Bumper year will be a hard act to follow

Out with the old. And in with the new. Another angling year has dawned.

If sport during the coming 12 months matches 2010 then anglers are in for some spectacular specimen fish and stunning match returns.

Despite the chilly January and February anglers enjoyed a bumper summer and autumn. But it was in March that the fish that could be described as the catch of the year came out of Hickling Broad – a monster 42lb 8oz pike for visitor Craig Humphreys, fishing from a floating holiday chalet by the Whispering Reeds boatyard.

Despite question marks on its authenticity, broads pike record holder John Goble of Caister gave the fish the thumbs up, supported by photographic evidence.

This Arctic winter so far has not equalled that catch, producing only a crop of 20s and 30s from well known popular broads and rivers.

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Early summer tench were reported weekly from the commercial and syndicate lakes, none better than the five double figure beauties up to 11lb 2oz winched out of Bawburgh Lakes by syndicate member Colin Hall.

On the big carp scene 30lb plus specimens were common place from Catch 22 and the Taswood Lakes, with a few 40s coming out of the Kingfisher Lake at Lyng and Waveney Valley, with the best of the year a 50 pounder from the Great Witchingham Charity Lakes.

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The vigorous debate on whether the broads contained zander was settled when a picture of Mr King's 6lb specimen from the River Yare was accepted as proof while Natural England also declared that zander were an alien species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

However it was stated that anglers who wished to put zander back would be exempt from prosecution because it was not in the public interest. This ruling seemed equitable for anglers who wished to take home a zander for the table and the conservationists who regarded zander as a worthy indigenous quarry.

The quality of the match catches on the tidal rivers were unsurpassed. Roach returns from the River Yare set new records at over 50 pounds and the Nisa Feeder series was won by Norwich rod Brian Gooch with an eight match aggregate of 285lb.

Bedford's Mark Pollard carried off the Norfolk Broads championship for the second time in his career, this time with a 41lb 7oz return from the River Thurne at Martham.

Norwich veteran Tom Boulton clinched top honours in the Broads two day festival with a maximum points score of 18 on the Rivers Bure and Yare.

Gazing further into the crystal ball there may be trouble ahead. Commercial fisheries and the fishing tackle and bait industry may well feel the pinch from government cutbacks and the rise of VAT to 20pc.

Meanwhile the Environment Agency is unlikely to suffer from government cutbacks because rod licence revenues are ring fenced and must be spent to develop, maintain and improve fisheries. However rod licence sales are down by 6pc for the year with junior permits fewer by 10pc.

The idea that the Angling Trust should be responsible for the administration of rod licences has been resurrected in the national media but this proposal has been rejected outright by Norwich anglers.

'We are well satisfied with the efforts of the Environment Agency to improve our fishing and feel our rod licence money has been well spent,' declared Norwich chairman Tony Gibbons.

'Most certainly we would not support any revision or alteration to the rod licensing system.'

His view is supported by the news that Britain's rivers have never been in better condition for centuries and Broads anglers are enjoying sport that has improved spectacularly almost year on year since the 1950s when waters such as the River Wensum in Norwich and the tidal River Yare as well as a number of Broads were polluted by industrial, agricultural and sewerage effluent.

Now match anglers and local and visiting people who fish for pleasure report record catches of bream and roach as well as giant pike, chub, perch and barbel.

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