Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Don't believe everything you hear on the bank

After such a unbelievable experience fishing the river Itchen earlier in the week I was at a bit of a loss what to do for a session this weekend. This was largely to do with my fear that anything I was going to do would pale in comparison to such a dream session that had preceded it. Not wanting to go out and commit a load of money to bait as I was feeling this way I thought a Zander fishing trip to my secret squirrel spot out in the warks wilderness using some of the bulk pack of deads I have languishing in the bottom of the freezer hidden under a towel out of Jacky's sight would seem a good compromise.

Knowing full well that we were due a sunny day I opted to drag my arse out of bed at an unearthly time in order to get a bit in before first light then fish till the boats started. Jesus H Christ if I didn't have to scrape the car widow screen for the first time this year. Not a good start!

I love Zed fishing and this year with my single mindedness towards the challenge I have neglected to really do any at all, but the twang of cold we have experienced the last week or so I think can be a real stimulator to predators feeding. It's the old winters coming syndrome stock the larder.
Over the years I have done so much Zed fishing it is unbelievable. In fact three years ago I dedicated an entire year to this single species. In doing so I discovered a few really great locations which I consider are real banker swims for the old zeppos and Sunday morning I was heading directly to one...

I had cast out in the freezing cold two rods one popped up ledgered bait and another on a float rig which I like to roam around a bit to search out the swim. Now I thought my banker swim would offer an instant response as it always had in the past, but after three hours I had only had one single tentative run which never went anywhere and by now I was scratching my head. Normally I would have moved on but this swim can produce a surprising amount of fish and big uns to, so I held on.

After a while a chap who lives on a boat down the canal came walking by with his dog on there early morning jaunt. Now I have spoken to this chap loads of times and he seems a decent sort. Upon getting near by he asks me "what you after today?" and I replied " well my good man I am after the mighty Zander" His response was that of a plumber with the smell of money in his nostrils "fssssss ooh erm well you might not do that well here. They electro fished it last month and removed tons of em. They were shoveling them onto the bank up to 14lb" Straight away I was incensed at hearing this. He went on to tell me that they had gone from one lock all the way to the next which is miles away, and all this was in order to stock a few thousand roach.

I felt like a right

After hearing this bit of bank side gossip I could not concentrate due to thinking well if they have done that what am I doing freezing my sack off here fishing for something that aint here. In the end I chipped off muttering all my way to the car.

I was going to go on a real tirade in this blog about this supposed situation until I texted the bad news to Rob who also fishes this section of canal. The ever calm Rod simply said that I should check this info out before writing anything. So Monday morning I got straight on the phone to the EA who were very helpful and put me through to a fisheries worker for this area, who told me that the EA do not conduct electro fishing to cull Zander any more largely due to it being a waste of money and time. He also suggested I contact British Waterways to check with them, as if anyone does want to electro fish the canals it would have to be them that does it or they would have to give their permission to whoever does.

Again I was on the phone and within minutes I was through  someone who had actually been there for the cull. A cull which had taken place not last month but in March. A cull which had yielded only 85lb of Zander all which were under four pounds not the rumoured tons of Zander up to double figures. I did ask the chap a few questions about the reasons for this cull and to be honest at the time it made a bit of sense why they did it; BA had a quantity of small roach they wanted to stock into the canal and in order to give these fish the best chance of survival it was decided to try and reduce the zander numbers.

I learnt a lesson here. Don't believe everything you here on the bank as quite often humans have a real habit of over exaggerating.

BUT! here is were my tirade comes in. They confirmed only little zeds were culled but I know for a fact that this canal contains much much bigger fish than that and that they only did one section of canal on a massive stretch, so when a nice helpful boat owner opens the locks at ether end which they do constantly all year on this canal, more zander will find their way in again. The cull probably didn't get all of them, they never do. So BA have just put a few thousand snack size roach into a canal where hardly anybody goes fishing apart from Zander anglers, after killing a load of zander for no reason at all and wasting a crap load of money which there gonna need once the conservative government slashes any funding they get next year.

It is about time the people in charge of our waterways really got with picture regarding Zander. Though they are still considered a non native fish they have now been our waters some fifty years, in which time with very little help from humans they have populated just about the entire Midlands canal network and any rivers that connect with them. The problem is way beyond resolving by trying to cull them. In fact it may be considered cruel to kill large amount of apex predators just to stock a few flipping roach. They would be far better off letting the fish populations in these now forgotten waterways find there ecological levels, as the fish that are born in waters were Zander are present are far more likely to know how to react to zander hunting methods than fish that have been raised in a predator free environment. And stop wasting money on such frivolous endeavours and instead spend some money on trying to stop or a least get control of the thousands of migrant workers who seem to think that our canals, rivers and lakes that most fishing clubs have worked on tirelessly over the years are there to be used as their personal larders.

One final thing I will ask of any readers of this blog, please please leave a comment if you have a opinion on this matter, which ever way you lean. I would love to hear other peoples opinions on this subject as it is something I have been interested in for years.
After such a great response and fantastic comments I feel that I should share what a ignored canal can hold and what effects a thriving Zander population can have on such a water.

