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Old 20-01-2017, 14:38
Joe Winstanley Joe Winstanley is offline
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I know next to nothing about fishing on the Somerset Levels but I did wonder if there is also the impact of the flooding in the winter of 2013-14 to consider. Given the extent and duration of the flooding its hard not to think that this must have some impact on fish stocks, especially when you consider all the pollutants that were released into the levels - septic tanks, over-flowing sewage treatment plants, agricultural pesticides, household chemicals, many farmers had to open up the gate valves on their slurry stores during peak flows in order to reduce the risk of causing more pollution when there was less available dilution.

what are other anglers saying about the fishing before and after the floods?
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Old 20-01-2017, 16:19
Dave Taylor's Avatar
Dave Taylor Dave Taylor is offline
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Excellent point there Joe, would be interesting to have some feedback on other species on the Levels to see how they have faired.
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Old 24-01-2017, 12:01
Steve Lewis Steve Lewis is offline
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Good points Dave and Joe. The flooding especially I had not considered...

I went back down there on Sunday (and was more successful - more on that in a moment) and, chatting to others, the consensus seemed to be that a mixture of factors have come into play. Now, if you've read any of my posts in the Bristol Avon thread, you'll know that, contrary to popular opinion, I'm a bit sceptical about otters and/or mink being solely responsible for the "decimation" of fish in the river. My thoughts would be similar for the levels too - mink have been present on the levels, in good number, since the 60s, and otters were first re-introduced in the 70s, so in the mid to late 90s, arguably when the pike fishing was at its peak, both mink and otter populations had already balanced naturally. HOWEVER, I have since learnt that several "rescued" breeding otter pairs were illegally introduced to the King's Sedgemoor Drain, South Drain and River Brue some 10 or so years ago and, on the South Drain in particular, they have apparently had quite an impact. But it's not the impact you might think...

So most of the experienced levels anglers I spoke to on Sunday all said the same thing - the newly introduced otters haven't decimated the pike population, rather they've made the pike nomadic. One thing you could always rely on on the levels was the pike never going too far from their usual haunts – much like the barbel on the Avon – but the otters have scared them away and they have now become like the carp and never stay in one place for too long. The pike ARE there, you just need to find them. Like the barbel on the Avon.

The other generally held thought was that the single biggest impact on the pike population has been “all the Polish”. When I mentioned the “Polish Problem” (as it worryingly seems to have become known in pike angling circles), more than one angler I spoke to independently recalled a now apparently infamous week a few years ago where a “van full of Polish” hammered the KSD and South with long lines AND rods and pulled “hundreds, if not thousands” of pike from the water and took them home. They were also demanding to have pike caught by other anglers. Apparently the police, EA and at least two Bridgwater club bailiffs were called by several people, but no one ever turned up. (I’ll interject myself at this point with an addendum – two guys I spoke to, again independently of each other, both said “that’s why I voted for Brexit”. I had to stop myself from saying “I don’t think you see the point, nor do I think it will achieve your sole reason for voting to leave”…) But they don’t think the pike have recovered from that and much of the KSD is devoid of fish.

Interestingly, there was not a single mention of flooding or pollution, although I do happen to know that the water quality and aquatic environment on the levels (and the Bristol Avon) has, for the last few years, been as good as it ever has – a mate’s wife takes water samples in the region for the EA, as well as Thames, Wessex and South West water companies, and her records, which go back to 1996, show water quality increasing since the late 00s, with year-on-year improvement continuing. I’m not sure how much of an impact the pollutants with the last lot of flooding had at the time, but as of summer 2016 they had not really altered the long-term quality. I don’t know if that’s because the water and relating environment was already so good when it happened that it recovered itself quickly, if the authorities jumped on it quick, or a combo of the two.

Anyway, back to the fishing…

Finally broke the blank and caught several fish from 2lb up to about 9lb, mostly in good condition, from several venues. Interestingly though, and perhaps corroborating one of the above comments, ALL of the pike I caught from the South Drain had obvious signs of otter attack.

The treble vs. double debate – I caught nearly as many on the double hooks as I did on the trebles. I did lose two, but both as a result of them jumping out of the water and shaking the hooks out, which could easily have happened with trebles. One I did catch swallowed the bait quite deep and the bottom hook was caught in its gullet. With a treble, that of course normally means cutting as much of the wire and/or hook off as you can and hoping for the best, but with the double it was an easy long forceps clamped on the shank of the hook, push down, rotate a bit and gently pull out (fnarr, etc), with no visible damage or distress to the fish. So, on that basis, I would advocate moving to doubles. However, the two places I was getting double hooks from have now both stopped selling them and have removed them from their website. The sole remaining ones that I can find (on eBay) are very expensive, almost prohibitively so, so I think sticking with trebles is the sensible option, for now at least. I have read several comments on other forums that suggest Partridge are about to release a new version of their old ryder hooks, but nothing yet.

As for the Drennan E Sox Super wire, it performed admirably and is indeed a lot more kink resistant than almost every other wire I’ve tried. Whether or not it will last any longer because of that, I don’t yet know – too soon to say – but given it doesn’t cost that much more than the regular wire, I don’t see any reason not to stick with it.
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