Lure of landing fearsome pike draws anglers to the Broads over winter
PUBLISHED: 08:38 02 December 2017 | UPDATED: 15:30 02 December 2017
One of the most fearsome ambush predators found in the Broads is actually one of its biggest attractions over the winter months.
Each year anglers from around the UK descend on the region’s complex network of rivers and lakes in the hope of catching pike, a species which has become synonymous with the Norfolk Broads.
Local businesses said the lure of landing these ferocious fighting fish brought visitors in at a time when many holidaymakers had left.
Amanda Mason, marketing director of Herbert Woods in Potter Heigham said the winter fishing season was an important period for them.
“We don’t hire cruisers between December and January but in November and February over 80pc of our customers are fishermen.
“Fishing is popular throughout the winter as the rivers are quieter and the pike fishing season is in full swing.”
Angling Direct Norwich shop manager Andy Flint said the Broads was known to have produced “massive” pike over the years which had helped boost its reputation.
He said: “The region has held British records on at least three occasions.
“Pike fishing is a big winter pastime and is good for business. We sell a lot of bait and other gear over the period.”
He said while “really big” catches were scarce when compared to 20 to 30 years ago due to the impact of people, predation and salt tides, the Broads was still a popular pike fishing destination.
Andy Hindes, principal scientist at Fishtrack, said part of the reason for this was because the Broads was one of the most prolific fresh water systems in the UK.
“Predators like pike can take advantage of good fish stocks so our pike population is usually very good,” he said.
Barbara Greasley from Norfolk Broads Direct in Wroxham said their waterside cottages were especially popular with pike fishermen at this time of year.
“Many of our customers sit outside our waterside holiday homes for hours hoping to catch these magnificent fish.”
John Buchanan of JB Boats, who sponsors two pike fishing matches in Horning, said: “Pike fishing is a big part of local business over the winter and we get people coming from Cambridge and Bedford to take part.”
Record breaking pike
Boasting over 300 square kilometres of rivers and lakes, the Broads has some of the finest fishing in the UK.
Although the region is home to most types of coarse fish, including large shoals of Bronze Bream, it has long been known for catching one type of fish – the pike.
John Currie of the Pike Anglers club said interest in pike fishing exploded when angler Peter Hancock caught a 40lbs fish in the Thurne system in February 1967.
He said: “That was a really important moment for the tourist industry and got people interested in pike fishing in the region.”
The news of the catch drew anglers from around the UK and placed the Broads firmly on the pike fishing map.
“It’s a catch that still gets spoken about today,” said Mr Currie.
He said the biggest pike caught in the Broads was a 45lbs fish - also in the Thurne system - by John Goble in March 2009.
“It holds the British record for the biggest pike caught in a river,” he said.
Handle with care
Catching pike requires specialist tackle and skilful handling techniques.
Angling Direct Norwich shop manager Andy Flint said inexperienced anglers should always fish with an experienced pike angler.
He said: “They have very sharp teeth and unhooking a pike in not like unhooking any other fish.
“You’ve got to be careful how you handle them as they are also a very delicate fish and need to be handled with care.”
He said there were two main methods used to catch pike - using a wire trace with a lure or spinner or fishing with bait and a float.
A guide to fishing on the Broads distributed by the Environment Agency cautions anglers to never leave the rod unattended and always use a wire trace of 20lbs minimum breaking strain.
Pike can grow to a relatively large size although the average length is about 40–55cm and they are usually found in sluggish streams and shallow, weedy places in lakes.