Relief Channel back to its best


One of the greatest venues in UK predator fishing history could be on the verge of a long-awaited return to the glory days of yesteryear after recent surveys discovered an abundance of specimen fish.

During the 1960s and 1970s the Great Ouse Relief Channel in Norfolk regularly produced massive pike, zander and perch, many of which had grown fat on the vast shoals of silverfish inhabiting its 11-mile length.

However, the introduction of dubious flood management practices, compounded by malfunctioning sluice gates, saw sport drop off dramatically in the following decades as the Channel was used to carry huge volumes of floodwater to sea.

Now, following widescale restoration of Denver Sluice and a review of flood management, the fish seem to have returned, with the Environment Agency revealing last week that more fish were found in recent surveys than in any other carried out on the venue in the past.

The research threw up countless big zander and pike, along with perch nudging 4lb. Crucially, whole year classes of tiny fry from spawnings last spring have also been found, pointing towards a rosy future.

"Angling has suffered a great deal because it had become the only channel for the release of floodwater, but it¹s on its way to becoming a great fishery again," said Paul Wilkanowski, EA ecological appraisal officer.

"No one could believe the sheer number of fish present, and the massive perch blew our minds! These fish are just a tiny sample of what must be lurking beneath the surface."

Anglers have understandably welcomed the news of the venue's regeneration, among them Fenland pike fanatic Mark Barrett, who said: "What happened in the 1980s ruined the predator fishing and in winter all the fry were washed away. But now anglers have the right to be very excited because the channel is clearly on its way back."

Ashley Brown, secretary of controlling club King's Lynn AA, is positive about what the future might hold.

"There's a real buzz around the place. Anyone who buys a ticket to fish here won't be disappointed," said Ashley.