stocks by mammals and fish-eating birds. A total of £150,000 of Rod Licence income is available to support successful applicants.

With the fund now open for applications from clubs, fisheries or angling-related organisations until 17th May, we speak to one successful club that solved its own predation crisis with support from the AIF.

We’re sitting in a sheltered swim at the side of Elms Lake on the edge of Rickmansworth town centre. It’s a secluded water that belies its position so close to the heart of urban civilisation and to the High Street sandwich shops and cafes which offer the members some easily accessible sustenance during a session. Bankside to the concrete jungle is just a carp-cast away.

On site, the adjacent River Chess flows around the southerly side and a gentle inlet to the east provides the lake with a steady supply of oxygenated water. Further round in the south-west corner, an outlet provides an onward course towards the river’s confluence with the nearby River Colne. The benefit of such topography isn’t lost on The Elms Angling Society members, but with it came a problem. The inlet and outlet were giving the local otter population free and easy access to its own sushi takeaway.

But now, with otter fencing in place thanks in part to support from the Angling Improvement Fund, the fish kills have stopped and the club is receiving the congratulations of one of the country’s foremost carp anglers for a job well done.

Ian ‘Chilly’ Chillcott, an angling consultant with Fox International, is on the far bank making a video to promote the AIF’s latest round of funding. ‘Chilly’ is in no doubt about the project’s success:

“People have got to think a little bit ahead,” said Ian. “Goodness knows what the stocking of a lake will cost these days and one of the best lines of security that we have for that is the sort of support provided by funds like the AIF. As an angler, you can see here a club that cares about its water, the environment and whatever lives in and around it. But also, if I know there’s something in here that’s very nice, I know it’s safe and I’ve got a good chance of catching it!”

So this then, is a tale of hard work, commitment and successful bidding that enjoys a happy ending. It’s also one that was long and sometimes tricky in the making. Paul Harper, the Treasurer at The Elms Angling Society, takes up the story.

“We suspected we had a problem with otters but at that point, we didn’t know what we could do about it. We also didn’t know whether anything would be possible at all and certainly didn’t know how much it would cost.



Otters need to eat and replacing stocked fish is an expensive business

“We knew we had what’s probably a unique set up in that we have the river running down two sides of the lake with an inlet and outlet to and from it. So we had some technical problems with how we might fence it and we really needed help to understand what was possible. We put some cameras up and identified that we definitely had an otter problem.”

Confirming there was an issue meant there was a requirement for a humane solution, so the club’s first step was to contact their local Fisheries Management Advisor and ask for expert guidance.

“I contacted Jake Davoile at the Angling Trust and he agreed to come down,” said Paul. “With the help of his advice we decided how we could approach the project. We’d considered doing something for a couple of years but were quite daunted by the prospect of trying to fence the lake. It was Jake’s encouragement which convinced us it could be done.”

Paul openly admits that initial soundings within the club itself revealed the perhaps common observation that there were people who knew people who had mates who do fencing, but in the end, it was decided this was a task that was outside the general remit of an in-house solution.

“We initially thought we might be able to do some of it ourselves. The thinking was that it might take longer but it would be cheaper.  We spent months trying to clear ground only for it to grow back again so in the end we decided that we would have to find some contractors who could do the work and then we’d apply for funding.”

Coincidentally, two of the club’s members had recently completed a fishery management course and part of the course requirement was to write a Fishery Management Plan. It gave the club a head-start as it began to prepare its application to the Angling Improvement Fund for support with the project.

“We worked out our priorities and started to form a structured plan which included other jobs and we provided that overall plan as part of our initial application,” said Paul. “I think the strategy of showing that we were looking longer-term and managing the club properly for the future, was possibly very helpful to us.”

The application was specifically for support with the otter fencing but its presentation as part of a wider club vision provided full context. A further consideration was that the presence and physical interaction of the River Chess with Elms Lake meant a specific flood permit was required and with Jake Davoile’s ongoing advice supporting the process, the club formulated its application, complete with plans, costings and acknowledgement of regulatory requirements.

“The form itself is very straightforward, but it needed a bit of planning and approaching in the right way,” said Paul. “It would have been very easy to find the form online and simply fill it in but it was providing the additional details that I think helped our application because I think it showed that we knew what we needed to do, how we would do it and how much it would all cost.”

The inclusion of the Fishery Management Plan was only one part of the extra information provided by the club in its application. Additionally, The Elms A.C. provided a six-page presentation which detailed the river’s significant presence, relevant photographs, maps and full explanations detailing the complications of the job.

“We wanted to make it clear this wasn’t just a straight line of fencing going across a field; it required a lot more work. I obviously don’t know what process the Angling Trust has for reviewing applications, but we felt that when we submitted our application, we had put the best possible case forward.”

Fisheries Management Advisors can offer ongoing support

The outcome was an award from the fund which supported completion of the project.

And it worked.

“Even when the fence was going in, we had otters visiting on a regular basis and during the last week of installation we were losing a fish a day. Within a month of the fence going in, we captured some footage of an otter on the outside of the fence which came up to the camera but then turned round and swam off down the river. We know they’ve been kept at bay and we’ve had no fatalities since. We certainly keep an eye out, but so far, so good.”

Watch more from Ian Chillcott and Elms A.S. in this exclusive Angling Trust video


The latest round of the Angling Improvement Fund is open for applications until 17:00 on 17thMay, 2024.

Available funding for this round, which focuses on supporting solutions for clubs, fisheries and angling-related organisations to tackle the predation of fish stocks by mammals and fish-eating birds, totals £150,000.

Click for further details including including guidance notes for applicants and registration.

The AIF is funded by income generated through the sale of the Environment Agency’s coarse and non-migratory trout fishing licences and aims to provide a direct benefit to anglers. It was established in 2015 and has reinvested over £2.7m of fishing licence money into projects that directly benefit fisheries in England.

In addition to providing money for AIF awards, the Environment Agency also funds the work of the Fisheries Management Advisors so that clubs and fisheries in need of help can receive expert advice free of charge.

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