Thirty pounder that is set to net £6,000

CHRIS BISHOP A monster pike caught on the Norfolk Broads more than 50 years ago is expected to net £6,000 at auction in the summer.

CHRIS BISHOP

A monster pike caught on the Norfolk Broads more than 50 years ago is expected to net £6,000 at auction in the summer.

The 30lb fish, measuring just under 4ft long, was bagged on Hickling Broad by farmer Donald Tate in 1956.

Mr Tate, from Potters Bar in Hertfordshire, had a houseboat and punt on the Broads and headed for Norfolk every weekend when work allowed.

“The pike really frightened me,” he told Angling Times at the time of the capture. “It took my live-bait with a rush. It came straight out of the water and crashed back with the noise of a ton of coal being emptied.”

In those days, smaller pike ended up in the pot while the larger ones were preserved for posterity in glass cases when caught by those who could afford the services of a taxidermist.

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Today they are greatly-prized by collectors of pike-related memorabilia. Among the most valuable of all from that era are those caught by the legendary Dennis Pye, some of whose more notable captures gazed down on customers from the walls of his Norwich chip shop.

Mr Tate's huge fish was later cased and preserved by the leading taxidermist of the day, one J Cooper and Sons of Hounslow, Middlesex.

While little else is known about the fishing career of Mr Tate, inquiries carried out by the auctioneers have revealed that he also caught a 22lb pike on the Broads. That, too, goes under the hammer at the same Bonhams fishing sale at Henley-on-Thames on July 21. Being slightly smaller, it is expected to fetch around half the prize of its larger sister when it comes under the hammer.

Mr Cooper nearly turned Mr Tate's business away because of pressure of work - but when he learned his catch was a magical 30 pounder he changed his mind and the fish was believed to be the last 30lb pike preserved by the company.

Today most pike anglers who haunt the Broads return their catches alive after careful handling on boat or bank and perhaps a photograph or two to record their fleeting meeting.

Despite greatly improved standards of care for their quarry, just a handful each season achieve every pike angler's dream of boating a “thirty”.

Specimen pike are now valued as a sporting fish on most Norfolk waters, all the more so because cuts in flood defence budgets mean areas like the Upper Thurne are living on borrowed time.

The river and its broads produced three separate record-breaking pike over 40lbs in the second half of the 20th century, giving areas like Martham, Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere almost legendary status among the predator fishing fraternity.

But now the low-lying expanse of reed-fringed water is under constant threat of the sea breaking through and turning the river and its broads saline. Once that happens, fish like Mr Tate's 30 pounder might only swim in glass cases, in the history books and in the dreams of pike anglers.

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