Would zander really be at home on the Broads?

Roy WebsterThe possibility of a successful campaign to re-classify the alien zander as a native species in England and Wales poses a very special question in the Norfolk Broads.Roy Webster

The possibility of a successful campaign to re-classify the alien zander as a native species in England and Wales poses a very special question in the Norfolk Broads. Would it be accepted?

If the initiative in the Fens towards removing the popular predator from the list of flora and fauna of aliens that are not allowed to flourish in the natural habitat, it may be taken for granted that one way or another numbers of zander could become established in the tidal waters such as the rivers Bure, Yare, Thurne and Ant and their adjacent Broads.

In recent years one authenticated zander of 6lb has been caught on rod and line from the River Yare. Before that a brace were reeled in from the Costessey Pits. The Costessey fish were disposed of while the tidal river specimen was returned alive. In addition to those catches, there have been anecdotal reports of other zander coming out of the Broads and rivers, but the tiny examples were proved to be either ruffe, smelt or baby bass.

However, there was substantial evidence that zander over 2lb have been taken which suggests that someone had undertaken their own unlawful stocking programme.

So, would Broads anglers welcome this voracious predator as an addition to or even a direct competitor of the indigenous pike?

Some pike fishermen have suggested that zander would most certainly represent an added interest to Broads predator fishing.

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That is a view not shared by Caister on Sea's Broads pike record holder John Goble whose River Thurne monster turned the scales to 45lbs 8oz at the tail-end of last season.

'What with summer boat traffic, autumn and winter saltwater tides I think our Broads Pike that are still recovering from the fish killer algae disaster have enough to cope with, and another predatory species in direct competition would not be acceptable or even advisable,' he declared. 'If I wanted a day's zander fishing I would visit the Fens and buy a permit.'

Norwich and District AA chairman Tony Gibbons was equally adamant that zander would be a most unwelcome species in the tidal reaches of the Rivers Bure and Thurne under the association's control.

'We have a healthy balance between the predator and prey species and there is no way we could accept zander in the Broads rivers,' he declared.

Another banned alien fish is the Wels catfish of which a number have been caught from the Norfolk Broads. A giant 38-pounder turned up in an eel net on Ranworth Broad and another of 22lb 8oz was caught on rod and line from the River Thurne.

A source of catfish in the Broads is believed to be small ornamental pond fish which outgrew their habitat and their owners believed the humane solution was to turn them loose in the nearest river.

The significant difference is that licences have been issued by Natural England allowing some commercial fisheries to take in unwanted catfish. Cobbleacre in north Norfolk has the licence and any catfish caught from the Broads can be transported there alive.

No water in England and Wales so far has been granted a licence to stock zander but, as reported on Wednesday, negotiations are under way that could change this.

t Would zander be welcome in the Norfolk Broads and river systems or could they do more harm than good? What do you think? Write to Letters, Evening News, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE or email eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk