Fish surveys are no use says Keith Arthur

Anglers can’t catch fish so assume they are not there. The EA surveys rivers and tells us they are. What is the answer? I repeat what I wrote a few weeks ago: if we don’t fish for roach correctly, or know how they are feeding and what they are feeding on, they might as well not be there.

I have a friend with a length of River Severn in his back garden. He catches chub, roach and dace when the anglers either side of his land can’t. Maybe it’s because they are all legering with pellets.

We also don rose-tinted specs and have short memories. I fished the Severn Champs annually throughout the 1970s. My best weight (the match was always in September) was 7lb 12oz of roach and chublets on hemp and tares from Bushley, having caught nowt on maggot and caster. That got me in the top 15 out of 1,000-plus. I never had more than 3lb on any other Severn Champs.

We blamed cold ‘compensation’ water, yet investigation by anglers proved this to be a fallacy. The colour changed but not the temperature, suggesting the same phenomenon we currently have on the lower Thames: an algal bloom that dies and turns brown.

We didn’t have zander or cormorants, not even otters, to blame as the first two didn’t exist and the third should have had plenty of eels to feed on, even if we couldn’t catch any.

Winter 2009/10 was a write-off as far as conditions go, but in the previous winter 20lb bags were needed to win the Shrewsbury opens, mostly small chub, dace and roach making up the bags.

Maybe the old days, just a few halcyon seasons, when 2lb roach featured in Stourport matches were better, but then again maybe there were more anglers fishing more matches.

And in any case, if the fish have gone to Paradise, what can we do? If they’ve been eaten by cormorants, where’s the point in feeding them some more? If they’ve been eaten by otters, the same rule applies.

I couldn’t tell you what winter dace sport is like on the tidal Thames now because no-one fishes the river for dace ¬ the huge perch take up most of our attention, or big bream and carp. What I do know is that if there are NO dace present, replacing them would be as daft as the call to introduce otters as, obviously, the environment they need is compromised.