So I have added a few pictures of captures that I have had from the canal in question over the last few years...

Please excuse the hats, beards, hair cuts, and face that I am sporting in most of them.

I know that most of the pictures are of larger fish but I can assure you that there were captures of hundreds of other smaller fish that I never bothered to get a snap of.

Does this canal look like it really needed any kind of intervention regarding it's fish populations.
Personally I think not.


  1. Must admit Danny I'm not sure about any type of fish cull. Look at Pike and how we've changed our perception - or at least most of us have. (Although reading the rules on the Lower Itchen fishery, after you guys had a whale of a time there, makes me wonder!). Like you say what they have actually got after such an effort probably doesn't live up to their expectations anyway. Also, I'm sure someone electro-fished the Oxford Canal around Banbury if my efforts today are anything to go by. But that's another matter.

  2. I can see why they would want to give the roach they are stocking the best possible chance, but I can't (as you've said) see why they are stocking the roach in the first place.
    BW and the EA in all the dealings I've had with them, work in mysterious ways. The good news is that now that they are both bodies are going through significant changes, neither of them should have enough cash to waste it culling zander in canals.

  3. In the last five years I've only visited a canal to fish for zander, or this year for (bloody) ruffe.

    Most clubs round here gave up their canal stretches a long time ago. Not enough members were fishing them to make them viable.

    Don't get me wrong, there is good fishing to be had on some canals, but the zander have eaten a lot of fish in their time.

    From your recent experiences on the cut in Coventry it seems like a balance has now been established. The basin in town is stuffed full of roach and you've had perch galore on worm whilst after the (bloody) ruffe.

    The canals changed irrevocably when the zander arrived, but there's little we can do about that now. Whether it's signal crayfish in the rivers, cormorants on the lakes, seals coming inland to feed or the avon having the clarity of tap water in the summer. All are here to stay.

    We might as well get on with it and enjoy this new dimension to our sport while it lasts. Afterall, it's only a matter of time before catfish make it into the canal system and gobble up all the zander!

  4. I agree completely agree Danny, if we look back at the way in which ecosystems evolve, there would be nearly no where that has not have any non indigenious species now living in them. Obiously in some regions these have have detrimental effects but indeed in others they have actually benefited. In fact, on that line we can not really comment as we have driven most species into extinction, due to our develpoment and distruction, as humans. are we really a native species??

    I spoke to someone this week that said there club waters now has major problems with both water quality and there being no specimen sized silver fish, since they culled all the pike. The problem being that due to the amount of smaller silvers all serviving they crowd each other out and complete for the same food source preventing development and growth. An their biomass is creating alot of detritis.
    This I feel is also a bad thing when apex preds are removed...can also affect the stocks of silvers both in size and indeed quality as usually the "best" specimens survive, making the gene pool good as oppose to all serviving and "poor" breeding taking place which can also lead to deformity etc.
    I actually think putting larger specimen sized preds can sort alot of the issues that many are concerned about with the population explosions. For example the large numbers of "schoolie Zeds" in canals and some still waters/reservoirs, with them becoming prey instead of wiping out silvers and small fry. They might also be staying small due to overcrowding and lack of food.

    I agree with Keith that these things are here to stay, I feel it is the "management" issue that seems to worry people, but nature has its own way of doing things, so whilst strategy teams can sit down around tables and make plans, throwing money etc at progects.

    Nature will do it its way to sort it.

  5. I like having the zeds in the canal because, a. they are great fun to fish for and, b. a balance had established itself whereby the roach that survive their predation do go on to grow big and fat on a full natural larder. They are hard to catch admittedly, but if you want a half a chance of a two pounder and many over one pound in the West Midlands then the Cov, the Oxford or the Ashby Canals are your best bet. It's got to be icy though.

    I think that if BW electro my much loved roach stretches then I'm going to have to restock them with the weight they take out.

  6. Thanks for all the great comments.

    It's great to see that we all care just as much about the environments we fish as the fish we catch in them.

    I know from speaking to the EA that there opinions are on the change and hopefully BW won't be far behind.

    So for now get the dead baits out and get Zander fishing.

    I have also added a few extra photos to the original blog to give you a good idea of the impact a healthy Zander population can have on a canal if your interested.

  7. I can remember when the Midlands canal system was stocked with Carp in the 80's to boost match fishing sport, fish which the survivors of are now into double figures (as Danny has proved). Funny how there was no problem stocking a somewhat invasive alien species then eh !!

    The main problem with Zander is a PR issue, I saw a match on the Cov canal on Sunday, one guy was moaning that there were no bits left as the Zander must have eaten them all. I suggested he fished for Zander instead - he just laughed at me !!
    There are some cracking fish of all species in the canal to be caught, they're just not always as easy to catch, unlike their Commercial cousins.

  8. Dan. That second pic looks likely to be a brace of silver bream, and the top one is a good un too. Do you have a clearer picture for a scale count?