ANGLERS in Wrexham claim new rules aimed at managing salmon and trout stocks will force clubs to close and hit tourism in North Wales.

Alwyn Cartwright says Bangor-on-Dee Angling Club has already lost 40 of its 200 membership since National Resources Wales (NRW) proposed the changes, which include catch and release and a ban on certain methods, such as baiting with worms.

The 77-year-old angler spends over £1,000 on his sport each year and believes many casual fishermen and pensioners will not be prepared to fork out for fishing on the Dee if the new regulations come into force on April 1.

Mr Cartwright, from Bronington, said: “At Bangor-on-Dee we had 200 members, many of us pensioners who don’t catch many fish. I had 11 salmon last season and I landed four but put them all back. We just enjoy the sport, but this will ruin it for us,” said the fisherman.

The NRW’s plans are aimed at combating a massive fall in salmon and sea trout numbers in Welsh rivers.

All salmon caught on the Dee will fall under catch and release rules as will sea trout caught before May 1 and there will be a 60cm (24ins) maximum size imposed for trout.

In a bid to give fish the best chance of survival, restrictions on bait and types of hooks will also apply.

“In our experience, anglers using worm generally intend to kill their catch,” said an NRW spokesman. ”These measures will actively manage and reverse these trends ensuring both iconic species continue to play a vital role in our environment.

“We need to give more adult fish the chance to spawn if we are to ensure the survival of the species in Welsh rivers.”

But Mr Cartwright, who owns fishing rights to a stretch of the Dee at Carrog, says many members of local angling clubs will be unable to adapt to fly techniques to catch salmon.

“Many of us can only bait fish with worm because of the terrain and obstructions. Under the new rules you won’t be able to retain any fish, which is ridiculous. We put 96 per cent of the fish back in the Dee anyway.

“This will hit angling and clubs will fold as a result. Then as the numbers of anglers drop off the poachers will move in.”

Angling journalist Andy Nicholson says the average spend of an angler holidaying and fishing in Wales is around £1,500 per week.

He said angling clubs are compiling their own catch and release figures to help conserve stocks.

He added: “These absurd proposals will destroy the economy built around game fishing in Wales. The anglers’ basic right to be able to take the odd fish for the table and fish the way they have done for centuries will be removed. There will be no effect on increasing and maintaining stocks by these measures.”

The Welsh Game Anglers action group has amassed a 1,600-name petition against the proposed plans for which a consultation period ended last week.

Anglers have written to Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths, cabinet secretary for energy, planning and rural affairs, calling for her to intervene.

But the NRW spokesman added: “Killing of fish while stocks are unstainable cannot be allowed to continue and threaten stocks further.”