Sunday, April 29, 2012

Where are all the zander in the Fens..?

Caught many of these lately..? Thought not. Last season was the second in a row when I didn't see a single zander, let alone catch one.

Most winters before then would see one or two accidental captures of zander, including the odd decent one. I say accidental because despite the fact I gave up fishing for them years ago, they're still in most of the waters I fish for pike. And despite what you read to the contrary, they're not averse to picking up the odd sea dead.

There are all kinds of theories doing the rounds about why waters which once held zander in numbers now produce so few of them. They range from mitten crabs eating their spawn, to illegal fishmongers knocking them off with gill nets.

The irony is the zander weathered a storm a few years back, when there were calls to kill them because they were an "alien" species. The fact is they've been in the Fens since 1963, when the then Great Ouse River Board stocked 97 of them into the Relief Channel.

The Environment Agency said it wouldn't prosecute anyone for returning them. Bearing in mind officialdom struggles to prosecute anyone for illegally removing fish, that's not exactly surprising.

Zander are a valued sporting fish, which has found a niche in many of our rivers and drains. They bring badly-needed revenue to club coffers, from the anglers who still travel to the Fens to fish for them.

Perhaps it's time the EA investigated what's happened to the zander - not to mention why pike populations appear to be collapsing on so many of our waters.

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