Saturday, 29 May 2010

Gill netting spectre still hangs over the Fens

SEIZED: An EA official with an illegal gill net

The spectre of illegal fish removal hung over the Fens tonight, after PAC members found dead bream tangled in a gill net floating in the River Welland.

The grim discovery is a stark reminder of the devastation those who remove coarse fish for food can cause to our nation's fisheries - not to mention the less than eager attitude on the part of the authorities when it comes to prosecuting those responsible.

So-called fish theft is against the provisions of sections of the Marine Bill, which outlaw almost all fish removal from our waters, apart from limited numbers of fish for use as bait.

Monofilament gill nets are freely available on the internet. They are used commercially for catching surface-swimming species of sea fish.

Gill nets are not a legal fishing method in freshwater, yet their use appears to be on the increase - probably because they are a more efficient method of fishing than set lines or fyke nets.

So far, just one case involving the use of gill nets to catch coarse fish has come before the courts.

Migrant workers were ordered to forfeit boats and equipment worth thousands of pounds after they were caught red-handed netting fish from Norfolk's River Wissey two years ago.

Clikc here to read our report.

The Environment Agency's national head of enforcement said the case sent out a clear message that stealing fish from Britain's rivers would not be tolerated and pledged it would take "strong action" to bring offenders to justice.

Since that case came to court, there have been numerous occasions when gill nets have been found by pike anglers and fishing club bauiliffs.

But the "strong action" promised has not materialised. You sometimes wonder when it ever will.

Illegal gill net found on River Welland

GRISLY: Dead bream tangled in a gill net

A pike angler out for a trip on his boat today found a discarded gill net which had killed more than a dozen bream.

Phil Brown, Peterborough regional organiser for the Pike Anglers Club, made the shocking find downstream of Crowland Bridge, on the River Welland.

"When I went past it, I thought it was a dead sheep in the water," he said. "On closer inspection, I could see they were dead fish, about a dozen of them in a net.

"We tried to get it out but it was stuck to some kind of gate."

PAC members made contact with Angling Times journalist Greg Whitehead, and took him out to photograph the grim remains, which were floating just beyond the margins of the river (left).

"It was about 15ft long, a gill net made from thin monofilament," said Greg. "There were 15 or so decent-sized dead bream in it, they were quite old, they'd been in there for a while.

The Environment Agency was immediately informed of the discovery.

"The EA didn't come out - they said they wanted to stake it out," said Greg.

The net was snagged to a sunken gate. It could have drifted downstream after breaking free from where it was staked out further upstream, or possibly those who set it did not return to claim their catch.

The stretch of the Welland where it was found has suffered a marked and as yet unexplained decline as a pike fishery in recent seasons.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Pike anglers slam "environmental vandals"

VANDALS: A banner opposite the Broads Authority's HQ

Pike anglers have made their feelings known as safety measures to protect the River Thurne from toxic silt are exposed as a sham.

Officials claimed silt screens would prevent prmnesium algae spores escaping from Heigham Sound into the river, as contractors began test dredging.

But pike anglers who have visited the site have photographed gaps in the screens which could allow material to pass through into the river.

"The silt control is disasterous," one told the PAC, as pictures were released of the screens. "It looks pretty from a distance, but they've just tied it together. They're supposed to have Velcro over the ropes."

Norfolk pike anglers, led by the Norwich and District Pike Club, have opposed plans to dredge shallow areas of the Thurne around Heigham Sound.

Officials hope to use material removed from the river to reinstate an island which once stood near the mouth of nearby Duck Broad.

But anglers fear the dredging will release prymnesium trapped in the silt, leading to a repeat of major fish kills which happened on the shallow Upper Thurne system during the last century, all but wiping out fish life in parts of the river.

Recognised as one of Britain's most historically-important pike fisheries, the tidal river and its network of reed-lined meres and broads have produced a string of 40lbs-plus pike over the last 20 years, including two fish which have held the record, before the Broads were eclipsed by trout fisheries in the bigh fish stakes.

Yesterday, banners calling the Broads Authority environmental vandals appeared across Norfolk, including opposite the BA's HQ on the outskirts of Norwich.

Conservationists have not always been synmpathetic to pike anglers, but many fear the consequences for birds and even otters if prymnesium gains a foothold in the system.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Tackle importers set to scrap pike gags

One of Europe's biggest suppliers of pike gags has agreed to discontinue them after approaches from one of the PAC's regional organisers.

Notts-based Alan Dudhill contacted firms to urge them to abandon the crude and outdated unhooking tools.

"Being rather ambitious I decided to start at the top by contacting Fladen Fishing in Sweden, the biggest of the suppliers of gags to the UK market," Alan said.

"They wasted no time in responding to my concerns and immediately put me in touch with Rachael Bradwick, assistant managing director of Fladen Fishing UK."

Rachael Bradwick's response was quick and to the point.

"It’s concerned us to hear that this item could be harmful to fish if used in the wrong hands and felt obliged to discontinue it," she said.

"I’m pleased to confirm that Fladen have decided to withdraw their pike gags from the UK market and they will not appear in their 2011 catalogue. "

Alan said the move was a "significant and commendable move" by Fladen. Fellow importer WSB Tackle - another significant supplier of gags to the trade - was quick to follow suit.

UK general manager Mario Massimino said: "We have also decided to stop the import of pike gags, and not to include them in our next catalogue. We already sell a lot of forceps, and do recommend these as a preference over pike gags."

WSB has also confirmed that they will refer their customers to the PAC web site to learn safe handling and unhooking techniques.

Alan said:
"Experienced and responsible pike anglers will know that gags have no place in modern day pike angling. They are near useless, cause damage to the fish and are completely unnecessary. Indeed they are already illegal in Scotland and high on the agenda to be banned completely in England and Wales.

"As a life-long supporter of the PAC and a bit of a ‘pike hugger’, I’ve spent years challenging retailers about the sale of gags with mixed results.

"Education always seemed to be the key but with untold access to information on pike welfare and handling, my opinion was that if it hadn’t sunk in yet, it probably wouldn’t do. I eventually decided to miss out the ‘middle-man’ and go direct to the main importers and suppliers."

Alan said he would now be approaching other manufacturers, urging them to follow the lead set by Fladen and WSB.

"I’m sure that other companies will now show the same level of responsibility and put fish welfare before profits. Hopefully the pike gag will soon be eradicated from the shelves and resigned to the medieval archives along with the gaff."

For tips on the safe handling and unhooking of pike, click here to visit the PAC website.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Shaun wins day with piking legend ET

Shaun Sykes from Mansfield got an unexpected bonus when he joined the Pike Anglers Club.

He's won a day's fishing with the legendary Eddie Turner, in our exclusive membership competition.

Mark Davies, from Dalkeith, is also celebrating, after winning a pair of Free Spirit rods.

PAC membership secretary Chico Winterton said there had been "a bumper crop" of entries.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Summer Pikelines is hot stuff

Cutting edge lure tactics, along with all the latest news and views from the world of pike fishing are packed into Summer's 72-page edition of Pikelines.

Pike Anglers Club president Tim Kelly asks if anyone else out there can see the bigger picture, as powerful conservation interests look to impose their will on angling.

The threats to our sport are as real as when the PAC was formed more than 30 years ago.

But as well as fighting to conserve the pike and pike fishing, our members show they're no slouches when it comes to catching them.

Andy Charmer tells the exclusive story behind the capture of a 40lbs specimen from in-form Chew.

And Westcountry PAC stalwart Jules Chidgey has become the first pike angler to win the Drennan Cup - the most coveted prize in specimen angling.

Jules will be topping the bill of speakers at the PAC Convention at Kettering, on September 25, along with Eric Edwards, Mark Ackerley and Gary Knowles.

There's a full preview of the biggest predator fishin event of the year, along with reports from PAC events and fish-ins, and regional news from up and down the country.

Tactics-wise, we focus on lure fishing with a masterclass from Fens maestro Mark Phillips, a thought-provoking look at leaders from Mark Leathwood and some tips on tarting up those spinnerbaits from Good Ole Gordy (weeee-haaaa).

We've also got the inside track on the ongoing BAA livebait debacle, while committee members and our regional organisers report on some of the other battles the club's currently engaged in.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

PAC events head for Norfolk

This season's PAC events will now include a two-day bash on Norfolk's famous River Bure.

We have places for 14 anglers setting out afloat from Wroxham on Thursday, November 25 and Friday, November 26.

There are four 12ft (two anglers...) boats and two 14ft (three anglers...) boats reserved. Cost £25 per angler (2 per boat) & £17 per angler (3 per boat)

Discounted accomodation may be available depending on numbers of rooms and nights required.