Break is still needed

Don't tamper with our close season. That was the almost unanimous response from Broads anglers following the usual spring clamour to scrap the 93-day statutory break and fish the year round come what may.

The lid was lifted again on this almost perpetual cauldron of debate when an angling club in Worcester declared it would be organising an unlawful fishing competition on the River Severn this month in defiance of the bylaws that govern angling activities in England and Wales.

However, the news that these piscatorial protesters are taking up rod and line to make their point that the close season is now outdated and redundant has been greeted with little short of disgust by the great majority of Broads lovers, who insist it is not only the fish but all aquatic flora and fauna that benefit from the three-month lay-off that runs from March 15-June 15.

Norwich chairman Tony Gibbons said he was appalled by the thought of a fishing free for all, non-stop for 12 months of the year.

'To seek publicity in this silly and illogical move to undermine the close season regulation is plainly stupid and the anglers involved deserve to feel the full weight of the law, have their fishing tackle confiscated and perhaps serve a ban on fishing for an appropriate period.'

He continued: 'All wildlife benefits from the spring break in fishing and years ago we discovered the folly of fishing at Easter and Whitsun, when spawning fish were being targeted to their detriment.

The close season affords angling respectability and allows the water habitat to resuscitate naturally without interference from man.'

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He concluded: 'I happen to believe that abolishing the close season on lakes went too far.

'I can accept that a case can be made for continuous fishing on purpose-built waters where the owners finance fish stocks, but on the long-established mixed fisheries in the big country estates I believe a close season should prevail.'

Norfolk Wildlife Trust warden at Martham Richard Starling declared a fishing close season was absolutely vital for all Broads wildlife.

'During the harsh weather last winter we fed the small bittern population up here and we certainly wish them to nest undisturbed. Aside from that, our River Thurne pike, which have been under intense angling pressure, definitely require time to spawn successfully and it was agreed at a recent Broads forum, attended by angling representatives, that we would not accept a break in the close season on the Broads under any circumstances.'

In Great Yarmouth, the secretary of the Sportsmans' Angling Club Lee Arnold adopted a more relaxed view. 'The boating season on our tidal navigable rivers starts at Easter and I believe there's a case for those areas to allow rod and line fishing to coincide to benefit both local and visiting anglers.'

However, the Environment Agency has stated there are no plans to review the dates of the close season. A spokesman said: 'The laws are in place to protect wild fish stocks during the vulnerable spawning period and any change must be based on sound scientific evidence that it would not be detrimental to fish stocks.'

• Staggering match catches from Barford Lakes were headed by Glen Mason, the Oddfellows winner, with a massive carp haul of 145lb 8oz. Runner-up Nat Kopti bagged 106lb 8oz, followed by Rodney Patrick with 96lb 12oz.

At Colton, Dave Agass (Stalham) won the open with 85lb 9oz, while at Melton Ponds, the ultimate open event of their season was headed by Tim Wright (Costessey Crown) with 51lb and he completed the double by winning at Mill Farm on Monday with 49lb 2oz.

On the big fish scene, carp of the week was a hefty Taswood Lakes common of 32lb 7oz, winched out by Cromer's Joe Phillips with other specimens around the mid-twenties falling to Norwich rods James Tipple, Vince Cripps, and Luke Cutting and to Jordan Bailey, of Wymondham, Kevin Smith (Lingwood) and Mick Plane (Diss).

Swangey Lakes maintained form for Attleborough's Steve Jones, whose best was a 29lb 13oz mirror carp. Other fish between the low and high twenties fell to Jamie Nelson (Attleborough), Simon Ingram (Taverham), Shaun Gee (Norwich) and Wymondham trio Ben Knights, Luke Rix and James Foster.

Catfish have started to feed in Waveney Valley Lakes where two specimens over 40lb were taken by holiday anglers.