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Home / Sporting Events / Fishing / Angling Notes: Bleak days on the River Thames

Angling Notes: Bleak days on the River Thames

In an effort to alleviate the boredom of being restricted from casting a line at this time, I continue this week with a selection of extraordinary but true stories from Tom Quinn’s book: Fishing’s Strangest Days.

This little gem is a collection of bizarre fishing tales and unbelievable events from all over the world that seem almost too peculiar to be true.

England, 1972. During the 1970s, bleak numbers in the River Thames reached extraordinary levels.

The bleak is a small, silver fish, and although it is a splendid-looking little fellow, it has one major disadvantage from the angler’s point of view: it rarely weighs more than an ounce!

From Richmond to Windsor it was difficult to put a bait in the water without suffering the attentions of hordes of these little fish. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that maggots have always been the most popular bait on the lower Thames and bleak love maggots.

The match-fishing fraternity decided they might as well make a virtue of necessity and fish for “bloody nuisances” as the bleak were known.

Huge bags of bleak were taken with one of the most notable falling to a Frenchman fishing above Richmond Bridge. In a five-hour match he landed almost 1,000 bleak, that’s an average of more than three fish per minute!

Australia, 1976. The black marlin swordfish is a fearsome adversary, but also one of the more sporting fish in the world. Fishermen have been yanked overboard by these spectacular fish, but a certain swordfish hunter experienced a far more dangerous incident off the coast of Australia.

He hooked his swordfish just after lunch and four hours later it was still taking line and jumping spectacularly. Each time he gained a few feet of line, the fish stripped off several dozen yards with the greatest of ease.

But at last it neared the boat and he asked to be released from the fighting chair to ease his aching muscles. The fish was drawn alongside the boat and by this time the fisherman was standing beside the skipper and leaning out of the gunwales where the fish lay on the surface of the water.

A second later the apparently docile fish lashed its great tail and pushed it almost up the side of the boat. As it rose the fish’s great spear-like bill hit the fisherman near the shoulder.

In the panic of the sudden movement, no one was aware of the wound, it was only when calm returned that he looked down and realised that the marlin’s spike had passed right through his chest and out of his back.

By now, his shirt was soaked in blood and seconds later he collapsed. The wound was packed with rags as the boat raced for home. In hospital, he was kept on massive doses of antibiotics for several weeks.

But like most anglers he could not keep away from his favourite sport. Within a few months he was back out at sea in search of an even bigger swordfish.

Fishing’s Strangest Days is published by Portico, an imprint of Anova Books,

O’Sullivan’s spectacular catch

The Irish Specimen Fish Committee recently published its 2019 report which lists all recorded specimen fish caught in sea, lakes and rivers in Ireland. In March, Chris O’Sullivan caught a spur dogfish (see photo above) of 111cm from the shore on mackerel strip while fishing in Kenmare Bay, Co Kerry.

Minister commends angers

The Minister with responsibility for the inland fisheries sector, Sean Canney, has commended the action of the vast majority of anglers during the Covid-19 measures and urged all to continue to respect the current measures and #stayathome.

“Angling is an activity that brings physical and mental benefits and can be practised safely in these unprecedented times. I appreciate that anglers will be itching to get out on our world-class rivers and lakes but, if that involves travel, now is not the time – stay within 2km of your home”, the minister said.

He went on to emphasise that the current measures remain in place up to May 5th but that matters are being reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) guidance, based on public health advice, facilitates anglers to fish while complying with Covid-19 social distancing, exercise and distance limitations.

Following numerous patrols and emergency call outs, IFI confirm there is little angling activity taking place as anglers, like the rest of the population, #stayathome.

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