Counting cost of flood slaughter

Worried angling club bosses and local fishing tackle shops were this week attempting to calculate the enormous cost of last week's devastating salt water incursions that may well have wiped out upwards of half a million prime coarse fish in vulnerable areas of broads tidal rivers.

Worried angling club bosses and local fishing tackle shops were this week attempting to calculate the enormous cost of last week's devastating salt water incursions that may well have wiped out upwards of half a million prime coarse fish in vulnerable areas of broads tidal rivers.

The only beneficiaries from this massive slaughter were predatory animals and birds and enterprising pike anglers who cannot be criticised for seizing their chance to stock up their dead-bait freezers with roach retrieved from the shallow dykes off the main rivers where thousands of fish were left dead and dying last Wednesday following the worst salt water disaster since 1988 when 100,000 fish perished in the Potter Heigham Boatyards alone.

Huge tides which were forecast when the moon was in full during September and October failed to materialise because wind directions remained in a southerly quarter.

But last Tuesday the weather gods produced a storm force 11 gale first blowing from the south to pile up the North Atlantic at the top of Scotland and then switching to the north-west driving the ocean into the North Sea funnel for classic flood conditions on inland waters that trapped coarse fish by its speed and intensity.


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Two of the worst affected rivers were the tidal Bure and Thurne causing immense anxiety for members of the Norwich and District Anglers Association who lease access to the tidal embankments at Cold Harbour, Ludham and St Benets Abbey. There, literally thousands of fish succumbed to the insidious saline that surged along the river bed beneath the less dense fresh water to leave legions of roach and other species condemned to death at the extreme ends of boat dykes at Thurne, Womack, Acle and Upton.

It is possible that large numbers of bream were actually lying dead on the bottom mud unseen, as they were during the great floods of 1938, 1953 and to a lesser extent on many other occasions since.

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The Norwich chairman Tony Gibbons said his members had enjoyed a hugely successive season on both these rivers but feared there had been a substantial loss of roach and bream whose effect would not be known until the new season opened next June.

“This summer and autumn we've had some splendid match results with quality bream as well as small roach that have appeared in large numbers to replace those that mysteriously disappeared during the last couple of years or so.

“My prediction that next season will be even better is now doubtful and some anglers who were ready to be tempted back on to the rivers may now be having second thoughts,” he declared.

“We shall know the truth next season when match returns will be most illuminating.”

At the weekend the few visiting anglers who had not cancelled their bait orders at broads tackle shops were trying their luck in the River Thurne at Potter Heigham but ended with dry nets.

There was better sport on the River Bure at Woodbastwick just a mile or so up stream from St Benets, with shoals of roach producing quality spot.

On the River Waveney at Beccles the water had dropped back by the weekend leaving the Norfolk and Suffolk Veterans' Club match producing double figure roach nets to over 20lb.

Retired river bailiff Joe Beckham said the river had overtopped its banks last week, but fears that salt water had reached the town had proved unfounded and excellent catches were being taken this week.

Quality roach returns have also been reported from the Stalham Boatyards at the top of the River Ant and from the River Yare at Bramerton and Thorpe where bream to 8lb also featured in pleasure and match anglers' nets.

At the Griffin Marina at Thorpe, Mike Culyer said more than six inches of flood water had swamped the premises including the tackle shop, but he had not spotted any dead fish.

“Now the water has dropped back I think anglers can expect some first class sport with bream, roach and pike between here and Postwick so its not all doom and gloom,” he declared.

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