Ice rink conditions piling pressure on the fisheries

Roy WebsterThe almost imperceptible drip, drip, drip sound of a slow thaw has raised hopes that the glacial carp and match lakes will be fishable by the weekend. No chance.Roy Webster

The almost imperceptible drip, drip, drip sound of a slow thaw has raised hopes that the glacial carp and match lakes will be fishable by the weekend.

No chance. For unless stubborn ice sheets up to four inches thick are manually smashed and hauled ashore the skating rink conditions are forecast to persist well into next week, piling more economic pressures on the commercial fisheries as well as the tackle and bait industry that has suffered its worst ever severe weather knock for some 30 years.

At Barford Lakes aerators have been switched off and all angling has been ruled out this weekend with the only activity creating breathing holes to maintain oxygen levels.

'We have to admit we have lost the battle against Jack Frost. Even where we have managed to keep some of our waters open for a few days the fish appeared to go into deep hibernation,' explained a spokesman.

It was a similar sad story from Melton ponds where not a line has been cast since before Christmas.

'It is still very wintry out here, snow is still laying about and the slow thaw is unlikely to make much impression on three or four inches of ice on our lakes,' said Mrs Jean Bush who helps run the fishery.

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'We have an open match booked for next Wednesday but I think this a doubtful starter.'

At the Burgh Castle fishery near Yarmouth, Darren Squires has announced he intends to a mount a superhuman effort to clear the ice in time for Lee Arnold's open event this weekend.

'I hope he succeeds, we have been out of action for so long we just want to get on the water again,' declared the Sportsman's club secretary Arnold.

All the major specimen carp lakes were completely icebound yesterday with nothing resembling normal rod and line activity expected over the next few days.

All of this is most worrying for the industry that services the sport, for although pre-Christmas sales were encouraging, the New Year freeze-up has taken a serious financial toll from the tackle and bait retailers not to mention the commercial fisheries whose lost revenues amount to thousands of pounds.

On the bright side this present cold snap has not come close to the bitter 1963 winter when all waters including the tidal rivers were frozen for the latter part of the coarse fishing season from January 1 to March 14.

By contrast all our main rivers are clear of ice and as reported on Wednesday the River Wensum in Norwich has yielded excellent catches.

The prospect of road run-off contaminated with salt is of some concern but Riverside bream in the past have continued to feed in this contaminated water but not the roach.

Sections of boatyard lagoons nearest the river entrance maybe clear of ice at the weekend and produce roach catches.

On the River Yare bream are expected to feed around the Postwick sewerage outfall and at Bramerton as the light fades.

Other weekend venues worth a visit are the River Bure at Coltishall Common and the urban area of Wroxham, the River Thurne at Martham and the Horsey Mill dyke.

Pike anglers,especially could be rewarded at those venues while chub anglers may be optimistic of making decent catches from the River Wensum at Lenwade, Costessey, Taverham and Hellesdon.

At Taverham yesterday the Anglian Water lake was sealed by more then four inches of ice but the bailiff said the river below the mill was 'ideal' for some decent chub.

t The belief that fish poachers have been plundering pike from waters all over the country to supply the catering trade was virtually confirmed this week when a restaurant chef declared new size limits for pike would not meet his requirement and he would consider violating the byelaws to secure bigger specimens.

It has been known for years that Broads pike have been marketed. Rod and line anglers were allowed to take two pike per day over 24 inches in length and sell them to a ready market, but the new byelaws will limit pike retention to one fish per day of 65 cm or less (5lb).

In addition it was also known that illegal baited lines and liggers have also taken a heavy toll and unless surveillance is stepped up this black market trade may well continue.

Apart from urban areas where pockets of pike are protected under the gaze of the general public it is clear that the species is not flourishing as it should, either in the Broads or the Fens.

Baited lines were discovered in a dyke off Hickling Broad last summer and it is believed this systematic thieving has taken a heavy toll.

While the Environment Agency is poised to gain powers to confiscate live fish transported or sold unlawfully, no form of licensing has been announced so far to crack down on the black market trade of dead coarse fish for human consumption or the bait trade.