A view on zander fact and fantasy

Local author and well-known experienced angler John Watson has weighed in to the debate of zander being introduced into the Broads. Here, the much-respected personality gives his views on a debate raging in the angling world. The Marine Bill, soon to become law, has decreed that zander be classed as an alien species and as such warrant none of the protective measures bestowed upon our native coarse fish.

The Marine Bill, soon to become law, has decreed that zander be classed as an alien species and as such warrant none of the protective measures bestowed upon our native coarse fish.

Why this decision has been made baffles not only me but countless other anglers, for although zander are not indigenous, neither are carp, the only discernible difference being that whereas carp were introduced to this country from Europe in the 15th century, zander followed four centuries later. This begs the question 'When is an alien not an alien?'

I caught my first zander in the early 1970s, almost one hundred years after they were successfully and legally introduced in 1878, when the Duke of Bedford arranged with the President of the German Fishery Association for two dozen fish to be transported and released into his lakes at Woburn.

In 1963 the Great Ouse River Board released 97 zander, obtained from Woburn, into the Relief Channel, thus giving rise to the Fenland zander, which eventually spread both naturally and illegally to many rivers and stillwaters in the UK.


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In 1968 the British Record Fish Committee recognised its first national record of eight and a half pounds; zander were here to stay, so why this head in the sand stance over their rightful position as a legitimate sporting quarry?

Since that first zander in 1971 I've caught hundreds from the rivers and drains of Fenland and, while I much enjoy fishing for them there I would, contrary to what Roy Webster intimated in a recent report, hate to see them here on the Broads, where any significant stocking would see them quickly colonise the area.

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Zander in the Broads would without doubt be to the detriment not only of the native cyprinid population, but also the resident pike and perch as they would be in direct competition for available food stocks.

Whether zander already exist in the Broads is a matter of conjecture, and while both local press and TV reports have in the past claimed that they do. None of these reports were ever substantiated.

Immature bass as well as ruffe have been mistakenly identified and labelled as villains of the peace ,however in reality, only one solitary incident with photographic evidence to corroborate it, has to the best of my knowledge ever been produced.

A zander, allegedly caught from the tidal Yare and seemingly photographed there is that case in point, yet the camera does not always tell the truth.

I've been an angler for over half a century and have witnessed many spurious claims in that time - some of them outrageous indeed. As a consequence I believe only what I see with my own eyes or the accounts of close and trusted friends and colleagues.

Furthermore, in over 30 years of pike fishing on the Broads I have never seen a zander, and neither have any of my contemporaries.

The spreading of zander into 'new' river systems is to be condemned out of hand and while this has happened to many rivers throughout the UK we can be thankful that it has not happened here.

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