On The Box

 

The River Telegraph.

Fresh up on Facebook is my group page The River Telegraph, a place where river anglers can come to speak their mind over a range of river issues that they might be interested in.

Barbel Fishing.  Prince of the River.

This is a Facebook closed group that is gaining members and momentum fast!  Its a one stop talking shop about everything to do with barbel fishing on rivers where the content is fresh and updated by the minute by some of their 3,500 members at time of writing .  They have also just launched a section called Tackle Exchange which is also gaining members fast.  So if anyone out there is looking for a bargain or two, or wants to move on items of tackle they don’t use anymore why not try there.  There are other barbel fishing groups but this one stands way above the rest.  The members are helpful and courteous especially to new comers to the sport of barbel fishing.

 

Barbel Society.

One to avoid in my opinion is the Barbel Society facebook offering.  Whilst the content is fair, one of its members leaves a lot to be desired on the welcoming front so is best avoided.   This particular individual has already been banned on other angling websites for his dreadful attitude to other site users but appears to have been given a free reign to inflict his belligerence on others by the Barbel Society hierarchy.

 

 

Whilst I was going through these old papers today I came across one or two old articles that have never been published because when I wrote them, around twelve years ago,  I thought they were well,… rubbish.  Lying dormant with dust settling upon the pages has not done anything to mature these scribbling’s as they still remain rubbish but the passage of time has taught me that even rubbish can be re written in order to create something interesting which I intend on doing a bit later on.

Another thing that came to light was a short piece I wrote on my 47th birthday almost 12 years ago which I’m going to share with you all now simply because I rather feel it will be relevant to many Father’s where ever you live, even Mothers for that matter.   Its simply called Today.

Today.

It is my birthday I am 47 years old today.

Why at my age, with my right side knee joint crumbling to dust and the rest of  my joints starting to ache once more with the probable onset of another wet winter, do I still feel eight years old inside my head?

Here I am bringing up a family and running a small business.  I assume I am worldly with my middle aged experience but still I cannot, no matter how hard I try, move on from that part of my brain which refuses point blank to enter the passage into adulthood.

Why is it, that as I grow older my hair appears to be growing faster?  Is it perhaps my intake of Guinness that is acting as some kind of liquid fertilizer? If this is so should balding gentlemen be rubbing Guinness on their heads?  Then again, seeing as I don’t pour Guinness into my ears, why is grey hairs starting to grow from my ears at an alarming rate?

As I grow older, why have I lost the patience to open packets of biscuits?  Indeed, why do the manufacturer’s of biscuits need to employ teams of welders to package their goods anyway?

Why is is that although I hate rats, I will sit and feed them whilst I am fishing in the winter?

Why did I start smoking again when I had once stopped for eight years?

Is this all because, the older I get the dafter I get?

I see the little lad that used to be me every day, but no one else knows he is there. Only I see him because he is locked inside my head still splashing around in puddles and fishing out stickle backs with his net on a cane to take home to show Mum in his string hung jam jar.

I see my own kids running around in meadows and fields of corn.  Shouting and laughing, they remain happy in the perfect innocence that only childhood can give. I watch their faces and expressions at Christmas time, on holidays, at school, their birthdays and in day to day life.  In them, I see myself all those years ago as if it were only yesterday.

Perhaps that is why after all these years, I walk with my young boys today, and the young boy I once was, walks with us.

Today is my birthday.  Today is a good day.

 

Incidentally, whilst I did indeed start smoking again, I have since stopped smoking and have been stopped for a few years now.

 

That short piece has reminded me about the true innocence of childhood and some of the wonderful things that children often say.

When my eldest son Tom was only around two and a half years old he noticed his Mum crying as she was looking at him playing on the living room floor.  ”Why are you crying Mummy”, he asked.  Trying to hold back her tears she said, “Where has my little baby gone Thomas?”.   The little boy sitting with his Leggo all around him looked up and said, “Don’t cry Mummy, your baby is still here its just that he’s inside me and you can’t see him”.

 

 

Another quick note to announce I have just returned from a week away in Cornwall so will be updating the site fairly soon.

 

Just a quick word to announce that if any of my friends or acquaintances coming here to visit my site wants a link back to their websites/blogs please send me a link via the “contact” page and I’ll see what I can do.

 

On The Box is the section within my Blog where I air my views on a whole range of issues.  On The Box could be comments of a positive nature when someone or something deserves a pat on the back or could be critical when I feel something or someone deserves my “Cold Fish” award.  It could also even be baseless insignificant twaddle when I warble like a demented nightingale about nothing in particular.

