Keith Arthur - we shouldn't just blame cormorants

For virtually 30 unbroken years I fished rivers almost exclusively, with the occasional canal during floods. I rarely ventured on lakes; nasty things that usually needed legering on in those days. If I’d taken a 10lb weight on June 16 and carried it with me until October I’d have won a great deal of money and a fair few matches. If an angler had done that this year on Norfolk’s tidal River Yare the chances are he’d not have won a bean.

The individual league held over the summer series at Buckenham allows anglers to count their eight best weights. Robert Hubbard has amassed a staggering 270lb 3oz over those eight results and his best weight, 55lb 1oz was almost entirely of roach.

He didn’t win by much either as Nick Larkin had 266lb 3oz.

Over the past few weeks the average weight per angler has been 20lb and most of those have been prime roach, mostly in the 4oz to 8oz bracket.

How does that stand alongside the Wensum, which joins the River Yare as it trundles across Norfolk? The Wensum was once Norfolk’s prime roach river - indeed the big roach catches on the 1970s and 80s rivalled the great southern chalk rivers, such as the Stour and Avon.

It’s easy to blame cormorants for the demise but if they’ve eaten them out of residence on a shallow, winding, weedy Wensum, how has the broad, sweeping Yare been immune? It’s certainly not depth or flow because I see cormorants fishing a much wider, deeper and dirtier Thames in the heart of London every weekend.

Could it be that cormorants have carried the can for terrible management?

For grossly over-abstracting water from the chalk bed of the headwaters, for dredging indiscriminately? Both of those actions have one common result: flow is reduced. On the Yare that doesn’t have the same effect because, thanks to tides, it flows properly in both directions twice every day for several hours.

With the dry weather that East Anglia has suffered over the past two summers, even when it rains rivers don’t colour up and flow.

Of course, I don’t know the answers, but I can read and see evidence. We simply have too many people living here and too many houses being built where those people want to live - and that is usually close to rivers, something that’s been going on since man built his first factory because water was the best means of moving goods.

That means nothing is going to change.