Angling: Post-flood perch nets ‘returning to normal’

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At last, catches to reflect a river getting back to normality, with both the Saturday and Sunday league fixtures held on the Ouse and Ure needing over 25lb of perch to win, proving that despite the winter’s floods this species, at least, is returning in similar numbers to seasonal spawning sites.

The famous bungalows section at Hunters Lodge last year produced what most believe to be the highest individual match weights of perch ever recorded at the winter league venue.

Saturday’s win for Mirfield’s Norman Thewliss, who netted 30 stripey’s for 32lb 10oz, proved it was business as usual with fish to over 2lb falling to a twitched worm-filled feeder, then changing to a bomb and lobby pieces to follow the shoals as they backed away from his feed.

Sunday’s winner, Kev Weighell, though not beating the previous day’s weight took another superb perch net to the scales to weigh 25-08 with fish again touching the 2lb mark.

Big skimmers, proper bream and, obviously, the larger perch seem to have held their own through the winter’s floods with similar numbers making up the catches as previous years.

However, roach and dace seem to have done a disappearing act with only a few ounces needed for section wins from usually reliable pegs already causing concern to the river regulars.

The Environment Agency’s ‘Fisheries in Yorkshire’ stated recently that floods can also impact the invertebrate communities on which fish feed.

High losses can occur and this can have knock-on effects such as fewer fish or reduced growth. Fish populations may also be affected by fish being washed downstream, over impassable weirs or even out into the estuary.

We will only know the likely impact these floods have had on fish (and invertebrates) following surveys over next few years.

Having fished more winter leagues than I want to remember, and knowing the Humber estuary is just too far to put a Linton or Widdington section on, would the survey money be better spent asking the anglers with thousands of hours experience what they think?

I know they wouldn’t have to wait for the next few years for an answer. Match weights and catch returns are a good pointer for those not so familiar with certain stretches of river, or can be a great confidence booster for those wanting to try other methods.

Former match star Darren Starkey – now a winter pike specialist and more recently jelly head lure fanatic – put his river knowledge and children’s half-term holidays to good use, producing a family PB for his son Isaak in the form of a sparkling 3lb 4oz perch. With low, clear water conditions and a steady flow, 3ins paddletail shads proved best with only five-gramme heads needed to produce takes from a dozen fish with four over 2lb topped by the clonking personal best.

Fortunate to be able to sneak a couple of hours myself last week, I was surprised to find the river and same hot bungalow pegs devoid of anglers, though not able to match the quality of perch caught earlier.

Nine fish in a couple of hours made the long, muddy walk the best trip of the year so far.

Fishing the now standard six-foot drop shotting rod with 0.12 braid and fluro leader, perch up to 2lb, ate anything I put on.

No keepnets and all catch-and-release – what a brilliant way to spend a morning in -2 degree conditions and a gale-force wind.

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