Its the 27th of June 2013 and my website goes live shortly, perhaps in the next day or so.  Then again, by the time you begin reading this it will already be live so may I just say hello and welcome you here.  Its been a long time coming but I got here in the end which is surprising really seeing as I have always been a practical guy into physically “building” things with my hands like houses, kitchens, bathrooms and so forth and nothing any where near like a typical dyed in the wool computer geek.  Like most of us around my age, I remember not being remotely interested in the computer when one  first got installed in our house way back in the early 90′s.  Its inclusion was inevitable if not compulsory seeing as we had two young boys who were born into the computer age and who were going to need this technological wizardry in order to keep up with the modern world that was hurtling fast past anyone who did not have a computer.  At that time I was writing a fair bit for certain angling publications and had just took the tentative leap from using an electric type writer to a word processor.  Even so, I still remained a luddite refusing to be press ganged into accepting the benefits of using Microsoft Word!  My Lord, little did I know how much that stance was going to alter.

Bit by bit I was cajoled and encouraged to take the brave steps towards the “machine” at the end of the living room and the keyboard that was going to change my life.  The rest is history but a historical journey I should add which has been punctuated with profanity and blasphemous comment as I blundered from drop down box to endless forgetting to click and save as.  To my young boys the machine remained a God but to me in my early days of computing the tin box with gubins inside remained a frustrating  mystery most of the time.  Eventually I learned how to use a computer unchaperoned to the stage where I’m at today at the level of just above idiot according to my sons.  My youngest Sam is a near genius when using software like photoshop whilst Tom my eldest can type 85 words a minute easily without once looking down at the keyboard!  They both laugh like drains watching me type with two hands just like them but with only one finger from each hand touching the keys.  I’ve learned all about the twittering on Twitter and the endless gallery of mug shots on Facebook and I still want more because the internet is compulsive.   Like condemned prisoners we walk willingly towards the internet scaffold assuming at last that this is our platform to speak and be noticed.   But when the words leave our keyboards and we wait for instant approval the trap door beneath us opens and we are hung by our own big gobs!!  That is life on the “tinternet” and a gauntlet we all have to run once we dare to stick our heads up above the parapet wall.

So here I am then, launched and coming ready or not.

Spelling.

Hands up all those who can spell correctly?  By spell correctly I mean without the assistance of “spell check”.   There are two ways to learn how to spell correctly.  The first is to have paid attention at school in the first place and learnt how to spell right at the beginning of our education.  The second is to realise in later life that you can’t actually spell for tuppence so do something about it.  In my case, I did not do anything about it until I was in my mid 30′s.  In my late teens and early twenties grunts and gestures formed the mainstay of my communicational skills and there was no need for literary qualifications as I hardly ever wrote letters apart from the odd kiss me quick postcard from the seaside.   Working in construction industry in my earlier life there was never any forms to fill in or written questions to answer as one merely turned up on site and asked for a job.  Back then the proof of your skills lay in what you could actually do not what you “said” you could do on a piece of paper.  This problem with not being able to spell correctly never manifested itself into any real form of inconvenience until I wanted to write articles later on in life.

I actually learnt how to spell the “REALLY” hard way.  When I was writing my articles in the early days using a type writer I would type say three or four words I knew how to spell and look the fifth one up in the dictionary which was very slow and extremely frustrating.  Slowly but surely though I learned how to spell with the process taking around a year.   I can now hold my own in a spelling test without having to go and stand in the corner with a pointed hat on.  Just wished Bill Gates would have tipped me off before hand!!!  Then again, my family DID say I’d be better off switching to using the computer for my writing.  They say you can’t put an old head on young shoulders.  Sometimes its far better to try the transplant the other way around and actually listen to what the younger generation have say.  Especially when it comes to computers!

 

End of an Era or march towards unity?

When the otter started to decline in the 1950’s, it also heralded the beginning of a new angling culture in the UK as anglers started to target the bigger fish within certain species categories. This was to become known as “specimen angling” which later on would grow beyond every ones expectations. At the same time another industry within the existing UK tackle trade sprang up on the back of this new angling culture which is worth millions of pounds today. So seeing as the major emphasis of specimen angling is seeking to catch the larger fish of any given species, the otter was always going to come into conflict with specimen anglers once it began to return to our river systems. Specialist anglers never had otters in the big fish equation when specimen angling first began so by and large big fish had very few predators.

