A survey carried out by the National Federation of Anglers (NFA) shows more than 70 per cent of anglers believe fishing during April and May is not detrimental to the environment, it emerged today.
Hundreds of anglers were quizzed in tackle shops for their views on the annual three-month break, which first became law in 1878 and still exists on most of Britain's rivers.
"Today the argument for the retention of the close season tends to focus on the protection of spawning fish, environmental concerns and the effect on other forms of wildlife," says an article in the NFA's free newspaper, due to arrive in tackle shops next week.
"Whilst these arguments have their supporters they have begun to lose weight as the opening up of the close season on stillwaters and canals has not poved to be the environmental disaster that was first predicted."
Yet the NFA has stopped short of an outright call to overturn the so-called Mundella Act which led to the close season, saying instead the Environment Agency should review the issue.
John Williams, secretary of the Birmingham Anglers Association, said: "The problem I find with any debate about the close season is that you get very vociferous comments from a small minority of people who hold strong opinions on either side, however you never get the views of the silent majority of anglers who just want to go fishing.
"Perhaps this NFA survey has managed to tap into this core of sensible and reasonable anglers and that their opinion is at last going to be heard above the rhetoric of the militants."
Fisheries scientist Dr Keith Hendry said: "Clearly the current situation is nonsensical and cannot be logically dfended or sustained.
"With fish spawning ourside the close season, the current shut-down cannot achieve the objective of protecting spawning fish, even if it was scientifally proven to be necessary."
Dafydd Evans, the EA's head of fisheries, said survey results could have been slewed by the way the poll was carried out.
"The fact that it was undertaken through tackle shops in the close season demonstrates it could easily be biased towards those who are actively fishing in this period."