The whole thing blew up while I was working flat out. By flat out I mean 16 hour days! Not that I have to work this hard most of the year, but it just happens that my greatest workload comes when I most want to go fishing! A few people such as Eddie Turner did tell me what I had missed, but at the time I had no opportunity to reply to my critics. Now things are quieter and I can take the opportunity to put the record straight. The main point of this article concerns where, in my opinion, The Pike Anglers Club of Great Britain and Ireland has gone wrong.

The problem was caused by a number of anglers being offered a chance to fish Blithfield Reservoir in Staffordshire. Blithfield is probably the best trout water pike fishery in the country. The only snag was the clubs policy of killing all pike under 25lb. This had come about because of the need to control pike numbers in this fishery. The pike had a parasite which prevented them from being moved to other waters which did not have the parasite. Unluckily there had been no meaningful involvement with the management of Blithfield for 13 years so this sorry situation went on for a long time. When Nige Williams, the event organiser got involved, it was soon sorted out so that pike under 25lb would not be killed. Issues such as where they would go were sorted out rather late in the day, but the job was done. Unfortunately the PAC committee, based a long way away in Scotland, decided any PAC member who fished Blithfield were bringing the PAC into disrepute. The end result was a demand for those people to resign from PAC and those that didnít were thrown out anyway!

In order to show how things have deteriorated I need to set the scene. Please excuse me for not being able to remember the dates, but I can recall the order of events with some precision.

The PAC evolved from The Pike Society. Eric Hodson has always been good at setting things up, but not always so good at keeping them going. With the Pike Society floundering, Barrie Rickards and Hugh Reynolds saw clearly that there was a need for an organisation to carry on itís work. The PAC was created, based on what was known as a benevolent dictatorship. A magazine, Pikelines came into being and with a president in the shape of Bill Chillingworth. The first 3 years proved to be eventful and successful. Running something like the PAC is not to be taken light heartedly and the then committee sensibly decided that they would have to hand over to a new committee after three years. The PAC went to Norfolk, Vic Bellairs, John Watson and Martyn Page being the key people this time. The magazine was improved and the process of educating pike anglers was carried on. Exclusive fishing was sorted out on Martham North Broad, but this and other issues was to see the demise of secretary John Watson. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and it remains a matter of regret that John, as far as I know, is still not a PAC member.

From Norfolk , the PAC passed to Southport. Malcolm Bannister was the secretary, supported by Martyn Gay as president and Derek Unsworth, James Holgate and Geoff Parkinson. The magazine continued to be improved and membership grew. My turn came after three more years. I was secretary, the late Colin Dyson was president. The rest of the committee consisted of Pete Haywood, Phil Kirk and Martin Phillips. I think we had a fairly quiet time of it, but on reflection I feel that we should have tried harder to open up more trout waters. Unfortunately we never got around to it. It had been my dream to see the next PAC committee supported by a paid administrator, releasing the volunteers to do more of the work which would be much more useful to the membership. Unfortunately the next team, from Dartford did not agree with my ideas. I feel it is impossible to tell whether or not a paid administrator would have made the Dartford Committees term more successful or not. I certainly did not detect any shortcomings during their term. Chris Leibrandt, John Milford, Lee Kemp, John Synnuck and John Roberts ( president ) reign came just as the now famous trout waters such as Llandegfedd and Bough Beech were opened up.

The next PAC move was to darkest Wales. I always have a wry smile on my face when I pass road signs saying, "Welcome to Wales". My view of Wales is based on my failure to catch a pike over 14lb from there and the terrible food served at a bed and breakfast in Tondu, a village halfway up a Welsh valley. The Welsh lads led by Howard Yendle were faced with the biggest crisis so far, the gill netting of Loughs Mask and Corrib. They worked hard to stop it happening, but failed, not because of any fault of their own, but because the authorities involved were twenty years behind the times. They were also operating at a disadvantage, PAC really being a UK organisation and the problem being in Ireland, a country that has not responded kindly to British involvement in their affairs. Though not a success the campaign against gill netting did show that pike anglers were not a pushover. A marker had been placed in the sand showing those outside of pike angling that pike anglers could not be walked over.

Now we are entering the final months of the most recent PAC committee. This time the PAC resides in Scotland. For the past two years this committee has served us well, doing all the things we would expect from it. They have fixed up some pike fishing on The Lake of Menteith, a trout water in Scotland. They also talked to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust and averted a livebait ban on their waters. Altogether a case of keeping the ship on course and making the odd change to the steering.

Then unfortunately the problems started. It is difficult to avoid getting personal at this point. However the person responsible, the current secretary Frank Gibbons, could see PAC split down the middle. Not much of a legacy to pass on to the next committee in May 2000! For some time it has puzzled me as to why Frank Gibbons adopts such an authoritarian approach to matters concerning pike fishing. It is said that he works in the prison service and perhaps it is this that has caused such a blinkered approach. Then again what do I know about the prison service. I do not really wish to find out from personal experience! The problem with Frank is that he is at the head of a committee which under his guidance has decided that all PAC members must be totally obedient to the fisheries laws of this land. No reference has been made to the fact that some of these laws are anti pike angler and should be changed.

In a democratic society we should obey the law and then seek to get those laws changed if we disagree with them. If one chooses to ignore a law then you must expect to face up to the penalty if caught. Unfortunately we live in a society where it is not always easy to change the rules. It is my belief that we have to defend all methods of pike fishing and that includes livebaiting. I say this not because I enjoy livebaiting. I prefer deadbaiting and lures. A lot of waters ban livebaiting. Now there was a time when I believed that pike anglers should obey these rules. This belief was based on the thought that failure to obey such rules would result in the loss of pike fishing on these waters. Experience in the last few years has shown in many cases that this has not been the case. The situation has been such that I have ended up fishing next to other pike anglers who are livebaiting when they shouldnít be. They have also bagged up. In this sort of situation you either report them, do not fish , carry on and stick with the lures or come back next time with livebaits. On some waters, the persisting with lures option is a good one. On other waters you have to make the simple choice of not fishing or joining in. I personally would not inform on anyone because I believe it is the duty of the people who run the waters to catch the offenders. It is a difficult subject, but we should be able to livebait on all the waters we fish.

Banning livebaiting panders to the antis and I care for my sport enough to not want to give them any satisfaction at all! On the other hand I do not wish to be caught livebaiting on any waters where it is not allowed. Then again I like catching pike on certain waters. There is no easy answer, but in the end it is up to the individual. Current PAC policy seems to be taking this individuality away. Instead of representing us, the PAC is trying to regiment us. Instead of all of us being PAC members with common long term interests , we are being divided into an elite who do nothing, but lure fishing and deadbaiting and the rest of us who choose to livebait in increasingly restrictive situations.

The opinions and views expressed by the author are his own - the fact that we are publishing them does not necessarily mean that we agree or disagree with them. Any correspondence regarding the above will be published in the Letters page. Ed.