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Tuesday 15th February 2005 - I received the below Email from Peter Caunter, a South-East coast Gill Net Fisherman - I have appended my reply below for your information.

I received another long Email from Peter on Thursday 17th February and another on Monday 21st February which I have included, together with my responses in chronological order, lower down this page.

Most recent letter received Sunday 27th February

I welcome your views.  You can Email me any time at

I have added them below the Emails from and responses to Peter.

Firstly, for any new visitors, here's the original article, from elsewhere on this web site, which understandably prompted Peter's indignation:

Gill Nets & Dogfish

This is a photo of a very sad Lesser Spotted Dogfish we caught on the 5th June, while fishing for Bull Huss.  We cut away the remains of the Gill Net & released it.  It is debatable whether it will ever survive?

Remnants of
Gill Net
grown deep
into the flesh
of a Lesser
Spotted Dogfish

June 2002

This is becoming a far too commonplace sight.  Here's yet another LSD caught during a beach fishing competition in December 2002 at Beesands, just west of Dartmouth.

Sights such as this disgust and revolt me.  I'm certain that no thinking angler would condone such horrifying and needless injuries.

Clive Barham
holds L.S.D.
with Gill Net
remnants grown
deep into its flesh

December 2002

It makes me realise that the majority of rod & line sea anglers have nothing in common, (other than their quarry), with the methods employed by the commercial gill netter who pursues his victim with unscrupulous personal greed and not a single thought for the well being of the wildlife in the sea.

No U.K. Angling Club should ever suffer a known Gill Netter to remain a member of their association, whether as a purely social member, or someone who likes to fish with a rod & line on his day off!  It's time to put your money where your mouth is; the two aspects of capturing fish are mutually incompatible.

Why is Gill Netting still legal?  It ranks with setting Bear Traps.  Both continue to kill and slowly mutilate their victims long after they have been abandoned by their commercial operators.

Is it any wonder that fish stocks around our UK coastline are so depleted?

Please support the current campaign by the National Federation of Sea Anglers to ban Gill NetsJoin the NFSA now without delay and back them to the hilt.

Tuesday 15th February 2005 -

Hello Mike,

I was enjoying your" how's it fishing" site until I came to the bit about gill nets.  It made my blood boil.

I am a gill-netter, have been for 25 years, I am also a keen angler and naturalist, I found your remarks offensive, you obviously know nothing about gill nets.

Let me educate you.

A gill net if  used properly is a clean and very selective form of fishing, small fish pass through and the largest fish more often than not bounce off.

A gill net is nowhere as effective as anglers think, weed, strong tides, bad weather, clear water, dirty water, yes you try and catch a Cod in dirty water, they sense the net and will not go near it, on the other hand you will not catch Bass in clear water, I admit at times they fish good but they can also be very frustrating.

A gill net does not destroy the sea bed unlike beam trawlers or even worse scallop dredgers.

Personally I prefer to use drift nets, the fish are usually alive when the net is hauled, and the nets are brought home at the end of the trip.

Drift or set nets I use the biggest mesh size possible, I don't want to waste time cleaning out unwanted  or waste quota on low value small fish.

Set nets are hauled at least once every 24 hours, if any body knows of nets being left longer they should report it to their local fishery officer, it is an offence and he will act, and rightly so.

I agree it was sad to see the Dogfish with a bit of net around it, accidents happen.  I've seen them with elastic bands, bits of string and plastic stuck round them.

I once met a group of anglers bash dog fish against the rocks then throw them away claiming they were vermin.

I have also caught a lot of fish in my nets with anglers hooks stuck in their guts, where the hook has penetrated the internal organs and festered, they die slowly.

Some divers I took to a wreck once told me of large Cod laying on the bottom with great rips in their bellies and Cod hung up on hooks tangled in the wreck, anglers are not blameless, look at the amount of line that gets discarded.

Recently I spent hours trying to catch a Gannet with line tangled around its beak and one leg, eventually we had to give up and return to Port.   That bird will die very slowly.   Now which one is akin to a bear trap?

