Fighting the fish thieves

The news that government agencies are preparing to step up the campaign to hold back a rising tide of fish theft has been largely welcomed by Norfolk and Suffolk anglers.

Although the Environment Agency is being forced to dilute rod licence enforcement to make available the extra manpower for surveillance of the private fisheries and free tidal waters and broads, most believe it to be a price worth paying to tackle a serious black market in stolen carp from commercial and club fisheries, as well as silver fish species from rivers and broads.

Special forces (Crimestoppers) recruited from personnel at the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture as well as the Environment Agency are inviting anglers to play an important role by informing our willing watchdogs of suspicious activity.

Cefas spokesman Stu Katon told the angling press: 'We are seeking assistance through Crimestoppers, from fishery owners and anglers.

'That is why it is important for people to report any suspicious incidents to us.'

Anglers are requested to look out for:

• Gangs of men with vans but no visible fishing tackle gathered around fisheries after dark

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• Netsmen on banks or in boats binning numbers of silver fish species from public rivers and broads

• Men appearing at the end of competitions asking to buy or to be given the catch after the weigh-in

This information should be reported immediately to the Environment Agency emergency number 0800 807060.

Under the present bylaws, anglers may retain each day 15 small fish up Ato 20cm in length, either for use as predator baits or food for the family table. One pike per day up to 65cm (approximately 5lbs) may also be retained for the pot.

Taking fish from a private or club lake without written permission may invite prosecutions for theft.

Under no circumstances may anglers take home live fish to be kept in garden ponds or aquariums to be used as live bait at a later date.

Former Broads river bailiff Joe Beckham, who runs the Veterans midweek competitions, observed: 'People have been asking us for fish at the end of our matches. We have told them to clear off, or words to that effect.'

Tony Gibbons, the Norwich and District AA chairman, added: 'A few years back anglers were asking for any fish we caught from the River Wensum during the autumn and winter months.

'After hearing us say 'no' so many times, they no longer ask, but we welcome the new initiative.'

• The growing enthusiasm for silver fish competitions on winter waters was evident at the North Norfolk Cobbleacre fishery last month, when a fresh series of midweek events produced cracking catches of 40lb of roach, including fish to the one and a half pounds mark.

North Walsham's former international angler Jim Randell (Sensas) won there with 43lb 1oz and a week later Tony Gibbons (NDAA) topped the card with a similar catch of 42lb 4oz.

Head bailiff Bob Anderson confirms he will be staging these Tuesday open events until further notice (book in on 01603 400973).

Elsewhere on the match lakes, carp were shoaled up tightly, producing a winner of 62lb 14oz on the Willow for Barford Tackle's Ray King. Best of the week club catch fell at Colton for Oddfellows winner Rodney Patrick with 59lb.

Looking ahead, the Barford League for teams of five commences on January 6 (entry �30) with 10 teams so far booked in.

The Jim Bolton Memorial on Riverside is postponed to December 27 because the Canaries are at home on Boxing Day.

• For keen carp angler Jack Solomon, it was a case of being in the last chance saloon when he visited the splendid Taswood fishery during the final week of its season.

The wintery weather, cold and miserable, failed to inspire confidence that this would be his special red letter day as the management prepared to lock the gates until next March. But in angling, hope springs eternal.

And when he received a solitary bite, he connected with a hefty fish that was played gently into the landing net, where it was revealed as a splendid mirror carp of 30lb 2oz, the angler's personal best.

The Ellis family, which runs this marvellous fishery, will be celebrating another splendid season.

Altogether the list of specimen carp reads like this: 20-30lbs – 350; 30-40lbs – 52; over 40lbs – 1.

Thus, the policy of imposing their own close season at Taswood has paid off again.

'The anglers and the fish and not least ourselves deserve to get a rest,' declared a happy Susan Ellis, already preparing a worry-free Yuletide for the family.

Waveney Valley Lakes continue to produce quality carp despite a plunging thermometer and catch of the week was a 28lb 6oz mirror for 84-year-old regular Tom Syrett.

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