By Wayne Hand

We are all aware that Facebook can be a toxic environment for many, especially in the fishing world. When I joined Facebook back in 2015, I was underwhelmed at the amount of help available for your average angler. Not living by the sea and not wanting to commit to a sea fishing club like so many, I decided to set up the UK Shore Catch Reports Facebook group.

At this time, there were only a couple of sea angling Facebook groups and I didn’t want mine to be focused on one or two anglers (or myself), like others out there. I wanted it to be a place where all anglers could share advice and knowledge and keep their interaction positive.

Facebook gives everyone the right to free speech – this is fantastic but it does give those who only want to spread negativity for negativity’s sake a platform to do so. The hardest job for me would be controlling who joined and for what reason and safeguarding the group against people with no intention of contributing constructively. With this concern in mind, I made the group private – only members could share their reports. Hopefully, this would give people more confidence in posting and sharing knowledge. Also, I could monitor who requested to join. 

At the time, there wasn’t anyone else running a group in this way. The groups that did exist had more of a self-promotion, sponsor-me feel and purpose and weren’t about the members. This trend still continues today. Being a relatively unknown angler, I wasn’t sure if my group would be successful in attracting a big community but within a few weeks, I had gained 3,000 members. I am sure I made mistakes in these early stages but, overall, it worked really well and continues to work today. We now have over 14,000 members and, on average, we get over 900 catch reports posted every month. I now also have 13 well-established anglers who help me moderate the group. It’s as friendly today as it always has been and we are very proud of and keen to preserve this. 

Over the last few years, we have seen the popularity of sea angling peak and trough on Facebook. Groups come and go but we keep flying high and that’s down to our members, so we thank them for this.

In our current situation with the coronavirus lockdown and all of us unable to fish, the function of the group has temporarily changed. With many of us off work and with little to do, it’s important that everyone has positive outlets to occupy their time. We have all been spending more time looking at our phones, the gardens are immaculate, and all the DIY has been completed – what to do next?  

I realise how important the group is to so many. It’s a big part of lots of people’s lives, so when fishing was ruled out for the foreseeable future I was aware that, more than ever, I needed to think on my feet. After all, with no catch reports coming in, how would the group survive? Luckily, I could rely on the group members to help me on this one.

You may or may not know me but I am not one for the camera myself. As I’ve stressed all along, the group is not about me, it’s about the members. On day one of lockdown, I broke my own rule and promised to do some little videos every day to keep it all going. These would only be a couple minutes long but it’s just a little bit of fun and the feedback has been great. I feel this has really held the fishing family together – sometimes a little communication goes a long way.

Throughout this lockdown period, we can all see that good people are shining, while the negative ones are showing their true colours. This is the same in the fishing world. I wanted to help keep everyone upbeat and happy where possible and a community of over 14,000 like-minded members makes this easy.

Obviously, there would not be any catch reports and a two minute video of me boring people to death wouldn’t be enough to keep everyone going. I decided that I would run through the alphabet, starting with A,B,C (and so on) and encourage the members to share photos associated with each letter. I was aware that some letters would have more species connected with them than others so, where appropriate, I’ve not only made it about catch reports but any sea fishing related photos starting with that letter.  

The response has been fantastic and, to be fair, the group is busier than ever. Here are a few photos our members have kindly sent in:

As you can see the interaction has been outstanding. The photo sharing allows people to stay involved, locked in and looking forward to some fabulous images, reminding us why we love the sport of sea angling.

It also encourages everybody to go looking back through their pics and hunting photos out to make us all smile. I think everyone would agree, a little purpose, positivity and things to look forward to are what we all need right now.

Life After Lockdown.

None of us know what will have happened by the time we reach the end of this lockdown period. Many of us may lose loved ones or even end up battling this horrendous virus ourselves. One thing is for sure though, we will beat this and get out fishing together again along our beautiful coastline. I have already set up a JustGiving page for anglers on the group to give a little bit back to the many services who are supporting us all while the fishing community does their bit and stays in.  

My aim is to run a big match on Chesil Beach once it’s safe for free movement, we will call it Locked-Out. 

I already have the backing of all the major players in the fishing world including the Army Angling Federation, who will aid me in running and planning such an event. All I need is for the group members to turn up and I am sure they all will as ever. All monies will be distributed to local charities including the NHS, Posters will be out soon so please watch this space. 

Thanks for reading my back story, please feel free to join my friendly fishing group – you can all get involved and remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Please stay safe and I am very much looking forward to seeing you on the beach soon.

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