An Eastern European view of British fishing

Last week Angling Times revealed that the Government is on the verge of forcing through new fisheries byelaw legislation aimed at halting the spiralling problem of coarse fish being plundered illegally from the nation¹s rivers.

Eastern Europeans are widely considered to be at the heart of the problem, but not all anglers from that region are guilty of showing a lack of respect for the law.

One man bucking the trend is Linas Povilaitis, an accomplished predator angler who moved to England 10 years ago from Lithuania. In the past year the 40-year-old shift worker has taken a string of big fish from venues close to his Boston, Lincolnshire home, including two huge perch over 5lb.

We met up with Linas to get his take on the fishing scene in his homeland, and what can be done to tackle the problem of illegal angling in this country.

Q How does fishing in Lithuania differ from that in the UK?
A Fishing licences at home cost only a few pounds and very few of the rivers or lakes are controlled by private individuals or clubs. Most places are free to fish and there are very few, if any, rules. That doesn¹t help when it comes to managing fish stocks.

Q Do you ever kill your catch and take it home to eat?
A No. Even when I lived in Lithuania I always fished for pleasure, not for food, and I always returned my fish. If I catch and kill a fish one day then there is no way I can catch it the next day, let alone the next year once it has grown bigger.

Q Do your fellow countryman think the same way?
A Unfortunately not. I¹d say that 70 to 80 per cent of Lithuanian anglers kill what they catch in order to take it home at the end of the day as proof of a successful day¹s fishing and then they¹ll cook it for dinner.

Q So the stocks have taken a hammering?
There aren¹t many big fish left in Lithuania¹s rivers and lakes. Back home my angling friends can¹t believe the size of the pike and perch I catch here. I¹d never caught a 1kg perch back home, let alone fish as big as the two five-pounders I¹ve caught.

Q Do you think most Eastern European anglers in the UK behave as they would at home?
Probably. I see quite a few Polish anglers fishing on the drains. They tend to cast out a few deadbait rods and then spend the day sat in their cars drinking vodka and whisky. Most of the time they kill what they catch.
Unfortunately, their behaviour doesn¹t help me as I often get asked by English anglers what I intend to do with the fish I¹ve caught.
On one occasion I was photographing a perch and a bailiff really upset me by insisting I return the fish to the water before I¹d got the photo I wanted.

Q The truth is not all British anglers are that respectful are they?
Definitely not. On a number of occasions I¹ve caught pike with other anglers¹ lures or traces left in them. Recently I landed a 4lb jack and had to spend 15 minutes extracting two sets of trebles from its gut.
Fortunately, the fish swam off, but such bad angling really does anger me.

Q Are you ever threatened by British anglers?
No, many of them are really friendly and willing to swap tips. But I do get annoyed when people start stereotyping me. I wish that English anglers wouldn¹t assume that all Eastern European anglers kill what they catch because they don¹t.
Linas then started showing us his online fishing diary. He¹s obviously been catching plenty of chub, perch and grayling from the upper Witham while wading with light spinning tackle and a box of assorted lures.

Q Do you let anyone else look at your diary?
Yes, I spend a lot of time chatting online with fishing friends back home, showing them what I¹m catching here and explaining to them how good the fishing is and, more importantly, why it¹s so good.
They¹re beginning to understand how important it is for fisheries to be controlled and managed, and how important catch and release is for the conservation of stocks.

Linas on lure fishing...

Lurefishing is about constantly trying new fishing techniques, analysing each day¹s results, testing out new lures and adaptations, and taking photographs of my catches. I spend a lot of time playing with lures in the margins to observe their action and figure out the best ways to use them so that they prove irresistible to perch.

For me the most exciting kind of fishing is to be had on the rivers in the summer. In Lithuania, where I return each year for a month, I love fishing small overgrown streams with a short rod.

I buy most of my lures on the internet, especially the soft plastics which are more popular abroad. I rate Scandinavia, in particular Sweden, and the United States as the best sources for predator fishing equipment, all of which is readily available online.

As for tackle, most of the time I use an 8ft Shimano spinning rod with a casting weight guide of 5g to 35g coupled with a smallish reel loaded with braided line. I prefer braids to monos because they tend to be very soft and give a more direct feel to the lure.