Breaking the ice to fish

Walking around the still frozen lakes last weekend has driven home to me just how bad the weather has been – for wildlife, as well as anglers.

We’re all getting used to the ‘frozen lake syndrome’, no fishing - unless aerators or inlets have cleared a few precious pegs, giving us the chance to wet a line for a few hours.

But limited daylight, coupled with daytime temperatures plummeting as the afternoon speeds by, means very few fish on the bank. Thank heavens for the hardy roach and chub!

The rivers are still out of sorts with melt water slowing down the fishing. A few brave anglers are landing fish on the Derwent - with trout and grayling making a welcome appearance, but sport is generally slow.

The weather has taken its toll on fish stocks; I counted half a dozen dead carp under the ice in the margins on one frozen lake. The fish, all around the 5lb-plus mark, were unmarked, but belly up – a sad reminder of the fragility of our quarry.

All still water fish slow down during the winter months and their immune systems are at their lowest ebb, so any extra stresses have a disastrous effect. Remember their body temperature is the same as the water!

A few fisheries have been breaking the ice to accommodate anglers, but I have mixed opinions on the results. As a garden pond owner, I’ve never smashed the ice on my own pond; instead I’ve poured hot water into a corner to make a small hole in the ice to allow any toxic gases to escape. Not something you can do on a fishing lake!

The Angling Trust has issued advice to managers of still water fisheries how to help protect their fish stocks. Dropping the water level under the ice, water movement and sub-surface air diffusers all contributing to maintain a healthier environment for fish.

They have advised against trying to break the ice because it can cause lethal shock waves, unlikely to help the virtually dormant fish.

We’ve all experienced how loud noises or vibrations can affect fish – a car door slamming near your fishing peg sees fish disappearing at a rate of knots.

Imagine someone smashing through the ice above your head with a sledgehammer or hurling in lumps of stone.

Let’s hope the thaw sets in soon.