Gruesome Welland find

Chris BishopWEST & THE FENS: The spectre of illegal gill-netting hangs over the Fens again, after the discovery of dead bream tangled in the remains of a net on the River Welland. Pike anglers who made the grisly find say sport has declined sharply on the stretch downstream of Crowland in recent seasons.Chris Bishop

The spectre of illegal gill-netting hangs over the Fens again, after the discovery of dead bream tangled in the remains of a net on the River Welland.

Pike anglers who made the grisly find say sport has declined sharply on the stretch downstream of Crowland in recent seasons.

But despite pledges from the powers that be that action would be taken against the netters, there has so far been only one prosecution, while nets have been found on most of the main drains and rivers since.

Gill nets are easily available, light to carry and simple to deploy. They're also indiscriminate as far as coarse fish are concerned, with most species vulnerable to them.

Ask most anglers what they'd rather see and it's action against the fishmongers off the Fens, rather than more rules governing how, when and where they can fish.

But Natural England is limbering up to go on the attack with a new policy for the way our nation's fisheries are managed.

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It wants to ban live baiting, restrict the stocking of species like carp and bream, and have the last say over anglers' access to SSSIs and nature reserves.

Club working parties could also be under threat from calls to curtail bank clearance or even pruning trees or removing snags, while officials want us to share our waters with canoeists and even swimmers.

Natural England seems to want to take over some of the Environment Agency's role when it comes to things like giving the go-ahead to stocking.

But when you read correspondence between officials which talk of carp being alien species and whether they should be removed from some waters, you can only wonder what planet some of these people are on.

A lively debate in a similar vein in the Fens ended with Natural England officials admitting it would not be in the public interest to prosecute anyone for returning zander.

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