Fishing Sim World
Clint Walker - Looking for Zander
Something different for me this week, and it’s in pursuit of something I’ve thought about getting around to for a while… I love my lure fishing, it’s quick, easy and fun, but despite catching chub, trout, pike and perch with some regularity, the zander has so far eluded me this year, so I was determined to find some!
I set out fairly early, keen to miss the morning rush hour to head for a spot which needed a drive of at least an hour. I won’t divulge where, as I know that the zander is still misunderstood by some anglers, blamed (unfairly in my opinion) for a lack of silver fish in venues across the UK, and harvested by the Canal and River Trust for profit. Frankly, I, and many other anglers I know, are constantly appalled by the indiscriminate culling and removal of these fine fish from waterways by the so-called custodians of our sport, and I was even more astonished to find that if they cannot be rehomed, then they are sold for food to top restaurants; not much incentive to look very hard for a new home then is it? Not if there is money involved? What upsets me even more is the fact that these same authoritive bodies make little effort to rid our waters of a true parasite, the Signal Red Crayfish, (amongst others) and refuse to allow others to make inroads on their behalf to dispose of or make use of these voracious predators, but will willingly destroy a true asset to the angling scene…shocking!
Anyway, I digress… I arrived at the waterside, had a quick cup of tea in the back of the van whilst I got my thoughts together, then broke out the tackle. I wasn’t sure if pike were present (I suspected they were) so a wire trace was joined to my braided mainline, and a mid-sized lure added. I intended to ‘sanitise’ the area for pike first, then switch to a fluorocarbon trace whilst fishing for zander. An hour of wandering the banks bought nothing from pike, so I returned to my starting point, and tackled up in the hope of a zander.
My Sonik Magna rod, twinned with matching reel loaded with 8lb braid, was quickly pieced together, and I tied up a fluorocarbon trace, terminating in a 3g jig head. My contact, who had kindly given me details of the venue (it pays to keep things quiet sometimes, a bit of integrity can unlock some fine spots indeed!) had also advised that the margins were a likely spot to tempt a first zander of the year, so with a small rubber shad affixed, I began to explore the area in front of me. I’d seen some decent perch caught from the swims too, so twitched the lure around in the hope of either species.
I’d chosen a white lure to start, hoping that it would show up well in coloured water, especially as I know the zander hunts predominantly by eyesight, but despite an hour of dropping the tempter into likely spots, hadn’t had so much as a follow by anything remotely fishy! Time to change. My next lure was a Fox Microfry; I love the thumping paddletail, and if the fish couldn’t see the bait, perhaps they would be able to feel it as it moved through the water? Another fruitless hour followed, I suspected that I’d missed perhaps a single tentative bite but had nothing solid to connect with… this was proving to be harder than I thought!
One of the joys of lure fishing is the ability to travel light and cover a fair bit of distance. After two hours of casting though, I’d got a bit of back ache (arthritis), so retired once more to the van for more tea and to reconsider my options. I’ve done well for perch using the Ecogear Paramax lure in the past, particularly the 3” pink option, so decided to see if the swimming action would prove enough to provoke a reaction as I went back over the same areas. I locked up the van, and went back to work…
The 3g jig head was easily heavy enough to reach about 35 yards, so I made a start in covering the water with a series of casts in a fan shape to try and hunt over as much as possible. Changes in retrieve rates, a change of depth, and even allowing the lure to rest on the bottom bought little more than an odd ‘nip’ so I began to cast along the bank, hoping that fish would be laying close in. Wham! Working the lure close in certainly gave a result when a fish slammed into it within a few feet of the bank, and after gently guiding it to the net, I was delighted to find a zander of a couple of pounds safely nestled within! Excellent!
I took a few seconds to admire this beautiful creature, the large eye staring balefully back at me, greens and greys shimmering in the sun; how can you not appreciate the zander? It’s a stunning fish, and worthy quarry indeed. After a quick photograph, I moved to a different area and began the pattern again. Thump! A startling strike made me think I’d finally run into a pike, but no, it proved to be a smaller zander which went mad when it felt the hook…great sport. As I returned this fish however, I was shouted at by a gentleman who ponderously jogged towards me. “Zander mate?” I replied it was, and in fine condition too. “Can I have it? I eat every one I catch”. It took me a second or two to register what I was hearing. I had to ask him to repeat his remarks. “I eat them, I fish off my canal boat, and take them when I catch them”. The fish instantly splashed back into the water… He appeared incredulous. “What are you doing?!” I stood up and told him that I would never kill a zander (or any other fish for that matter) and he had no chance of getting one for the table off me. He then launched into a tirade about them being an invasive species (not true if considered established, which they are here) and I was wrong to return it, before describing me in less than complimentary terms. Hearing this from an Englishman of mature years, indeed a pensioner, I was sometime taken aback, so returned some compliments with equal friendliness as I attempted to advise him of his folly. He wouldn’t have it though and stormed off up the bank muttering further sweet nothings as I returned to my fishing. The attitude of some ‘anglers’ towards conservation, protection and indeed the fish they seek to catch astounds me sometimes…
Not too disheartened by the encounter, I decided to have a final fling around before the long drive home. Again, the pink Paramax splashed into the margins, and once again a resounding whack saw me engaged in another fish. This one took a little longer to subdue, but eventually, a fine fish of around 4lbs was floundering on the surface ready for the net. Unhooked, it was gently paraded for the camera, admired, then rested until strong enough to slink back into the depths. I’d had three bites, and banked a trio of smashing zander, and aside from a briefly bruising brush with an idiot, I was happy with my tally.
I believe that the zander offers real hope to waterways neglected by the authorities, encouraging lure anglers to join clubs in the hope of capturing these handsome fish. Indeed, I joined a club with the promise of such fish, only to find that within a month or two, the waterways had been electro-fished, and the zander removed. They were not rehomed, just left to suffocate in a bucket… do you remember when we used to do that with pike? Because they ate all the roach? Before we realised what an asset they were to keeping a healthy, clean, disease free fishery? Hopefully, attitudes will change, and the zander will be better thought of in years to come… after all they are here to stay!
Fishing Sim World
Clint Walker - Looking for Zander