As for greedy, I do not know of any greedy commercial fishermen, I know a few successful ones.  Most are like me , pay the mortgageand raise a family.  I'll never be rich but I do look forward to going to work in the morning, which is payment enough.

Now finally depleted fish stocks, name one, other than Cod, which is to do with climate not over fishing.

There are more Bass than ever, as there are Angler Fish, Soles , Skate, and judging by the reports on your web site, the wreck fishing is no worse than it was 30 years ago when I used to fish aboard Lloyd Saunders boat "Saltwind".

A trawler landed a record trip in Cornwall last week.

The northern north sea is full of Haddock.

Depleted fish stocks are a bit of a myth. Most anglers I've met could not catch a fish in Plymouth aquarium, and they blame every thing except them selves.

I suggest you talk to your local Skippers, go out for a trip to see for your self  before you start condemning a man for earning a honest living.

Are you man enough to put this on your web site

Peter Caunter

Skipper owner of a Gill netter and proud of it, from the south east coast.

Ed: Here's my Email in reply to Peter:

Dear Peter,

I am pleased to hear that generally you enjoyed my "Fishing Dartmouth" web site.

I regret my views, and those of many of my friends have in any way upset you.  We all speak directly from our own experiences.

I am on friendly speaking terms with a couple of successful local gill netters.

I have watched them shoot their nets and haul them on more than one occasion.  I am familiar with their methods.

I am pleased to hear that you are a keen sea angler.  I also have several good friends who work on the trawlers (and one who works as a wreck netter) who share our joint leisure angling interest.

I understand and agree with your observations regarding scallop dredgers and big beam trawlers who destroy the environment, leaving the sea bed like a ploughed field.

I am 60 years of age and by profession a photo journalist for Sea Angling News in which I have a double page feature spread every month.  I am not without experience of the sport of sea angling.  I try to keep up-to-speed on developments within the fishing industry too.

I love my fishing and my web site is a freely available facility for the general interest of those who enjoy fishing in and around Dartmouth where I live.

I have no argument with the majority of working fishermen, except when they knowingly or unthinkingly come into conflict with the interests of sea anglers.  This is usually due to them setting static nets close inshore on popular fishing reef marks or similar invasive practices.

There needs to be far more give and take.  I realise they have families to raise and mortgages to pay - we all do - but so often there appears to be so very much more take on the part of the commercial fishing fleets.

I abhor seeing fish caught in vestiges of abandoned gill nets such as the LSDs illustrated on my web site, which have grown deep into their flesh.

As the tale tells, I have seen this on more than one occasion.

I equally dislike seeing irresponsible anglers mistreating their catch.

I have over past years retrieved three abandoned monofilament gill nets washed close in-shore and seen the sea life they have continued to catch in their mesh.

If there are more Bass in the sea than ever before I'd like to know where they are today.

How come that at the height of the pair trawling last winter and early spring, 78 tons were dumped on the market at Plymouth in just one day, all in breeding condition.  Needless to say that depressed their value to uneconomic levels.  That was happening almost every day for several months and local anglers saw their inshore catches of sizeable Bass quickly decline over the same period.

For several years I used to fish a local mark.  It was only a very small bank with a hollow dip in the top.  I was featured on the front cover of Sea Angler in August 2003 and was the main story in that issue.

I used to catch perhaps 10 or 15 big bass in the region of 6 to 10 lbs in an evening there using live greater launce as bait.  I maybe kept one for my BBQ and returned the remainder to fight again another day.

Later that summer, the mark was entirely surrounded by gill nets which wiped it out.  I caught two 3 lb and a solitary 7 lb Bass there last summer.  The facts speak for themselves.

Only yesterday, the Cornish Wildlife Trust were on the evening TV local news, together with independent Scientists.  The estimates of Dolphins killed off the Cornish coast just last year is now estimated to be as high as 4,400.  Sorry, but that is unacceptable as a by product of gill nets and pair trawling.  The tally must be reduced.

