Scotland’s first Canalside Ranger has taken to the towpaths and waters of the Lowland Canals in a bid to reel in more anglers and improve the experience of visitors to the waterways.
Appointed by Scottish Canals and supported by the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling and Marine Scotland, the pilot project will see the ranger focus primarily on the promotion of angling on the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals, as well as the management and promotion of their heritage and environments.
Linton McBurnie, a keen fisherman since he was old enough to hold a rod and a canal veteran with more than 30 years of experience working on the waterways, has recently taken up the post. Working with various user groups and agencies, Linton’s main role will be to raise awareness of the fantastic fishing offered by the waterways whilst reducing the impact of illegal angling on their environment and stocks. If successful, it’s hoped that the project could be expanded to create a network of volunteer Canalside Rangers based throughout the central belt.
Alasdair Smart, Lowland Canals Waterway Manager, said: “The Forth & Clyde and Union Canals are incredible environments for leisure and recreation that attract everyone from boaters and cyclists to anglers and joggers. We’re sure the appointment of a Canalside Ranger will help safeguard the rich heritage and environments of the waterways and encourage even more people to get out and explore everything they have to offer.
“The Lowland Canals also offer some fantastic fishing and we’re delighted to be working with the SFCA and Marine Scotland on this project to better promote the excellent angling opportunities on the waterways.
“Linton will draw on his 30 years of experience on the canals and his passion for angling in the role and I’m sure we’ll see even more rods and reels on the canal banks as a result.”
Based at The Falkirk Wheel, the ranger will also take on stewardship of Scottish Canals’ Living on Water moorings – a project inspired by similar schemes in England and Scandinavia which aims to create vibrant houseboat communities on Scotland’s waterways. The ranger will also be involved in outreach programmes in local schools and communities to promote the environment and heritage of the canals.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:
“I am delighted that we have actively looked to champion the development of this positive initiative from the SFCA. Today’s announcement is reflective of the existing partnership working between the SFCA and Scottish Canals and the collective desire to promote the canal network as a place where good quality coarse angling is available to both local and visiting anglers at a reasonable cost.”
The waters of the Lowland Canals offer some easily-accessible, well-stocked and scenic fishing spots for anglers of any ability. Rod and reel rookies and full-term fishermen can test their tackle against everything from roach and perch to trout and even eels. The Forth & Clyde Canal is especially noted for its colossal carp – with the current Scottish record of 34lb 12oz captured on the waterway in 2010.
A £5 annual membership with the SFCA is all that is needed to fish the nation’s canals, with the fee helping to support and protect the future of coarse angling in Scotland. Membership also gives access to top quality training and coaching from the best coaches in the country.
Gus Brindle, Chairman of the Scottish Federation for Coarse Angling, said: “The Canalside Ranger project is something that the SFCA has aspired to establish for a number of years and we are delighted that, by working in partnership with Scottish Canals and Marine Scotland, it has finally come to fruition.
“Linton’s enthusiasm and experience makes him exactly the right person to get the project up and running and his appointment will help to address some of the issues which are of most importance to our members who regularly fish the canals and raise awareness of the great angling opportunities the waterways offer.
“Educating young anglers about social and environmental responsibility is equally as important if we are to develop the fantastic resource of the canals into a top quality fishery and attract more anglers out onto the towpath. The next phase will be to identify, recruit and train a network of volunteers to assist Linton in his role. These are exciting times and this project clearly shows what can be achieved by working in partnership.”
The appointment of a Canalside Ranger also complements the Towpath Code of Conduct, launched last year by Scottish Canals in partnership with Edinburgh Council and supported by the SFCA. The Code sets out guidelines and safety tips for everyone from boaters and anglers to cyclists, and was prompted by the huge increase in towpath usage in recent years. To date, more than 10,000 copies of the Code have been distributed. A digital version is also available from Scottish Canals’ website.