Alarm bells began to be rung in the specimen angling world in the early 1990’s when it became apparent that otters were decimating carp stocks at certain still water venues. In some cases whole stocks of huge and very valuable carp were wiped out. Otters are more than capable of killing huge carp and can eliminate quite a large number of fish very quickly because otters only eat from a fresh kill. Once they have eaten they will leave the carcass for other predators whilst they seek out another fresh kill for their next meal. Consequently it doesn’t take long before large stocks of big carp are wiped out in lakes and ponds once otters begin to target them. The only way that a still water fishery can protect their fish stocks against otter predation is to erect otter fencing but this is expensive and on large lakes and gravel pits not viable due to the tremendous costs involved.

Fish stocks in rivers and streams can be afforded no protection what so ever so highly prized and sought after fish that specimen anglers seek to catch also fall prey to the otter. UK anglers have already seen this happen along many rivers that contain big fish whilst a worst case scenario became a reality when record sized fish were killed by otters at a couple of venues.
There is no easy answer to the problem of otters predating on large fish whether they come from a still water environment or a river based one. Only a tiny minority of still water fisheries can afford to put up otter fencing and there remains no protection available for rivers. Re stocking might be one answer but there are problems here as well. The UK Environment Agency are reluctant to re stock certain species in certain areas due to a “historical indigenous” argument which could mean that some species could become extinct in certain rivers where re-stocking is not permitted in the after math of otter predation. This will result in a species collapse along some rivers which alone is bad enough. A knock on effect is that the demise of big fish will undoubtedly affect production and sales within the UK tackle trade which of course will affect jobs in the long term. Added to which, it is not possible to re-stock specimen sized fish anyway. They have to grow on to become specimen sized fish after going into the natural environment they are stocked into as juveniles. Here again there are risks involved because juveniles stocked face another set of problems arising from floods, water abstraction, predation from a range of other predators and pollution. Plus many species in rivers are facing serious recruitment problems due to their habitats and spawning grounds being eroded due to bad land management in adjacent areas that effect nearby rivers directly.

UK Specialist Angling is about to face its biggest challenge even though it is perhaps at its zenith in popularity. Otters will undoubtedly continue to spread throughout our counties river systems whilst continuing to prey on specimen size fish stocks. This will ultimately result in the collapse of specimen sized fish along many rivers and still waters within river systems. Otters will continue to thrive because they will simply predate on other sizes of fish once the larger fish have all gone. In a way this will be preferable because the otter will at least eat the whole fish instead of leaving most of a larger carcass to rot after eating only a part of it. The long term affect is otters will still thrive but specialist angling as we know it today will fall into decline because you can’t angle for fish that simply aren’t there any longer.

In specialist angling terms this is bad enough, but there is a knock on effect to the demise of our larger sized fish stocks that the rest of angling will have to face. Once the larger fish have gone otters will begin to prey on the smaller sizes but here the otter has competition from a range of other predators like mink and many types of piscivorous birds. It is a mistake to simply brush predation off by stating that predators will “find their own levels naturally” because in most cases whilst some might eventually, the species that they all prey upon goes into rapid decline first way before the predators find a “balance”. This will ultimately mean that other branches of angling will see their fish stocks decline as well. Match anglers and pleasure anglers on still waters and rivers will see a marked decline in smaller sizes of certain species. Game anglers on many rivers and still waters will also see trout and salmon stocks decline with a subsequent decline in the year classes of these fish. Great lengths and vast amounts of money have been spent on Atlantic salmon restoration programmes, so just when we are starting to see positive results from all that hard work, a fully protected apex predator now poses a serious threat to the Atlantic salmon’s revival in the UK. Then there is the serious question about spawning sites for all species of freshwater fish. There is no doubt that otters will begin to target spawning sites once fish begin their yearly congregations. How will this affect fish recruitment in the long term if we have no method of control?

Historically man has always been our planets greatest predator with a long and infamous history for plunder and mismanagement of our world’s resources. But within a few decades man has gone from sometimes being over reactive when dealing with predation to being totally none reactive in certain cases. In effect we have pulled our own teeth over the question of dealing with predation forcing ourselves to be mere spectators whilst things go wrong. But will things go wrong?

There is no doubt that UK rivers have become cleaner and definitely cleaner than they were years ago when UK industry used our river systems as drains for their effluent and waste products. Indeed it is healthier rivers which have aided the otter revival. Fish recruitment on many rivers is high but on others it is extremely low for a variety of manmade reasons. We now have a serious problem with cormorant predation and the Britton Report in the 1990’s proved that conclusively. Signal crayfish now pose a very serious threat to our native white clawed crayfish as well as a serious threat to the aquatic environment and fish recruitment in and around spawning sites.