The setting of ground nets, quite legally, on the outer edges of the Skerries and on shallow banks a little further west, has almost wiped out our inshore breeding stocks of large Blonde Rays within just the past 3 or 4 years.  We catch nowhere near as many as we did until even as recently as just two years ago.

As an example, last Spring, one of our local ground netters landed more than 7 tons of Ray  in the space of a week, while another landed 4 tons on one haul.  I know those figures are correct.

Most sea anglers return the bulk of their catch alive to the water to fight again another day.  Commercial fishermen, by the very nature of their business do not.

When I was a teenager I used to go out specifically to fish on the Skerries for Turbot.  My best day, between two of us was 18 turbot to 26 lbs 6 ozs, of which I kept just one.  Now we are very lucky to catch one in an entire season.

The same is true of Brill.  Similarly, Plaice appear to be in serious decline.

We used to catch Cod off wreck marks, now that is little more than a memory.  To catch a Cod in our local waters these days is an exception.  Yes, anglers catch the occasional Codling inshore but in nothing approaching their former numbers.

Incidentally more than half the Skerries is a "No Trawling at any time" box.  On several occasions, anglers in small boats, showing correct lights while  riding at anchor overnight and fishing for small eyed Ray have almost been mown down by unlit trawlers towing their gear within the protected no trawling zone.

Despite taking identification numbers and even photographs of the vessels involved, the local Sea Fisheries Committee has been of no help in addressing and reducing this practice.  Could this perhaps be due to the fact that the majority of its representatives are drawn from the commercial fishing industry?

My pal has a 30 foot purpose built fast fishing boat.  We frequently need to venture up to 40 miles offshore to find the Pollack which we enjoy catching during the winter months.  They are out of range for the majority of sea anglers.

My own boat is far smaller and I use it for enjoying my sport fishing on the inshore banks and reefs.

We enjoy the offshore wreck marks in mid-Channel.  We have been at anchor for Conger miles off-shore on a wreck when a beam trawler has dragged its nets within less than 50 yards of where we have been static for the preceding 5 or 6 hours.  This is unnecessary and inflames our views of the commercial sector.

I believe that if you speak to Lloyd Saunders, who is a close personal friend of mine, or any of the other Charter Skippers in our area and beyond, all will tell you that the general stamp of fish caught are nowhere near the quality or numbers that they experienced even 10 years ago.

When a fish is caught and killed it can never be caught again.

I spend approx 12,500 per year on my own personal leisure angling, with some degree of success.  (That figure does not include the purchase cost of my boat).

Government figures now reveal that sea anglers contribute in the region of 1.4 billion per year to UK coastal economies.  That is far in excess of the revenue from the commercial sea fishing sector.  The interests of sea anglers have been ignored for far too long.

I regret that my observations appear to have angered you.

I wish you well in carrying out your day to day business in good faith, but ask you to at least give some thought to the future and the present needs of responsible sports anglers too.

And yes, I am open minded enough to put this whole debate on my web site.

Best regards,

Mike Concannon

Thursday 17th February - 2nd Email received from Peter:

Dear Mike

Thank you for your reply, I am glad you have put it all on a site for others to read and perhaps comment on.

You have baffled me a bit, one minute you are encouraging angling clubs and associations to throw out any members who are gill netters, which was the bit that annoyed me, the next you say you are good friends with a wreck netter who goes rod and line fishing.

It seems to me that it's not only gill nets you want to ban, but the whole commercial fleet, you are condemning fishermen for catching fish.

Catches tend to get exaggerated, only last week I was told I had caught 2 tonne of Thornback Ray, when I had caught only 3/4 of a tonne, by the end of the month 2 tonne will be 4 tonne.

As for the Bass, the French have been pair trawling for them for at least 20 years that I can remember, again if they were slaughtering the Bass stock so much they would not have lasted long. The 78 tonne of Bass was not dumped on the market but sold on the market, but it does seem strange when my quota is 5 ton a month, and as you say it does cause prices to dive.  I would not complain if they were stopped.

