Keep net policy is a gain for fish and anglers alike – as the Codgers prove

Roger Harris at Bergh Apton where he netted 102lb 6oz. Picture: Roger Harris

Roger Harris at Bergh Apton where he netted 102lb 6oz. Picture: Roger Harris - Credit: Archant

Name the most important items of tackle demanded on our broads, rivers and lakes in the 21st century.

No prizes for guessing it's keep nets.

Ever since fishery biologists warned that overcrowded nets could result in the death of thousands of coarse fish, match and pleasure anglers have made an effort to please the Environment Agency and commercial fishery bosses in order to conserve valuable stocks.

Years back, matters of coarse fish welfare were strangers both to anglers and us scribes in the angling media.

But in the 1960s it was Broads river bailiff Tom Cable who raised the issue with the old East Suffolk and Norfolk Rivers Committee after discovering keep nets bulging with distressed Hickling Broad bream hanging from the stern of holiday motor cruisers.

He also caught members of a visiting angling club on the Thurne carrying keep nets crammed with crushed skimmer bream and roach to a central weighing point instead of conducting the process at each peg.

That Cable's reports led to progress was illustrated at the Bergh Apton fishery last week, when six members of the Codgers completed three-figure catches of carp. On day one Graham Webster scaled 122lb 10oz, then Roger Harris with 102lb 6oz. On day two Tim Wright had 131lb 6oz, Carlos Bale 129lb 6oz, Mick Buxton 118lbs and John Laskey 109lbs.

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Secretary Terry Lear said: 'Some of our ageing members have difficulty lifting out carp catches of 40lbs, so they carry spare nets anyway. They were shared out among those who needed them such as Tim Wright, who required three.'

Many commercial fisheries now provide club anglers with sterilised nets used as a precaution against fish disease.

On the broads tidal rivers, cavernous keep nets up to eight feet in length are required for match anglers and on some venues a mid-match weigh-in is the order of the day during a hot summer session when retained fish are vulnerable. As for pleasure anglers, a keep net is considered antiquated and banned on some lakes, and last season fish were being returned immediately from the hook on the Thurne.

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