Sunday, 19 June 2011

June 16th

For one group of regular visitors to Paxton Pits, one date means more than their birthday, Christmas, their wedding anniversary or all three at once. That date is June 16th and it marks the first day of the new fishing season. If you look round the Hayling Pit on that day you will find an all male collection of camouflaged campers who have all been there since tea time on the previous day. Some look like they have been there since the season closed in March! The youngsters are possibly "revising for exams" and some of the older ones are (allegedly) "off sick".

There's another carp fishery near my home. You can tell when it's busy because of the row of vans parked along the road. Most of them boast company logos, so I'm guessing that these people are actually at work. I have overheard a fisherman answer his mobile phone, roughly thus:

"Hello? Yes that's me (long pause) ...(sharp intake of breath) .. Blimey, sounds really bad. It's on fire you say? Well, I'm on a big job right now but I could get round to you tomorrow". (A bleeping bite indicator is heard in the background).

If you go on a birders' "twitch" you might witness the very same phenomenon; all male, camouflaged cheaters on their employers, their wives, or both. But guilt is the lot of man, I say. Let him who is without guilt cast the first boilie.

This year the first day only seems to have produced two carp, but spirits are high and there's a better turn-out to be disappointed than in recent years.

I have to come clean here and confess that I am both a birder and an angler. You can read my angling blog by clicking on the title above or here.

I have had questions from non-anglers who are concerned that the anglers disturb wildlife, especially by dragging weed out of the lake. My response has been that we enforce a closed season (it's not law on still waters) to give wildlife a breather, but we have to allow fishing on Hayling and Rudd Pits because we do not own the fishing rights which have been retained by the landowner, Lafarge. Anglers pay quite a lot for the use of the lake so it would be unreasonable of us to make angling there more difficult than it already is. If the weed is piled on the water's edge, stranded invertebrates soon wriggle back into the lake. Another concern is the number of birds, especially swans, that get hooked, but here I'm afraid there is little to be done about this in such a shallow lake using modern angling methods. It's down to the vigilance of the angler.

In recent years we seem to have had a more responsible group of anglers on the Hayling Pit than we used to have. Litter is pretty minimal and they take their sport quite seriously. With a lot more youngsters arriving in the village because of new housing, the current group of anglers will need to be good role models.

There are actually four groups of anglers at Paxton. Those on Rudd and the Hayling Pits pay their club for an annual ticket while those on the Weedy Pit have to join a private syndicate. Both groups rent the fishing from Lafarge. A few years ago, we agreed to allow some limited access on Cloudy Pit for a new club called PE19. It was formed by couple of local enthusiasts with the aim of allowing some free fishing to local amateurs and visitors who might only be here for a day.  Finally, part of the river bank is leased to St Neots Angling Club.

Not very friendly, but what does it mean?
It means No Fishing
and it means you,
oh man with the wire cutters.
As you can see, there is a lot of access for anglers at Paxton, on both still and running water. Even so, we suffer from poachers who insist on fishing in parts of the reserve where there is no access for the public at all. We are very serious about maintaining sanctuary areas on this busy reserve where shy species of wildlife such as otters can live un-molested by people or dogs.

The older pits like the Hayling were dug with very steep sides. These banks have some value for wildlife, but shallow, sloping shores are much better because they provide a gradual transition from wet to dry, benefiting plants and invertebrates and even vertebrates like grass-snakes and ducklings. That's the reason that we have excluded angling from all of Cloudy Pit except the steep shore near the visitors centre.

We have got off to a good start this year and I hope everyone will continue to stick to the rules.

Tight Lines!