Volunteer bailiff praised for timely action on flooded Fenland drain

The Angling Trust is reminding anglers of the dangers of fishing flooded waterways after a Cambridgeshire volunteer bailiff prevented a potentially life-threatening situation when he spotted a young angler fishing alone in treacherous conditions on a remote Fenland drain.  

Tony Jakes, who is also a club bailiff for Whittlesey Angling Association, was on his daily patrol of the club’s waters when he came across the young man in his early teens – who was inadequately dressed for the harsh weather – fishing on the swollen Whittlesey Dyke at Burnt House Bridge near Peterborough.

Tony, who joined the Angling Trust’s Volunteer Bailiff Service in 2019, approached the novice angler and explained the dangers of fishing the flooded drains, which were flowing fast and coloured at around 6ft above their normal levels and still rising following recent heavy rain and snow.

After pointing out the dangers from powerful currents and hazardous footing, Tony was able to persuade the boy to pack away his tackle and call home to arrange a lift.

Paul Thomas, Angling Trust Regional Enforcement Manager for the East of England, said: “We could have been looking at a very different outcome had it not been for the timely intervention by our volunteer bailiff.

“The drains across Fenland offer excellent angling opportunities throughout the year but they are often isolated with steep banks that can be difficult to negotiate and certainly no place for an inexperienced youngster to be out fishing alone in winter floodwater conditions.  With the volume of rain and snow we’ve had recently the drain was like a raging torrent .

“Tony and the other members of the East Anglia voluntary bailiff  team have shown extraordinary dedication to their role as eyes and ears on their local waterways, primarily on the lookout for suspected illegal fishing in support of the Environment Agency and police. It is this level of dedication that enables the team to be in the right place at the right time to offer help and advice when individuals have put themselves at risk by the water.”

Karen Hinson, Angling Trust National Volunteers Manager, added: “As well as providing a timely reminder about water safety, this incident is another in a growing number where our volunteers have demonstrated their value, not just in supporting the EA and Police, but to the wider community.”

The Voluntary Bailiff Service is part of the Angling Trust’s Fisheries Enforcement Support Service and is funded from fishing licence income as part of the National Angling Strategic Services contract with the Environment Agency.

Watch the video above shot by Angling Trust Volunteer Bailiff Tony Jakes on 8th February 2021 showing extreme floodwater conditions on the 20ft Drain in Cambridgeshire – on the same patrol he encountered a young angler fishing alone in treacherous conditions on the adjoining Whittlesey Dyke

Anglers of all ages and abilities should always remember safety is of paramount importance when fishing flooded rivers or drains:

  • Keep an eye on the weather forecast before you set off and ensure you have suitable clothing and footwear.
  • Check for up to date river levels on the Angling Trust’s Find Fishing Info: HERE and flood warnings from the Environment Agency: HERE
  • If you are planning to fish alone, let others know where you are going and when you expect to be back. Angling Trust volunteer bailiffs use the what3words app to log patrols and incidents. The app can also be used to let others know your exact location in remote areas.
  • Avoid steep, muddy and undercut banks.
  • If in doubt – don’t fish!

For more tips on safely fishing flooded rivers check out this recent blog published by our Lines on the Water team: https://linesonthewater.anglingtrust.net/2020/11/06/11-top-flood-water-fishing-tips/

Whittlesey Dyke at Cock Bank from Burnt House Bridge – post-flood, taken 10th February 2021 showing the extent of recent flooding as levels rose to 6ft above normal level.


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