Fears for roach stocks

There are growing fears among members of the Stalham Angling Club that they have suffered a serious downturn of roach stocks in the Richardson's Boatyard lagoons.

There are growing fears among members of the Stalham Angling Club that they have suffered a serious downturn of roach stocks in the Richardson's Boatyard lagoons.

The club relinquished the lease for the fishing in the Stalham Marina when fish stocks plunged a few seasons back, writes Roy Webster.

They moved further along the A149 to the Woods Boatyard in Potter Heigham only to discover their hard-earned cash had been wasted on the rent because the quality of sport was even worse there than on the water they had vacated.

Choosing the lesser of two evils, the club returned to the Stalham lagoons last season and were delighted to discover that match catches were showing a massive improvement with figures between 10lb and 20lb recorded, even in freezing conditions.

This season the autumn matches kicked off in fine shape, again the winning nets up to and over the 20lb mark. Then in early December it all went pear-shaped with club competitions being won with meagre nets in low double figures consisting mainly of perch, small bream and miniscule roach.

“Our catches plummeted immediately after the huge sea flood into the Broads, but I cannot believe salt water penetrated through the River Ant and Barton Broad and into the Stalham Cut leading to our boatyards,” declared club president Len Reeves. He felt that the poor fishing had to be due to some other cause.

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Much has been made of numerous families of otters predating on Broads fish and there also remains the problem of cormorant predation, but less so in boat marinas where workmen are actively on site on weekdays and anglers there at weekends. In any case it is acknowledged by the anglers that mammal and bird predation could not have wiped our thousands of roach in one week.

This week it was discovered that the shoals of small fish populating the wet boatsheds at Potter Heigham had disappeared in the past 10 days. An attempt to record on film how easy it is to remove fish by the use of an angling landing net failed, for just two small roach, one minute bream and a couple of dead roach was the total catch. Whereas on New Year's Day a single exploratory dip of the net resulted in a haul estimated at several hundred fish from just one sweep.

Once again there were telltale tyre marks freshly imprinted on the adjacent land and Len Reeves now wonders whether the fish poachers have visited Stalham too.

“I believe this worrying issue should be addressed by the Environment Agency. It is beyond dispute that fish keep disappearing and my members would like to know where have they gone from the Stalham boatyards,” he declared.

Figures released by the Environment Agency show that some £2 million is allocated to the Anglia Region per annum but there is no fine print of how this cash has actually been spent, more especially in the Broads area.

There were 214 fish surveys completed in England and Wales during the year to March 31, 2007. But there is no indication whether any of this work was allocated to the Norfolk Broads and rivers.

The Environment Agency granted licences for 10,000 re-stockings of coarse fish while permitting and law enforcement cost the nation's licence holders nearly £2½ million.

Apart from checking rod licences in the Broads there has not been any visible bylaw enforcement apart from checking that eel nets are properly licensed.

It is understood a batch of eel nets without the licence tags were discovered on Horsey Mere containing silverfish, but according to the warden the nets were confiscated instead of bailiffs laying in wait to catch the culprits red-handed.

Altogether the Environment Agency received from licence revenues and government grants more than £31 million and all of it was spent. However, are there any Broads anglers out there who believe they received a fair share of that expenditure?

However there is a success story and that was the top quality fishing on Hickling Broad last summer and early autumn.

Local and visiting anglers alike heaved out phenomenal catches of bream in three figure aggregates with individual fish to 12lb.

The bosses at the Whispering Reeds Boatyard say they expect a bumper summer after the new season commences next June 16.

“We were amazed at the massive catches of bream on the Broad and there were also thousands of tiny roach. As a result a healthy number of anglers have booked up for their summer holidays in our houseboats,” said a spokesman.

The present broads fishing seems confined to pike angling and on Hickling only small to medium sized fish have been reported with rumours of one or two monsters from the Thurne Valley unsubstantiated.

Right now match anglers are mostly fishing the commercial lakes and Ormesby's Stephen Rouse pulled off his second successive victory at Hill Farm, Banham, with a carp catch of 20lb 9oz.

Along the coast the top sport is reported from the shingle banks in North Norfolk where the fourth round of the Anglia Division of the National Sea League produced loads of whiting and flat fish.

Result - Individuals: T Elliott (Angling Direct) 8lb 1oz, J Lacey (No Hope) 5lb 2oz, P Tovell (EA Baits) 5lb 1oz. Teams on day: E A Baits and Angling Direct both 8 points, Morston Creek and North Norfolk Lads 12. Leading standings: EA Baits 32, North Norfolk Lads 36, Angling Direct 37.

Result: Stalham AC, Boatyards: M Brown 5lb 15iz, T Shipley 5lb 7oz, W Plummer 5lb 1oz.