An anglers group says a spring fishing ban at Hampstead Heath’s ponds is stopping them teaching young people to fish.

The Highgate and Hampstead Anglers Society (HAHAS) works with schools around the Heath to educate them about fishing and nature.

But the group says it is hampered by the City of London Corporation (CoLC) - which runs Hampstead Heath - banning fishing during the spawning season from March 15 to June 15.

HAHAS chair Robert Gibbs says with up to 20 schools near the Heath, the ban limits potential teaching time – and time spent in nature.

He said: "Many children are disconnected from nature and angling has been prescribed by the NHS as being as a wonderful tonic for mental health.

"When you are fishing you are concentrating on the float to register fish biting, which is a much better health alternative to obsessive gaming or all the consuming demands of their electronic devices."

The Environment Agency abandoned 'closed seasons' in ponds and lakes in 1995. Mr Gibbs said: "Their scientists determined there's no need to keep it but the CoLC still enforces it."

Ham & High: Angling tuition session on Hampstead HeathAngling tuition session on Hampstead Heath (Image: HAHAS)

The school year ends in July, and Mr Gibbs said warm July and August weather brings unauthorised swimmers to the boating pond – where half the fish stock is – making using hooks dangerous.

He said longer, lighter spring and summer days are better for teaching than colder, shorter days in the autumn and winter.

He said Ealing Council had approved angling after Easter and even allowing it from May would make a difference.

Ham & High: A young angler catches a roach in one of Hampstead Heath's pondsA young angler catches a roach in one of Hampstead Heath's ponds (Image: HAHAS)

And Mr Gibbs says the fact that only anglers are banned, when humans and dogs - which may have powerful pesticides in flea treatments on their coats - can impact the ponds more, amounts to "prejudice".

He added: "The closure seriously impedes our tuition project, which has been incredibly successful, but we're confined to when the schools can do it with exams and holidays."

Ham & High: Tuition session on the Model Boating pond which is closed to child tuition throughout springTuition session on the Model Boating pond which is closed to child tuition throughout spring (Image: HAHAS)

The corporation did not address specific points about teaching young people. A spokesperson said it wants to ensure angling continues to be a "much loved recreational activity" on the Heath.

They said the Environment Agency allows landowners to make their own decisions about whether to maintain a closed season.

They added: "During the open season, licensed anglers can fish 24 hours a day, right through the night, if they wish.

"These seasonal opening times help protect and preserve a range of natural habitats and wildlife on the Heath and ensure they continue to flourish.

"It means that fish and amphibians can spawn without disturbance, and our teams can clean up any snags and old fishing tackle from the ponds which can often harm birds during the crucial nesting season."