My annual catch of bass is normally about 5 to 6 tonne, it has been fairly consistent for 25 years, which suggests I am not hammering my patch to much.

Anglers selling undersized Bass can be a problem in this (south East) area.

The inshore marks and estuaries are knee deep in small Bass, I am trying to get the local SFC to raise the minimum mesh size to help these fish reach a respectable size, I think the landing size of 36 cm is to much too small, the same goes for all commercial species.

As for the Dolphin deaths, 4,400 sounds a lot and if a quarter true I agree unacceptable.  I can not understand how these Dolphins are getting caught, for they can easily out swim and dodge a pair trawl that is moving at 3 to 4 knots.  A Dolphin can easily make 20 knots, I can only assume they have learnt to enter the net and feed on the fish in it, and get caught when the net is hauled.  I will have to make some enquiries on this, I know DEFRA have been monitoring the fishery, I will let you know what I find out, I will be very surprised if it is any thing like 4,400.

We do not catch any, we do see them and regularly have them play around the boat, there seems to be more than ever.

I used to regularly fish on charter boats from your area during the 70's I can not remember ever seeing any Dolphins.

I think Cod and Plaice are effected by temperature and if the sea warms much more they will be extinct south of the Humber.

I can remember the skipper of the Brixham charter boat Our Unity moaning about the wrecks close inshore being fished out, this was 30 years ago, he was referring to anglers.  Wreck netting had not been thought of.

I spend 50.000 a year to run my boat, I also employ 2 crew both with young families.

Beware of Government Ministers mutterings, they only want your money, in the anglers case about 30,000,000 Per Year that should keep DEFRA in the standard of living they have grown accustomed to for the foreseeable future.


Peter Caunter

Ed: Here's my 2nd Email in reply to Peter:

Dear Peter,

Many thanks for your prompt response.

It is Rule 2.5 of the National Federation of Sea Anglers which refers to this issue which you have subsequently raised:

On a previous occasion the NFSA quoted to me their Rule 2.5, which unambiguously states:

“ANGLER - A person who takes fish by means of a rod and line. The NFSA does not approve of any of its members, other than commercial or professional fishermen, using trawls, trammels, or gill nets for commercial use, or in the selling of their catch. ACs may expel members so engaged.”

Yet I and many of my good pals know and are friends with commercial fishermen who enjoy their own leisure angling.

I do not hate all commercial fishermen, much the same as (I hope) you do not hate all leisure anglers.

It is not clear cut - there are shades of grey in every situation.

Clearly the fox and the hare do not share the same cage. You have to sit in one camp or the other. It is practically impossible to have a foot in both camps at the same time.

On the basis of that rule, no angler may gill net, trawl, or trammel net for commercial use. (Even with a licence to land fish). It is entirely proper that no leisure angler may sell his catch.

It appears to exempt commercial fishermen entirely, and that is proper as it is their job.

Yet the NFSA has promoted a campaign to "Ban Gill Nets".

Many, including me, find it irreconcilable for a professional gill netter to be a member of a sports angling club. That is of course the choice of any angling club to decide. It is not my decision to make.

The conflict occurs for example where - as we have experienced - a sea angling equipment retailer - (since closed) - sells bait & fishing equipment to angling members - then as a secondary business allegedly commercially exploits their prime inshore reef marks where they have habitually enjoyed their sport with Bass and Bream.

You can not expect me to believe such a person should also be tolerated as a member of a local angling club, which he was. He eventually was required to leave it; in my opinion, quite properly so.

If, for instance, you really believe that rod and line anglers can and do seriously impair Bass stocks to the same extent as the Commercial sector, then I can only say "Get real". We hardly dent the stocks. If I thought I and my personal sea angling pals could really harm marine resources on a grand scale, then I would be deluding myself.

Only yesterday I met a new wreck netter on one of our favourite wreck marks. We watched him shoot his gear on two nearby wrecks. We had been leisure angling in very difficult sea conditions for about 6 or 7 hours on same the wreck which we occupied.

