Pike fishing specialist Nick Beardmore bags a beauty

Norwich's Nick Beardmore caught this 32lb pike from Chew Valley Reservoir in Bristol.

Norwich's Nick Beardmore caught this 32lb pike from Chew Valley Reservoir in Bristol. - Credit: Archant

One of Norfolk's top exponents of dead bait pike fishing has landed his 122nd specimen over the magical 20lb mark.

And what a beauty it was too as it turned the scales to exactly 32lb.

The man celebrating this splendid feat of fishing is Nick Beardmore, known among his angling associates as The Bard of the Broads. On this occasion no poetic licence was required to describe this fish that beat his previous best by 4oz.

But this was no Broads fish. The Norwich-based Environment Agency official and his angling pal Sean James, who are better known for their successful angling endeavours on the tidal River Bure, decided on a change of scenery and headed west to the Chew Valley Reservoir in Bristol.

He takes up the story. 'We embarked on this 500-mile round trip on the strength of the reputation of Chew Valley, noted for its monster pike. The important take came on a herring bait that was offered around 100 yards out but it wasn't until I had reclaimed lots of line that I realised I had hooked a very special specimen. I played it very carefully to the landing net and Sean skillfully scooped it up at the first attempt.'

As the picture emphasises, this was a fish in immaculate condition without a single scale missing or out of place, promoting the proud captor to add: 'Obviously I am delighted with this fish, more especially as it made the trip worthwhile to record my personal best in a career spanning 30 years.'

Back in Norfolk other pike anglers had plenty to celebrate at the weekend.

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A total of 23 fish were weighed in at the Lenwade Bridge Pike Festival, seven of them falling to the dead baits offered by Norfolk entry Dave Weston for a winning weight of 25lb 6oz.

On the river Waveney the Aldeby, Shrublands club member Stewart Edmonds enjoyed a massive pike bonanza at Geldeston ending his match session with six fish between 4lb 6oz and 19lb 11oz, totalling 53lb.

On the River Wensum in Norwich, pike went into a feeding frenzy after the Dukes' club members returned their roach catches when the best of the hunting hoards scaled more than 21lb.

So, to the serious question that has been smouldering all year: is there really a pike famine in the Broads? Not according to the aforementioned evidence.

On the other hand there may well be a case for surveying pike stocks in the Thurne Valley catchment. An unpublished report in 2008 by Professor Sue White and colleagues at the Cranfield University in Bedford sent the Boards Authority worrying statistics that land drainage was directly responsible for increasing saline content in Hickling Broad and Horsey Mere by adding up 20pc sea water mostly from Hempstead Marshes. This was perceived to have an adverse affect on the ecology.

This deep drainage, completed in the second half of the 20th century resulted, said the report, in high nutrient and saline levels, later shown by top environment scientists to have nourished the dreaded fish killer algae, prymnesium.

It is also worth noting that blocking the Waxham cut with a drainage pump interfered with spawning pike unable to reach their desired destination.

A number of fish were discovered dead or dying in the dust having failed to leap over the man-made barrier. According to reference literature pike do not flourish in brackish turbid water but require a crystal-clear habitat accompanied by feeder streams for successful spawning and fry survival.

Those basic requirements do not fit the description of most upper Thurne waters in the 21st century.

In the meantime, recent catches suggest pike angling prospects on the more popular Broads and rivers are encouraging and there are but 16 days remaining to enjoy them before the season closes for the 93-day statutory break on March 14.

Venues to aim for are obviously the River Wensum in Norwich, the Bure between Wroxham and Horning, the Yare between Trowse and Bramerton, the Thurne above Martham ferry and the River Waveney upstream of Beccles town.

Of the main Broads Horsey Mere which reopens on March 1 after being closed since November 1 sounds attractive and the same applies to Salhouse, South Walsham, Wroxham and Barton.

Access to the non-tidal rivers is limited but the River Bure between Mayton Bridge and Coltishall is free fishing and is worth a try as are the few public access points to the upper reaches of the rivers Wensum and Yare.

While pike anglers were bagging up, the rest of match angling struggled at the weekend. The River Wensum along riverside went crystal clear and Nigel Goose was top of the Dukes club with 8obs 2oz of small roach and perch. At Hill Farm, Banham, Nigel Collins of Kenninghall was top rod with 41lb 11oz, winner of the Mulbarton Club at Litcham was G Kettle with 36lb 9oz and Steve Kindlisides won at Mill Farm with 61lb 12oz.

• Match anglers who hope their season will go out with a bang will compete in the Wensum Valley Freshwater Championship staged on the Lakeside Country Club Kingfisher Waters comprising both lake and river.

This two-day tournament that is expected to produce a variety of species on March 9 and 10 was described by organiser Keith Westgate as a competition that has found its rightful home.

Up-to-date prospects next week.

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