Wildlife flourishing on our waterways

Angling by Roy Webster

Britain’s waterways have never been in better condition for wildlife.

This news comes from the Environment Agency, whose survey shows that flora and fauna above and below the surface are flourishing, while water pollution is in steep decline.

For anglers who have fished Norfolk’s broads and rivers since the mid-20th century, this announcement will come as no surprise. And for the local tourist industry it could not have come at a better time. Boat hire companies and hire agencies have certainly welcomed this good news that may boost business.

At the Hermanus Holiday Centre at Winterton, Michelle Boylan commented: “A lot of our customers come to the Great Yarmouth area to fish in the Broads, go out in boats and enjoy the wildlife. We are delighted that our Broads are cleaner and therefore healthier.”

A similar reaction came from many of the boat letting agencies, where a spokesman said: “We have a lot of visitors who will be interested to hear the results of this survey from the Environment Agency and I can say that many of them may be more inclined to visit the Broads for the fishing and hopefully spot an otter family or just come here to soak up the wonders of Mother Nature in all her forms.”

From the angling viewpoint, the upturn in river sport became apparent around the turn of the millennium. In the first decade heavier pike and impressive match catches of roach and bream have been the order of the day.

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One of the most notable upturns was seen in the match results on the River Thurne from Martham right down to the confluence with the River Bure.

For the first time, the Thurne produced the winner of the Norfolk Broads Championship, won this season by Bedford’s Mark Pollard with 41lb 7oz.

In the Great Yarmouth feeder Master Series on the River Yare, record-breaking catches of roach were weighed in with Norfolk’s Brian Gooch taking top honours with an eight-match aggregate of 285lb.

Such phenomenal catches, especially on the River Thurne, ravaged by the prymnesium fish killer algae in the late 1960s, were rare. However, this lethal organism has remained benign for many years now and has allowed fish stocks to recover.

For the Yarmouth Sportsmans club, free banks of river fishing could not have come at a more appropriate time, when anglers would have to count the cost of competing in events on commercial lakes.

“Our rivers have been fishing brilliantly in recent years,” declared Sportsmans’ secretary Lee Arnold. “A number of our members will be stretched for cash and will welcome the cheap fishing on the rivers next season.”

This rosy outlook does not apply to beach fishing along the local shoreline. Last week, the only fish caught in competitions were mostly flounders and dabs, and very few of them.

Sea anglers have been threatened with expulsion from the Angling Trust because they do not wish to participate in the rod licensing system. Even if they are thrown out of the new governing body, they are unlikely to be unduly upset for most sea anglers realise that their sport depends on the maintenance of fish stocks by European fishery ministers.