Thursday, 30 January 2014


Having just visited Mick Newey's always entertaining Piscatorial Quagswagging ( (where did you discover that word Mick?!) to find a link to a 116 page document about the angling world-perceived problem of fish predation I feel compelled to write something

But what, what should I write?

My natural reaction is to side against any groundswell of angling opinion as it is all-but always driven by the sensationalist and self-preservative tendencies of the tabloid-esque angling press, desperate for a sale in an insular world they would have you believe is necessarily controlled by tackle companies and a single fish species

The fact that it is inevitable today for issues associated with carp to be high profile factors is again a turn-off due to the inextricable link to economics and ego. It is surely natural to question the supposed necessity to maintain waters for the benefit of a single species or any unnatural mix, the reasons I resist can surely be the only ones

Next there is the logical thought that fishery owners and managers shoot themselves and the sport in the foot and fin when they measure the importance of their, no doubt individually-named, stock in £'s not lbs.

I could go on

...and I will

For those who, like me, do not have the stomach for 116 pages of such information, 'Predation: An Ecological Disaster. The Big Picture' is a compilation of research documents, press clippings, commentary and opinion by scientists, supposedly high profile anglers, politicians, celebrities, etc., presented as being published for The Predation Action Group (PAG).

PAG it seems is the joint effort of various angling 'personalities' and others reporting back to the Angling Trust but sadly their website does them no favours ( If you were to click on the otter in the predators section and read the first sentence you will immediately get my drift

Anyway, the thrust of it is to convince those who may condone it that destruction of presupposed culprits is essential to maintain an artificial level of control over predators to the benefit of the quantity and size of fish available to be caught and ultimately, of course, to reward those who believe that fish exist to adorn them with gold and those whose heads grow fat upon their capture. No need to expand further on that

Thankfully blogworld is heavily populated by countryfolk who fully appreciate that a balanced ecological community is what we all desire of our favourite waters and that a healthy, naturally biodiverse countryside is a laudible aim we should all be able to enjoy for its, at the same time, magical, beautiful, weird and wonderful qualities

The fact that certain introductions would upset the balance was inevitable. Otters for instance have spread naturally into my part of the world following, and possibly directly because of, introductions elsewhere. It will now take time for a natural balance to descend on the watercourses they inhabit especially when combined with the fact that there are now coincidentally so many signal crayfish for them to forage on in some of those waters

New introductions of non-indigenous species, it would undoubtedly be fair to say, are never well advised

Alien species inevitably cause initial problems beyond prediction and the imagination before they settle back to a natural level in the newly adjusted ecosystem, often at a cost to a pre-existing species (mink/water vole being the obvious example)

Reintroductions are another matter, what are we (they) trying to achieve? If we allow ourselves to be sentimental for a second then, yes, it is nice to be able to see the majesty of red kites close to home but I still and always will see them as a slightly false 'tick', just as I do with white-tailed eagles on the annual Highlands excursion, monstrously impressive though they are. These species have been lost for whatever reason in the past and their presence now does nothing to reinstate the then extant balance of fauna at the time they last graced these isles. So what is the point of all that?

I could go on and on, page after page, on this subject of course

The fact of the matter is that we have what we have at any one point in time. If it were down to me, and it isn't as thankfully I am nobody in the scheme of things, there would be no introductions, no reintroductions and heavy protection and conservation of what we already have with emphasis on the relinking and enlarging of the widest possible variety of valuable habitat as part of a nationwide strategy. This should be the fundamental thrust of conservation - to maximise the chances for the broadest range of biodiversity to survive, strengthened not weakened, in the interests of maintaining Gaia to the benefit of all species, ourselves included. This should be the predominant national policy above all other or our, perhaps immediate, children may live to regret the actions of ourselves, their predecessors

So how does that leave us with the PAG document?

Well, do we not simply have to wait and make of situations of change what we can? My local waters had been hard venues from which to catch fish, certainly since the 1960's, but in 2013 the canal fished so well I actually got bored and stopped going, and yet simultaneously there was, and is, otter spraint under every suitable bridge and signal crayfish everywhere...oh! and, yes, it is riddled with zander too. This example is the antithesis of the PAG argument; a venue that was incredibly difficult to winkle a few small fish out of thirty years ago but that last year produced numerous double figure bags of quality fish with the additional benefit in the interim of otter, signal crayfish, zander and, at times undoubtedly, cormorants and, to my definite knowledge, goosander too. Similarly a syndicate I belong to has a water which for the first time in living memory is alive with small fish and yet this has occurred at a time when cormorant numbers have been increasing. 'For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction', 'remember those words from school physics?

So what does that prove?

Well nothing of course, other than nothing is clear and it's all guesswork, all round. Nobody understands whats going on and every time it gets tampered with it it goes wrong and becomes ever more complicated

It's quite simple - leave what species remain alone, protect them - and embrace the constant change; 'twas ever thus and always will be so


  1. I'm sure embracing the situation is the only way. You will be pleased to know Zander on the canal will be one of my targets this year, I'll let you know how I get on.

  2. Good luck with that Mick, there's plenty of 'em!

  3. I tend to agree, George. Nature will find THE way and we just have to wait for her. She's not nearly so impatient as us! No amount of interference in what's done will ever make things better and if our track record is anything to go by, then we really shouldn't bother to try. It's somewhat different, I think, where fisheries have been properly managed for centuries. The men who run them are very clever and very well informed, having a long history of experience that prescribes certain measures as correct in the short term for the long term benefit. I'm afraid coarse anglers are not the same sort of creatures at all and suffer terribly from disabling jerky knees. Luckily for the canals, no one really gives a flying toss and so they became what they are now, which is a rather interesting balance struck between alien introduction and the native ability to not only survive but thrive in its presence. Roach at two pounds plus and plenty more on the way up are an indicator of that truth.

  4. Convergence of thoughts again...are you married?