“If it wasn’t for gill netting, Lake Windermere wouldn’t be half the fishery it is today.”
That’s the controversial claim of Gord Burton, one of the most successful and well-respected pike anglers of all time, as gill netting at the premier predator water continues to incite anger in some quarters.
Internet chatrooms went into meltdown as anglers reacted with shock and anger at the recent discovery on Windermere of a series of gill nets which indiscriminately trap and kill adult pike.
But the deadly devices have been used by scientists the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology to help them carry out vital studies of the lake’s pike population for the past 60 years.
And, despite the research being responsible for the deaths of 149 adult pike in 2008 alone, the man dubbed ‘the King of Windermere’ has also gained the support of the Pike Anglers’ Club of Great Britain in his beliefs that the nettings are the main reason why the lake remains one of Britain’s greatest pike waters.
“I believe it’s no coincidence that pike are netted, killed and analysed here every year and yet there aren’t many other venues, with the exception of some of the trout reservoirs, that can touch this great lake in term of the quality of pike fishing it offers,” said Gord, who’s fished the lake for over 35 years and landed 100 pike exceeding 20lb.
“Those anglers who frown on this practice are stupid, they’re just sticking their heads in the sand. You’ve got to look past the gill netting and see the bigger picture.
“As in the medical world, the research and dissection of fish helps ensure that fish disease doesn’t spread and that other health problems can be quickly detected and analysed. And that isn’t only vital to the well- being and survival of pike at Windermere, but in every other predator fishery in the country,” said Gord.
Although the PAC would never promote the use of gill nets to take samples of pike from any water, it finds itself firmly in Gord’s corner when it comes to research that is proving vital to the health and survival of Windermere pike.
“The annual removal of fish from Windermere takes place in a controlled and scientific way, which is what many anglers don’t understand ¬ they seem unable to grasp the fact that the loss of a small number of adult fish has saved the lives of thousands over the years,” said PAC president Tim Kelly.
The CEH’s annual research began in 1940 and its detailed scientific analysis, together with the constant monitoring of the pike population, is the only study of its kind in the whole of the UK.
“Every fish killed is vital in our work to learn more about this species.
It’s a small price to pay to guarantee the survival and longevity of a species,” said Ian Winfield, leading CEH fish ecologist.
Top predator angler and Angling Times columnist Neville Fickling has also been quick to throw his full support behind the CEH research, slamming those anglers criticising the practice.
“The people who can’t see the importance of this work clearly can’t see the wood for the trees ¬ they don’t have a single brain cell between them.”