He came alongside and said, "I want to shoot my nets on this wreck." We replied, quite civilly, "We've been here all day mate - we'll be gone in about an hour." He replied, "OK, thanks, I'll come back later." We watched as he went off to another nearby wreck and then came back about 50 minutes later. We thanked him for his tolerance and understanding.

Why is it that wreck netters seem to want to shoot their gear on every wreck? They can't generally bear to leave one unattended for visiting sea anglers in their boats.

On many other occasions, the wreck netters have shot their nets on all the nearby wrecks including the one we were fishing without so much as a "Do you mind if I?"

We moved off to what used to be another good wreck, (10 or 12 years ago) some 8 miles distant. It was devoid of Pollack. We did not even find a Pout on it, though we were in the full ebb flow of a 4 metre tide, which in our area is a medium sized tide - halfway between neaps and springs.

I've dived several of our bigger wrecks (several years ago now) and seen them to be covered by abandoned nets which continued to snare fish. That saddens me. It helps neither side and certainly not the fish stocks!

I've watched beam trawlers with their gear fully down and fishing in broad daylight trawl right through the "No Trawling at Any Time" box on the "Skerries".

I've tried to call the South Devon Sea Fisheries Committee Office at a weekend to complain at the time it is happening of such incidents, to be greeted only by an answer-phone.

Because of my writings, I've received many telephone calls from small boat and charter skippers too complaining at the time that such incidents were happening.

I watched a trawler drag his nets in a circle completely around Lloyd Saunders on his "Saltwind of Dart" and his party of visiting anglers on the "Skerries" in the middle of the two-day Annual Dartmouth Plaice Festival. I spoke to Lloyd at the time who called me on his mobile to register his complete disgust.

I've seen another local crabber and ground netter shoot nets on the outer edge of the Skerries on the evening of the local "Dartmouth Sea Angling Festival" which has now run for the past 43 years. I saw the same boat haul those nets with a good number of big Ray in them on the morning of the first day of the Festival. The same commercial fisherman has also been seen to fish for pleasure regularly in the same "Dartmouth Fishing Festival". I received copious Emails and telephone calls from other sports anglers who watched this happen.

I have on more than one occasion seen a commercial shoot a string of pots right across the anchor of a sport fishing boat. This is dangerous and very difficult to lift and release.

Similarly I've seen trawlers tow off other commercials crab pots. I guess you might classify that as 'in-fighting'.

I could recount many other similar events, but it is pointless for me to do so as you so clearly have your feet primarily planted in the opposite corner of the ring to me and may not want to truly hear what I have to say.

Is it any wonder that in some circumstances so very many anglers feel rather embittered and hard done by? Ignorant behaviour with complete disregard for others always offends.

Over all, my general impression of the Commercial sector is not a favourable one. My feelings are derived from everything I have personally experienced.

Provided there is some reasonable degree of understanding and a little give and take on both sides, sports anglers can happily coexist with commercial fishermen.

That is why I can be on friendly terms with some of the more considerate commercial fishermen. I have one who is a neighbour abutting the bottom of my garden. I have another who lives two doors away. I have to get along with them. I like them both and we co-exist sensibly together without inconveniencing one another.

I know other commercial fishermen who are absolute inconsiderate b******s, for whom I would not cross the road to put them out if they were on fire. That is of their making, not mine.

I would happily pay 22 for an annual sea fishing licence, provided sea anglers received something tangible in exchange, such as "No trawling and netting within one mile of the shore." Or the establishment and effective policing of designated "No fishing zones" to allow regeneration of fish stocks.

I already pay 71 per year for my own migratory game fish licence, as I also enjoy sea trout angling too, so it would come as no surprise.

I doubt you want to hear other reasons for condemning the reduction of our sea stocks caused by such wide scale commercial exploitation of marine resources.

From what you say, you personally are a thinking and responsible commercial fisherman. I have no conflict with you if what you say is open and sincere.

I would be happy to "Drown worms" in your company and agree to differ like gentlemen on some of the issues which we both believe in.

