Anglers risking lives to save fish

Anglers put their lives on the line this week by jumping into a lake to break ice and save thousands of fish which were suffocating underneath it.

Paramedics were called to revive Karl Webster, of Manchester, when he passed out after spending 20 minutes in his local Duttons Pond, but his friends, Michael Thompson and Wayne Rooke, risked hypothermia by staying in the bitterly-cold water for hours, smashing ice with axes.

In recent weeks, owners of fishing venues nationwide have faced a dilemma over whether to break the ice on their lakes to allow oxygen to enter and toxic gases to escape ¬ or leave it untouched and risk fish-kills. But members of Urmston Angling Association were in no doubt what to do when they found the majority of the fish population in their 43-peg water gasping for air beneath the ice or huddled in a big ‘herring ball’ in the only ice-free area of the pond.

Excess silt on the bottom of the 5ft deep venue is thought to have caused the problems, and thousands of roach, chub, bream and carp to 16lb were just hours from perishing when the team decided to act.

“When we saw the fish, we didn’t really think twice about going in to save them. The water was extremely cold and we’d been in there 20 minutes when Karl complained that he felt dizzy, so he got out. The next time I looked round he was unconscious on the floor, so we called an ambulance.

“He came round for a short while, but then passed out again and his eyes rolled to the back of his head. It was scary stuff, but thankfully the medics were on hand,” said Michael.

“It was the kind of thing you shouldn’t do,” said Karl. “I think the lads panicked a bit, but I’m fine now.”

Following the rescue, fishery managers at the Urmston water worked around the clock with a JCB and water pumps to stop the pond freezing again. Duttons Pond manager John Lynch said that a digger helped to push sheets of ice under each other, rather than continue to smash them with axes and cause the fish further distress.

“We took matters into our own hands and did what was necessary to save our fish. We’ve only found 12 dead ones, and after three days the rest of the fish started to swim around properly again near the bottom of the lake. I’d like to thank all of those who answered the rallying call ¬ they were there for up to 10 hours a day, which just shows what can be achieved with a bit of club spirit,” said John.