It remains to be seen what impact mink will have long term on our fish stocks but I suspect that will be nothing like the impact otters make. Indeed, otters have already created a massive impact on mature fish stocks at certain still waters and river venues.

The way I see it is this. Historically man has walked in wild places and left far more than his footprints behind. By and large he has made a pretty bad job of looking after our planet in the past with more natural misdemeanours to his name than any other species on Earth. Then around 30 years ago a new type of politically correct Homo sapiens stood up and rose above the chaos. It was man’s time to become green so he started to seriously consider our green and pleasant lands and the creatures that live in it. The trouble is, man is not yet able to shake off his natural ability for getting things woefully wrong even in the face of trying to put things right. In our quest for the protection of a minority of species, we have completely forgotten to protect the majority of species that their protection will affect. That is not good conservation, it’s just bad management and lets face facts here, man has the sole responsibility for the stewardship of planet Earth and that responsibility should involve the protection and preservation of all species not just a few.

Or March Towards Unity?

With UK recreational angling reputed to be worth 3.5 billion pounds to local and national economies we anglers hold a right to have a fee paying voice at least. Where that voice will emanate from is yet to be determined but I quite like what the Predation Action Group has said in the past and the patrons and members of the PAG are at least specialist anglers so are qualified to speak for big fish anglers. Make no mistake, as specialist anglers we are facing our biggest challenge to date. Our sport is totally reliant on there being big fish of any given species being available to fish for. Without big fish, there is no specimen angling and it really is about it all coming down to that.

There is no doubt that barbel fishing is entering a new age as many rivers begin to throw up fish we could only ever dream about before just a relatively short time ago. However, we have already seen record sized barbel and potentially record sized fish get killed by otters. We now see huge fish being caught from a variety of rivers but how long will it be before these very same fish end up on the bank half eaten? We simply can’t fish for fish that aren’t there.

I have always maintained that UK anglers would unite once their hearts and minds were reached or our way of life and sport become seriously threatened.

We can continue to sit back and do nothing. Talk is cheap. But I have spent my entire life amongst watery places with most of that time spent in the pursuit of big fish like most of us I would imagine. It will be a sad day indeed if specimen angling declined through predation of big fish until it wasn’t worth doing any longer.

 

The Predation Action Group – Who, What and Why?

 

The PAG committee has been formed to research and report on the effects of predation on fisheries and angling in Great Britain. The balance of nature is being destroyed and angling is under threat. The spread of imported signal crayfish means that all fish’s food sources are being depleted and their spawn preyed upon in both rivers and lakes. The seas are being stripped of fish, a phenomenon which has resulted in cormorants being driven inland for their prey. The effect of cormorant predation on inland fisheries is well documented, with John Wilson rationalising that they account for up to 58,000,000 irreplaceable small fish per annum.

Against this background of increasing small fish predation, in the early-’70s a programme was put in place to rear otters in captivity and reintroduce them to the wild. The EA Otter Survey of 2010 reveals that the spread of otters has been far-reaching and they are now present in most areas of the country. Because of the impact of signal crayfish and cormorants destroying the small fish food chain, otters have had to learn to look elsewhere for their normal prey. As a result, their impact on specimen fish has been alarming. They have all but totally wiped out the specimen barbel population, and have been responsible for serious damage to, and the destruction of, an increasing number of carp fisheries. Fishery owners, controllers and fish farmers are in a difficult position when it comes to protecting their interests and livelihoods because otters and cormorants are protected. The authorities are in denial over the predation issue. Not withstanding the fact that we spend £25,000,000 per annum on licences, anglers are looked on as the poor relations compared to such bodies as the RSPB, English Nature, and so on.

The Angling Trust is there supposedly to look after anglers’ interests but they are underfunded which is always going to mean they have their hands full with limited resources. The PAG has been formed to research the predation issue and put together a convincing case for some measure of control of predators. In the first instance the PAG’s brief is to report their findings to the Angling Trust. If that doesn’t have the desired effect then it may become necessary to lobby the government direct, a very expensive procedure. All the committee’s work on behalf of the PAG is voluntary and no one claims expenses, but some areas of research and reporting will cost money. We need a stand to extend the lobby to shows, and if we do have to make a direct approach to the government then the estimated cost is £50,000. That is why the PAG needs funds: not to pay anyone for their voluntary efforts, but to be prepared to move the battle onto another level, if necessary.

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