Anyway, onto the matter at hand, last month I wrote about some zander fishing venues, this time I thought I would tell the story of one of my most successful zander fishing seasons, to be more precise, the autumn and winter of 1994/95.

A Good Zander Season

And so the new target had been set. It had taken a while, and now finally I’d done it. I’d hoped to break the ‘magical’ barrier by a few more ounces, but at 10lb dead on, it was a double nonetheless. I’d decided that the new realistic target could be to increase my tally of zander caught since September to over one hundred by the end of the season.

It had been an interesting season up to date and my most enjoyable. The summer was spent in pursuit of carp and tench at my local lakes and, as always, as the winter neared, a change was called for, I began to feel a bash at the predators of the fens was once again needed. Phone calls were made, and yet again we found ourselves heading for Roswell pits near Ely.

After the first few sessions during the first months fishing, we noticed that the average size of the zander had increased, this was only to be expected I suppose. In previous years the zander had averaged 3-4lb, this year they were in the 5lb bracket. A fluctuation in the pits species make-up was also noted. Prey fish were always around, but every 4-6 weeks the pike and zander balance switched in favour of one or the other. This seems reinforce some theories that zander and pike do not like to co-exist, obviously one won’t be present to the complete exclusion of the other, but there was a definite a shift in balance. The pike certainly have some control over territories to some extent.

The following month another friend began fishing for zander on the same lake and started to put us to shame, he was proving to have more luck than most. Up until the end of October/beginning of November, not only had he caught more zander, he had banked his first double! Quite sickening really, I suppose we’ve all been there at one time or another!

Until December the sessions were fairly successful, with 73 zander caught by me alone. This is the time when everyone else fishing the lake started leaving me behind (and showing me the way). Mid-December found a chap named Jon and I fishing an area of the lake we had named the Point. During the day the wind gradually increased. Nightfall came and it really began gusting, as you can imagine from the name ‘The Point’, the swim was offering little shelter. Jon’s previous best zander was a 2lb fish caught the previous year during a snowstorm, it was soon to be beaten. As the wind increased, so did the action, by morning the wind had escalated to a gale force South-westerly. The runs during the night, until we could no longer keep rods on rests etc, totalled over sixty! Out of these, 33 fish were landed, 12 fish to Jon topped by a specimen of 9lb 2oz. Incidentally, out of all the fish landed not one of them was a pike! Soon after dawn we had to pack up ( we were blown away!).

January arrived and with it the procurement of a boat. Naturally fishing methods were adapted. Drifted and free- roving livebaits cast to normally inaccessible areas of the lake provided us with an increase in action. Pike to 20lb 12oz for my mate Wilko who was a new friend on the scene and Paul Garner caught his fifth ever zander at 12lb 5oz! I also had pike to 18lb and zander to 8lb. On one very hectic day for Wilko, his second double of the season turned up at 12lb12oz. I was pleased for him but I began to wonder what I was doing wrong! During the same day he managed his second double, a pal and I were fishing from the bank at the same time. Wilko boated more zander in 5 hours than we managed in 30! The only recompense came that night in the shape of the 10 pounder mentioned at the beginning. Incidentally, the fish was caught on a free-roving bait, with a starlight on the float, a deadly method and quite entertaining. Due to Wilko’s effortless ability to catch fish, we decided that the zander were shoaled up tight in an area out of casting range from the bank. The pike and zander at this time were covered in leeches, indicating they had been lying motionless on the lakebed. Drifting baits over their heads may have caused them to attack, the baits having been presented right into their faces. P.G. and I also had a few sessions from the boat at night. The results weren’t earth-shattering but certainly worthwhile.

March, and the last thirty hour session of the season was over. When we arrived at the pit the wind was blowing a strong south westerly, forcing us to set up camp opposite where we had originally planned, this did however enable us to cast closer to the expected zander shoal. Up until this time my zander tally was 97, I therefore fully expected to achieve my self-imposed target. During the afternoon I had a steady run on a rod cast between the bank and an old lily bed. I wound down and struck hard. The fish felt heavy, so I sort of knew it wasn’t a zander, although we always hope don’t we? The first I saw of the fish was its tail as it waved me good-bye, steaming off on another powerful run. It was definitely a pike and although I never like estimating the weight of a fish until it’s safely in the net, I did think it might be a twenty. On the bank, it was swiftly unhooked, photographed and returned. It weighed 18lb, not the twenty I was expecting but who cares? It’s all relative.

Dusk soon arrived, then dark. Soon after, my fishing partner, Brett caught a P.B. of 7lb 14oz, which looked as if it was spawned out. If caught a day or two previously it may have been a double. At 10pm another friend of mine, Nellie, had to leave. We bade him farewell, he wished us luck. He disappeared into the bushes with the occasional glimpse of his torchlight marking his progress back to the car, another season over, we would meet again next summer.

An optonic sounded, shattering the misty quiet of the carp filled pools swirling around my mind. A small angry zander thrashed its way to the net. Number 98, only two to go. Soon after, all was quiet again.

I awoke again at 7.30am and looked out at my motionless indicators. I was disappointed at the lack of action, and the thoughts of breaking the 100 barrier drifted away with the smoke from the first cigarette of the day. It had turned into the most unproductive zander session of the season, and on the last day too! After large amounts of tea and breakfast, we attempted a short session from the boat. The ever-increasing winds made it difficult, the fish were still depressing us with their disinterest, although Brett did manage a pike of 9lb.

The mountain of tackle seemed to take forever to pack up and haul back to the van, the mild March sun also inhibiting the process (must remember to take the thermals off next time!) Apart from failing to reach the target, the season had been most enjoyable. Good company, good food, good fishing, and maintaining a good sense of humour at most times had seen to that!

Tight lines!