For goodness sake, it’s time to leave these fish alone

These cold easterly winds haven’t stopped JB getting into the bream as this good double shows.

These cold easterly winds havent stopped JB getting into the bream as this good double shows. - Credit: Archant

I am told on very good authority that on one of our rivers, the chub and roach are congregating on the gravels preparing to spawn.

There is nothing unusual in this apart from the fact these particular gravels are very visible and adjacent to a public footpath. The shocking part of the tale is that these fish are being targeted by so-called serious anglers, fishing for them illegally out of season. Like you, I didn't believe this but I am assured by people I trust that it is true. Who are these people? How can they do this? How can they be so self-centred?

An old acquaintance of mine, Bob James, once did a similar thing down on the River Wye. I seem to remember that he jumped in before the season opened to try and catch barbel and take photographs of them for an article he needed to complete. Bob, some of you older anglers out there will remember, starred with Chris Yates in Passion for Angling, but that did not stop him being caught and prosecuted severely. It also dented his reputation so badly it all but ended his career in angling.

It's not the people who are the important part of this scenario, it is the fish. Chub are especially vulnerable for the next few weeks on our low, clear rivers. They are easy to spot and, I dare say, uniquely easy to catch. However, they are in that extremely fragile spawning condition which the protective closed river season is in place for. Put simply, to catch chub until June 16 is a crime against nature and criminal within the law.

You might argue I am similarly culpable on moral, if not legal, grounds for fishing for tench in May. I think not. Only one tench out of the 150 or so I've seen over the last few weeks has carried much in the way of spawn, probably because of the very cold spring that we are experiencing. My guess is that my tench will not spawn until high summer, when I will have moved back onto the river. Even so, any tench that I or my friends catch is weighed and photographed if necessary and returned as quickly as possible. With most, the hook is slipped out in the margins without the fish ever seeing the bank.

I think all responsible carpers behave in a similar manner. In the years that I have known the Kingfisher Lake, the great bunch of lads there have always driven straight off back home if the carp have been spawning on their arrival. I would always do the same if I saw my tench behaving similarly.

Does this really matter? Are we traditionalists splitting hairs when there is so much pain, anguish and uncertainty in the modern world? I think it does matter, and hugely. You and I might not have much impact on what Assad or Putin are up to, but we can all do our best for the tiny part of the world where we have some influence. If everyone on the planet strove to do the same, then how much happier the world would be.

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It is in this vein that I was dismayed that an appeal is being lodged against the rejection of the now infamous proposed recycling waste unit close to the banks of the mid Wensum. The Norfolk County Council Planning Committee was completely right-minded in rejecting this potentially catastrophic development several weeks ago. What is the point of allocating the Wensum SSSI and SAC status if we can even toy with polluting the ground water that feeds it? Thank goodness the Planning Committee refused to foul our nest in this way.

It always seems a shame to end on a slightly down note. I'm so happy this week to have seen so many children, boys and girls, fishing alongside their dads, sometimes on overnighters. What a great way to bond and what a great way to learn the sport. I'm also delighted to see numbers of big bream returning to many of our gravel pits. There's been a bit of a dearth of these this century but it is fabulous to see them coming back so strongly. And finally, I'd been mates for a few weeks with a Canada goose trying to hatch out her eggs. I rather thought she'd missed the boat when, unexpectedly, the bundles of fluff arrived. I swear she absolutely cackled with pleasure.

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