However, I still can not condone gill netting, which is already unlawful in so many other Countries around the world.

I will add your comments and mine to the discussion on my web site.

Best regards,

Mike Concannon

Monday 21st February - Here's a 3rd Email received from Peter:

Hello Mike,

You are obviously well practiced and good at putting your views across, where as I am a complete beginner, I have picked a hard adversaryry for my first attempt.  I will battle on for a bit longer if I may, I think our discussion is good for both parties to see the different views.

Plus I still need to defend myself a bit more.

First and very important, I think you are very wrong to compare us as fox and hares, we are all fox's, as in hunters.  Why should there be two camps, we all fish in the same sea, we want the same thing, clean seas and plenty of fish to catch, preferably big fish.  This is the reason why I have got involved with this discussion.

There will always be a few conflicts as we all want to fish the hot spots, that's where the fish are, as you say it happens between commercial men, as much as between anglers and commercial. mind you judging by some the choice language I hear on the radio, some times anglers conflict among them selves.

I agree some fishermen are just plain ignorant prats, the same trawler you mentioned at the Skerries bank most likely would not think twice about towing through my nets in fact he would make a point of doing so if he could, then you might find some of the damaged lost, not abandon , net washed up on the beach.

The same goes for some anglers.

There is a short cut to our harbour we some times take, it can save 20 minutes against a hard ebb, but the route takes us within a 100 yds of the local beach, the anglers shout and gesticulate and some try and cast their weights at us, can you imagine the damage a 5 oz lead could do.  They don't realize that if I move out to 150 yds I would be aground.

The worst was a angler turned charter skipper who suddenly appeared on the scene, with a new posh 42 foot fast state of the art boat, he started fishing an off shore bank for bass, and to try and stop us from drifting our nets, some thing we had done with out any problems for the past 20 years, it is only recently that anglers have started fishing that far off, he made up several iron spiky things out of 10mm reinforcing rods, then sowed them around the bank, when we got tangled with them they got so badly wrapped and twisted in the net the only way to get them out was to cut them out. I would not p**s on him if he was on fire either.

I could recount other instances the same as you. as you say ignorant behaviour with disregard for others always offends. In all walks of life there are always a few who spoil it for the rest.

Obviously you can not compare what anglers catch with a pair of large trawlers, the same goes for my catch, they catch more in one trip than I do in a year, 20 years ago when they first started we thought "that's it the bass stock will be wiped out with in a couple of years" but they still continue to catch large amounts of bass, perhaps the added Scottish boats will tip the balance, I hope not, only time will tell.

You say anglers hardly dent the stocks, I don't either, but locally anglers do make a difference the same as I do.

When I used to go out on the south west charter boats in the 70's we regularly caught over a 1000 lb of Pollack and ling, times that by all the charter boats from Brixham to Falmouth it added up to several tonnes of fish per week.

I can remember a well known local charter skipper John Roule working out the amount of cod the local charter fleet caught in a week, it matched the local long liners, It was in an article in the Sea Angler magazine back in the 80's.

Now with the cheap GPS and plotters available these days there are always an armada of small private boats fishing marks that only commercial or a few well equipped charter boats ever fished.

A good example is that off shore bass mark I mentioned earlier, every day the weather is fine there are 5 or 6 some times more boats all fishing one small area, I tend to work an area one day every 10 days, (set of tides) anglers are there every day. last summer the fishing there was very poor for the anglers as it was for me, as usual my nets got the blame. but other marks that anglers do not fish were fine with plenty of fish.

The only thing the government will give you are bailiffs and catch limits.

Are anglers to be excluded from the no fishing zones? if so I suggest Hopes Nose , Brixham breakwater, Berry Head, Slapton Sands and Stoke Point all out to 1 mile be made into no fishing zones immediately.

To ban netting and trawling inside 1 mile from the shore is plain selfish, it would not bother me much as I work mainly off shore, but a Cornish cove man would give you a good argument, so would the small single handed Dover Sole trawlers in my area, have you considered the safety of these men?  who need to be able to work in sheltered areas.

