This is my recent blog I wrote for my famous "fishing-icon" friend Martin Bowler. He published it on his website www.martinbowler.co.uk on the 16th of February this year, the text is the same, I added here a few more pics.
We’d left our ‘zander-pit’ at the end of my last blog here with the wish that autumn rains hopefully arrive soon and the following high water level on the river Danube is going to fill our favourite gravel pit with water and with zander of huge proportions. Sadly what followed was the driest autumn of the past 100 years in Hungary’s history. The Danube shrunk and produced water levels just above the all-time low for months, sandbanks of the pit turned into little islands and zander left it for the river bed, for deeper holes on the Slovakian side of the river.
After the long and very dry autumn period an unusually mild winter arrived and brought some rains in the Alps just before New Year’s Day. We were checking water levels on the Internet, excited discussion started on the phone about visiting the pit, the sooner the better. But before I write about the first zander fishing of the year I have to mention the story happened during the long dry period. Earlier this year my buddy Peter caught a very nice, 93 centimetres long zander with a wounded spiny dorsal fin. The fin must have been cut by something many years before, the wound healed well leaving the fish unmistakeably identifiable.
Peter caught the huge female zander in October, took some pictures and released it carefully.
Once on a winter morning he called me with excitement in his voice: “Have you seen the list of records in the December issue of the Hungarian Angler (magazine of the Hungarian Fishing Association)? My fish with the cut dorsal fish is in there…” A local angler caught this beauty while float fishing for bream with sweetcorn. Strangely it happens every now and then that zander attacks small preyfish feeding incautiously on groundbait and inhales the hook meant for bream or carp as well.
The young chap was lucky, but unfortunately followed the old habit – in line with local regulations – and harvested the mighty old fish, took it home, full of pride. I do not blame him, he did nothing against the laws, but I feel bad about having lost a great fish with plenty of excellent reproduction capacity due to the obsolete regulation we have in place. Later, my conservation minded friends approached the guy, who did not caught any zander before, and tried to explain him what sustainability-related arguments he may consider if he decides to go on with predator fishing after this coincidental success.
The picture in the paper was not really good, but the guy has been kind enough and gave us the original photo of the fish for identification and educational purpose. We would like to use these photos to demonstrate that “catch and release” works well with zander – generally thought and said to be very sensitive, especially big specimen. Again, let me please stress that I do not blame the guy for keeping this fish at all, but I do blame the old rules and the lack of education (especially that of proven conservational practice, methods and theory). Nobody will catch this fish again, but in case this young fellow would have been educated earlier, that fish – and by now its numerous eggs – would still swim in the Danube.
That is where the importance of translation and publication of articles of Martin grows, especially in countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Articles, which are not only about how to catch more fish, but also about how to handle fish, nature at all, are the biggest contribution we can provide to change the future of fishing here, to everybody’s benefit.
Back to the pit we started the year with a fabulous January day catching many freshly arrived zander again. Even if the old books say that winter is the time for bigger soft plastic shads, the tiny 2” twisters scored again.
The method was the same what I described in the previous blog, but we did not really understood at the beginning why the zander did not prefer the bigger prey at all. The zander told us the answer when they broke the surface with the tiny hook in their mouth. They were all well fed, truly chubby and fat, prepared for the winter and for the spawning. It seemed there was literally no place left in their stomach and belly for a decent preyfish. That is why – beyond the factors outlined in the previous blog – the little twister may have done the trick. There was no room left for a big dinner, but for a tiny snack…
Generally February – just until 28th February, the end of the local zander season – is the best time for catching specimen zander on the Danube, but nowadays there is no chance of fishing there. Maybe it is better, for the zander at least. After the mild December and January a Siberian winter arrived in February with daytime highs at -7 degrees Celsius, nights at -20. The mighty Danube river at Budapest is going to have a full ice cover soon, this happened last time in 1987, 25 years ago. Since there is no chance for zander fishing anymore, we are planning some ice fishing for pike on smaller lakes and return to the Danube and its zanders when the season opens, on the 1st of May. Provided water level allows it…