West & Fens Fishing: Trying to solve mystery of the disappearing zander

Where have all the zander gone? That's the question King's Lynn PAC members will be discussing at a meeting at the Wm Burt Club, at West Winch, tonight (7.30pm), with guest speaker Barry McConnell.

McConnell, once a familiar face on the Relief Channel and other drains, has his own theories about why the fishing's got so hard for this once-common species.

Introduced to the 'Channel in the 1960s by one of the EA's predecessors, the Great Ouse River Board, the zander's spread through the system was met with near-hysteria in some quarters.

But after a half-baked cull failed to dent their numbers in the 1970s, they were left to their own devices and seemed to find their niche in the decades which followed.

Zeds became an exciting new quarry for generations of predator anglers as pike fishing in the area lurched from boom to bust, as waters peaked and faded from form.

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Over the last few seasons, the newcomers have become increasingly rare.

Whatever's happened to the zander – the most reasoned explanation I've heard is mitten crabs predating on their spawn – they clearly aren't the only predator in decline.

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Pike have become increasingly thin on the ground in what were prolific waters up until the time anglers began noticing a downward trend in zander catches.

Bear in mind a lot of these people are seasoned hands who've been fishing the area for 20 years or more and it's obvious they can't all be having a bad season or a gut-rending run of blanks.

I know the system's been out of sorts for weeks, but this season even the reliable places you could head for when it's up and nasty and the chips are down aren't producing.

We've been struggling to get a run on one part of the system that threw up a string of good fish last season. I know times change and the fish move around, but half way through the season they haven't to my knowledge started popping up anywhere else yet.

I'm fearful for the future, not just because it's more of a struggle than I can remember at the moment; but because no-one seems to have an answer when it comes to 'why?'.

Over the years, you get to know your waters and build up a mental picture of what's going on under the surface as the seasons change.

When you're not catching anywhere and a run's a result in itself, you're fishing in the dark – like the modern-day zander angler in the Fens.

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