A gill net is not the kill all impenetrable wall of death that anglers perceive, a gill net if used properly is more selective and does less damage than other methods, and I do not know of any country that has banned them.

If anglers put the same effort in to banning discards or raising mesh sizes and landing sizes so that fish have had a chance to breed at least once, ,twice if possible before they are caught, they might get some where, and you would be surprised how many commercial fisher men would agree to help.

I do try to be a responsible fisherman as I think most of my colleagues do, it's a shame about the others.

Any way anglers should not worry to much for this government is hell bent on destroying the British fleet. In this area there are not enough boats left to over fish the local duck pond.

Sorry I was a bit late replying but I had to go and exploit some marine resources.


Peter Caunter

Ed: Here's my 3rd Email in reply to Peter:

Dear Peter,

Many thanks for your reply.

I think that between us we have given the subject a very fair hearing.

There are good and bad in every walk of life. You and I both harbour distaste for those individuals in both the leisure and commercial sectors of sea fishing who do not respect marine resources or the rights of others to share and enjoy them.

I speak from an opposite standpoint to you, because although we both fish in the same sea, we do so by very dissimilar methods and for entirely different reasons.

I enjoy a day afloat and hope to find a specimen fish to weigh-in for my own club competitions and take a few for my table. I am also lucky enough to have the opportunity to write about what I do, for the interest and enjoyment of others.

You do it to pay your mortgage and support your family. You tell me that you do so in a responsible manner and I applaud you for that.

You do, or have also enjoyed, your own leisure sea angling for broadly similar reasons that I share.

I do wish that we could all work together to do more to increase fish stocks and the average size. That would benefit us all, but sadly seems to be an unrealistic expectation in these times.

I've enjoyed our exchange of correspondence. I do try to see things from the perspective of others.

However, I still maintain my stance. I respect you for describing the situation from your own perspective. It is unlikely that I will ever be converted to your view or you to mine, but "I hear what you say". That is what makes us individuals and advances respect for freedom of speech.

Best regards,


Monday 21st February - Here's a 4th Email received from Peter:

Hello Mike

Fair enough, thank you for the opportunity.

Very best regards

Peter Caunter

Ed: Here's my 3rd Email in reply to Peter:

Monday 21st February -

Hello Peter,

Many thanks for that. I appreciate your concern.

It was a stimulating chat about so very important issues for both of us.

Let's all make the best of the marine resources surrounding the UK coastline & beyond.

I want my Grandchildren to enjoy the sort of fishing we both experienced in the early 1960s again.

Best regards,


Saturday 19th February - Email received from Scott Smy:


I am a Secretary of an angling club in Plymouth and fully support your comments made in relation to issues raised by the commercial netter.

Even within the last 2-3 years I have noticed a significant decline in the number and size of fish caught within our area.  'Blank' sessions are more and more becoming the norm and that is not down to the fact we are anglers 'that couldn't catch a fish in Plymouth Aquarium'!

We spend a great deal of time and money in pursuit of enjoying the experience of sea angling and catching fish.  Just last night I spent 5 fruitless hours in search of dabs at Slapton.  A small Bass and Dogfish saved me from another blank session.

With bait, petrol and parking charges, the total cost of that session was in the region of 10-12. That might not seem much but I would have been more than happy with 1 or 2 Dabs.  I wonder how much those 2 fish would have cost me at the fish market?  Certainly less than the amount I spent last night!

The gentleman makes reference to the fact that back in the 70's you never saw Dolphins around the boats and being caught in the nets. Perhaps its something to do with the fact that the commercial sector are gradually wiping out the fish stocks that the Dolphins feed on and that they are now in direct competition with rod and line anglers for those few fish left, hence seeing Dolphins around angling boats is now the norm in the Channel.

I think the attitude towards rod and line anglers has changed for the better and the value of recreational angling to the economy has been recognised.

However both myself and fellow anglers feel that perhaps it is too little too late. Perhaps we could improve the situation now for future generations.


