Frustration mounts as fishing charter boats are left in dock

Frustrated skipper Derek Anderson hopes to return to sea from mid-April, but he is far from happy at his two boats used for fishing and diving charters have been tied-up for a long period due to Scottish Government Covid-19 restrictions.

Saturday, 13th March 2021, 7:00 am
A flashback to when Aquamarine Charters were allowed to go to sea and Paul Christie landed this big cod. Pic: Aquamarine Charters

Eyemouth-based Anderson, who runs Aquamarine Charters, has not earned a penny since November but still has overheads to pay. Some companies, he claimed, have received Government grants, but many charter boat companies like his have had zero cash to tide them over.

He said: "Obviously, I'm not alone. It's frustrating but I've been at this (chartering boats) for 12 years and we're doing our best to get through this."

England, he said, have a roadmap out of the current lockdown but, so far, the Scottish Government has not published one for charter skippers.

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Anderson said it would be good to know what lies ahead so he can budget. "Most (charter boat owners) are classed as sole traders,” he said. “There have been a few grants we could apply for. On paper it looks OK, but looking more deeply into it, we've failed to qualify so far. The only good thing is it’s winter time and not the best for earning or for catching fish.

"Hopefully, the weather will improve when restrictions are eased then we need anglers to come out in force and support local charter boats.

"Yes, it's difficult and it is frustrating to have the boats in the water just sitting dockside doing nothing as there are hefty bills to pay like harbour dues and insurance.

"If you have debt and own a nice sparkly vessel with a bank loan it can’t be fun. I don't have a debt problem as we've earned some money during the last 12 years and re-invested in our boats. We have the best gear we can have.

"However, charter operators are not alone in their struggles right now. Self-employed painters, mechanical folk, joiners etc are all in the same boat. All we can do is battle on and hope the public come back fishing when we get the green light. Then we can possibly make some money."

Meanwhile, the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers (SFSA) and Mike and Chris' winter cod league confirm that their match schedule is on hold because of current Scottish Government travel restrictions.

Mike Horn, president, said that as soon as the restrictions allow travel then they will press the green light.

Elsewhere, the Mull of Galloway Sea Angling Festival (MOGSAF), which attracts anglers from the Lothians, confirm that that booking is open for this years tope event on June 12 and 13 fishing out of Luce Bay and based at Clashwhannon, Drummore. Numbers will be limited, so it’s a first come, first served basis. Booking is online at the MOGSAF Facebook page.

Meanwhile, Bangour Trout Fishery, in the Bathgate Hills near Dechmont, re-opens on Saturday. Anglers must pre-book online at BangourTroutFishery.com and owner Jason Smith revealed: "Gerry King and Darren Meier had a pre-opening session this week to see how well it was fishing and caught 37 trout between them.

"The best patterns were buzzers and bloodworms, down about five feet, slowly retrieved or drifted by the ripple. The wintered fish were in great condition and there were a good number of blues caught amongst the rainbows.

"Prior to opening we've added more top quality stockies from Westmill to liven things up even more."

For those who have never been before, Bangour was orginally built in 1902 as a water supply for Bangour Village hospital and is 720 feet above sea level and holds 16 million gallons of fresh water which spills off into the Brox Burn.

Other trout fisheries report great recent sport. At Tweeddale near Gifford, Jimmy Quinn landed 23 in one session using yellow dancers and damsel patterns.

And Loganlea boss Karen Jack reported that her water was "on fire" with many anglers into double-figure fish.

Nearby, Rosslynlee boss Nicola Perfect reports that Mr Ferris had 29 to the net with dancer and bloodworm patterns doing the trick.

Mr Taylor had 22 thanks to his bloodworm patterns while Chris Hunter hooked 19 on buzzers, lures and daddy patterns. Close behind was Sean McGary with 16 on buzzers.

She added that fish are being caught between two and four feet with trout showing on the surface when the wind drops.

Elsewhere, it's also been busy at Bowden Springs near Linlithgow where Paul Dancer and Simon Jones have both netted double-figure fish in recent sessions.

Anglers are reminded to renew their membership of Malleny Angling. The season opens at Harlaw near Balerno on April 1 and pre-season re-stocking is planned. Day permits will be only be available online this season and not from any other outlets.

The Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling (SFCA) host their virtual agm on Thursday, March 25 (8pm) and attendance is restricted to voting members, paid up clubs as at the date of the meeting.

Gus Brindle, chairman, said that due to the limited attendance and the constraints of running the agm virtually, the agenda will be restricted to constitutional issues, the election of officers and approval of the draft annual business plan. Full details minutes will be on the website following the meeting along with officer’s annual reports.

An extraordinary general meeting will be convened later once the Covid-19 restrictions are eased, he added, to allow routine and non-constitutional business to be debated and decided.

Finally, Angling Scotland Ltd (ASL) are seeking a new independent chair, treasurer and company secretary to help drive the organisation forward.

The umbrella structure, formed by the three Scottish Angling governing bodies, Scottish Anglers National Association (SANA), Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling (SFCA) and the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers (SFSA), has also appointed Linlithgow-based David Manion as its development officer to advise and lead on organisational development .

Lochaber-based David Ogg, chair for the last two years, is standing down to move to England for family reasons.

He said that the candidates for the three voluntary positions would be expected to spend 15 hours a month on the jobs.

It would, he said, be an advantage if the positions were filled by people from the Central Belt for logistical reasons but he added: "If a suitable candidate from anywhere else was to come forward then we would certainly consider that."

Interested parties should contact ASL via links on their website.