Fines raise questions for pike chasers in the Fens

Chris BishopWEST NORFOLK & FENS: Fines believed to be the largest ever handed out for illegal fishing were dished out to pike anglers caught on a prohibited stretch of the Cut-Off Channel at Stoke Ferry in the Fens.Chris Bishop

Fines believed to be the largest ever handed out for illegal fishing were dished out to pike anglers caught on a prohibited stretch of the Cut-Off Channel at Stoke Ferry in the Fens.

One was fined �500 for having his rods spread too far apart. While those who delight in attacking pikers were probably sharpening their pencils in delight, the case has sparked debate in predator circles over the question of what constitutes safe fishing when it comes to how far you spread your rods along the bank.

Fifty metres is too far for effective bite indication and prompt striking. That much is a no-brainer, as far as anyone who wants to avoid deep-hooking is concerned. You need to be able to see what's going on if you're float fishing, which means floats in your line of sight preferably backed up with an alarm.

You also need to be able to reach a rod quickly when you get a take if legering baits on alarms alone, in order to set the hooks before the pike swallows the bait. But many anglers regard the rule that rod butts must be within 3m of each other as dangerous, in circumstances where you run the risk of a fish fouling other lines after you strike into it.

I'm sure we can all think of swims where this could happen as a good fish surges off in the flow or in a confined area like a channel. Then there's the question of netting a fish next to your rod tops. Play 'em hard, play 'em quick is something many aspire to, rather then risk over-tiring the pike with the risks that brings. But doing so means you'll often have a lively customer ready to tail-walk or hurtle off at close quarters when it sees the net and some strapping piker who's not going to win any beauty contests on the other end of it.

So much can go wrong when you get that first glimpse of getting on for four feet of anger with more teeth than a dentist's dustbin. You need enough space to control the final seconds of the fight and get it in the net first time.

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Rods spaced too closely can also be risky fishing from a boat in windy weather. Most of us use floating braid for the tremendous safety margin it affords. But rods have to be positioned so the lines don't cross as a bow develops.

Then there's the question of leap-frogging rods, as you swim hop along a river or drain - when at times your rods may be more than 3m apart for a minute or two as you re-position them. And what about anglers who alternate rods when fishing with mates, to ensure everyone has a fair crack at a hotspot or feature.

Efficient bite indication and prompt striking are bread and butter to most pike anglers. But there are times when the layout of the bank or the need for mobility make 3m spacing hard to manage. That doesn't justify having rods parked 50m apart. But the courts would see a flood of work if everyone who's ever broken the 3m rule ended up in front of the beak.

There's a wealth of information about sustainable fishing on the Pike Anglers Club website - www.pacgb.com. The club's been at the forefront of the fight to conserve both pike and pike fishing for three decades.