Scott Smy

Secretary to Plymouth City Engineers Sea Angling Club

Email received Sunday 27th February - from Dean Corbett -

Hi Mike,
I've been reading your article about the gill netting.
Why do they only talk in amounts of Tonnes?
3/4 of a Tonne of Thornbacks for example, is around 165 ten pound fish in a week, or 330 five pound fish, this being just one commercial boat, namely Peter.
Our friends who net all year round and pot at the same time around our local banks, who as we have been reliably informed, landed 7 tonnes one haul - this being approx. 880 - 20 pound prime beauties or 1760 - 10 pound fighters by one vessel, which were winged and sold.

Fair enough that must have paid off a large CHUNK of the mortgage but you can't catch it twice.

To keep it on an even keel I have probably caught about 50 -20 lb Ray in about 15 years and you know how much effort I have put in for those.

That same mark last year fished for about a week with a few people catching in total about 5- 20lb fish between all of them. This mark is not on the plotter and not known by many anglers so not many boats go there except our "friend" the local netter who incidentally is getting a bigger boat a catamaran so he can push more weather , God help us!!

The more they catch the less they receive by overloading the market, but the logic seems to be that if it drops by half, then double the effort!! etc, etc.
Years ago a potter could go out with his punt and perhaps pull 30 pots by hand and catch a few Lobsters and Crabs, pay the Wife for the keep and have a pint or two.  The wife then wanted an AUTOMATIC washing machine like other folk, also a tumble dryer and such likes as they became available to society.

Poor old fisherman couldn't row out fast enough and catch enough Crab and Lobsters now to pay for all this so he hears about these 'ere pot haulers you can work strings of pots with - good Lord, marvellous, suddenly he can shoot not 30 pots but 30 strings.
Same goes for the nets, not just a few Herring and Sole nets to earn a living but panels and panels of cheap ready rigged monofilament ready to go, thanks to hydraulic net haulers.

Wreck netters working bigger tides all the time, poor old fish can't mate and lay its eggs and reproduce by THE NEXT SET OF TIDES!!

Look what happened to the Buffalo, that had nothing to do with "rising temperatures", couldn't wipe them out they all thought, yes probably the red Indian wouldn't have, but along came the white man with the "Sharps Repeating Rifle".

Well the Buffalo couldn't mount, inseminate, fertilize, gestate, and give birth and rear the calf before the rifle could reload and shoot again.  Alas demise of said creature.

Can you see the similarity???

Poor leisure angler (after working all week and paid his taxes) sits in his 10,000 boat (part loaned) on a Sunday, having not gone out for 2 weeks because of the weather, after buying 10 of Worms and 5 for Squid, 15 for fuel, sits patiently for a bite, hoping the tide is right, the fish are going' feed, he's in the right spot.

If he's very lucky and skilful  in these present times, he catches 5 Plaice for the day but decides to keep 2.   Is that fair??  I think so.

In all these years we still usually only use one rod, and mostly only one hook.

The difference is we can choose to let go what we want.

Some species will not return, but these are few.
So I don't think angling is akin to over exploitation.
See you soon Mike,

Email received - Tuesday 22nd March 2005 -

Hi Mike

Just visited your site for first time in ages, your interaction with the gill netter made for cracking reading, it just reminded me what it is like talking to a "brick wall", when these guys finally realise the damage they have done it will be too late.  They blame everything under the sun except themselves.

I was reading a record of catches book for a Plymouth club from the 70`s, it shows how fish stocks have declined since the onset of gill netting.

Last November I fished a competition at Beesands and was incensed when a local gill netter landed his "catch" it consisted entirely of Wrasse caught in and around Start Point, dozens of fish between 2lb and what looked like 6lb plus.

He filled four fish boxes and when asked "any good to eat" he replied "Nah! going to cut them up for me pots!!!!".   This was at a time when Mackerel were around in numbers.

Trouble is Mike, too many anglers are not prepared to make a stand, they will not write to sea fisheries or MP`s.

Keep up the good work..................Paul (Plymouth Federation Of Sea Angling Clubs)

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