Fishing season opens with great pike catches

Hundreds of expectant fisherman headed out onto the Norfolk Broads on June 16 as the fishing season opened after the annual three month break to protect fish stocks. Boasting over 300sqKm of rivers and lakes the Broads has some of the finest coarse fishing in the UK and is already producing some great catches.

Although the Broads boasts most types of coarse fish, including enormous shoals of dustbin lid sized Bronze Bream, it is legendary for catching one type of fish above any other – the fearsome Pike. The freshwater predator grows to huge sizes in our extensive network of waterways – with a record fish of 42 lb 80z being caught close to boatyards on Hickling Broad in March 2010.

 

It’s not just the size of our pike that makes them special. They even look slightly different to Pike elsewhere in the country, with larger, broader heads and deeper, powerful bodies, giving the angler a terrific fight when they hook one.

There have already been lots of Jack Pike, the smaller, male fish which usually grow to about 12lbs – caught by lure fishing around lily beds on the river close to Wroxham. The technique, which is most popular in the warmer months, involves casting and retrieving a lure to imitate a dying fish so that the pike attacks it expecting a free lunch. Perhaps the most exciting technique of all is surface lure fishing. This involves retrieving an imitation of a frog or duckling, a spinnerbait or popper along the surface to cause the pike to surge out of the water and attack it. When the pike dramatically strikes it really can make you jump and they often even tail walk vertically out of the water once hooked!

Here is a picture of a small Jack pike caught on a rubber lure, which imitates a dying fish:

If you want to try pike fishing on the Broads always seek advice first or better still go with an experienced Pike fisherman. It is essential to use a wire trace so the Pike doesn’t bite through your line, that you bring special gloves and forceps for unhooking the fish safely and that you have a large landing net and unhooking mat.

Why not book a Broads Tours day boat and try fishing on the Broads for yourself?

Wildlife abounds

The river is alive with young birds still being hatched late into the spring, while others which were incubated earlier in the season are really starting to grow up.

This is best seen in the ever abundant Greylag Geese. Their goslings are all sizes from tiny bundles of fluff to birds that now closely resemble their parents, depending on when they were hatched in the season.

On the subject of geese, we have been sent this lovely picture of an Egyptian Goose in Wroxham with its young from Carolyn in Brisbane, Australia. In truly international style Carolyn took the picture while on holiday on the Broads and then emailed it to us from ‘Down Under’.

Credit Carolyn

Egyptian Geese are, in fact, in the Shelduck family rather than being true Geese. This is particularly obvious when looking at their young, which closely resemble ducklings.

On the subject of ducks, there is a very cute family of Mallards with fluffy ducklings near Horning as shown in this picture:

Great Crested Grebes are another species that is doing well with its young. In earlier editions of this blog we followed a Grebe family that hatched their chicks near the entrance to Salhouse Broad and, while sadly only one ‘Grebelet’ remains, it is now becoming big and strong as shown in this picture.

We are also watching two new families of Grebes to the delight of our passengers on Wroxham and Salhouse Broad. On Wroxham Broad a single Great Crested Grebe baby is being carried on its Mum’s back near the sailing club, while three newly hatched chicks are doing well at the top end of Salhouse Broad. This lovely picture is of the newly hatched family on Salhouse Broad.

In the last blog we also revealed that a nesting pair of coots had hatched three young on Salhouse Broad. We finally managed to snatch this picture of them showing the babies bright red heads and dark, fluffy bodies.

This is really good news as Coots – which were once common throughout the Broads – seem to be disappearing. If anyone has any theories on why this might be the case then we would love to hear from you and share the ideas on the blog. Simply email info@broads.co.uk.

The swan family that this blog followed nesting on Salhouse Broad are thriving and, despite the cygnets growing up quite a bit, they are periodically returning to their nest. This is shown in the picture below where, if you look closely, you can just see one cygnet popping its head over the nest.

The two swan families in Wroxham village are also doing well despite continued territorial behaviour from the males in each group. The males are regularly seen puffing themselves up and patrolling invisible lines in the river half way through Wroxham village to separate territories. In fact they have been so aggressive that they have even swum at the bows of our 60ft trip boat a few times. Now that is bold!

Elsewhere on the river in Wroxham village we have spotted a Moorhen with a pair of newly born chicks. Interestingly, the babies are completely black even though their parents are black with a red head. By contrast the coot chicks that are pictured above have black bodies and a red head, even though their parents do not.

On Wroxham Broad itself we have spotted a pair of Grey Herons carrying sticks to a remote corner of the Broad, which we can only assume is for a heronry. Watch this space for any more information.

Other birds we have spotted in and around Wroxham Broad include electric blue Kingfishers, which flash low across the water at around 40mph, the majestic soaring Marsh Harrier, the pint sized Kestrel, the amazingly agile common tern and the pitch black Cormorant, which is coming in from the north sea in increasing numbers as fish stocks there become depleted.

Words and pictures by skipper Oliver Franzen

Share your photos

This blog features a fantastic picture of an Egyptian Goose taken by one of our passengers – Carolyn from Australia. If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trips we would love to share them on this blog. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct

Butterflies and Bitterns

One of our most spectacular insects – The Swallowtail Butterfly – has been spotted on Hoveton Great Broad by skipper Tobi while he ran a Discovery School Trip for children to learn about the Broads and its ecology.

With a wing span of up to 93mm and a distinctive forked tail that lends it its name, the Swallowtail Butterfly is not only Britain’s largest butterfly it is also one of the rarest since it can only be found on Broadland reed beds. This is because Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars will only eat a plant called Milk Parsley, which can only grow in the particular micro climate found in our reed beds.

We pass Hoveton Great Broad on all of our boat trips but it is almost hidden from the river by trees and has been cut off from navigation for more than 100 years. The wildlife sanctuary has a real wilderness feel as it can only be visited by boat – simply hire one of our day boats by the hour and take a short trip down stream to the Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail moorings. From there you can follow a narrow boardwalk made of railway sleepers through magical reedbeds, where the Swallowtail butterfly can be spotted, passing Carr Woodland to eventually reach two bird hides on the Broad. This has specially designed floating nesting platforms for Common Terns, which migrate all the way from Africa to nest on them.

Another magical moment came for another of our Skippers Oli, who heard the mystical sound of Bitterns booming in reed beds at the nearby Hickling Broad recently. These rare and illusive species which were once threatened by extinction, but are slowly recovering in numbers, make an eerie booming sound similar to blowing over a bottle top.

Along the river banks we are seeing pink flashes of colour from Dog Roses, which are great for bees. These insects need all the help they can get these days.

Another fantastic sight is both white and yellow water lilies lining our banks. Aside from looking beautiful this is particularly important because lilies are an indicator species of water quality.

Yellow water lilies can only live in clean water and white water lilies need exceptionally good water quality. The fact that we have both types in abundance shows just how clean our waterways are. A great sign for all types of Broadland wildlife!

Words and pictures by skipper Oliver Franzen. If you have taken any wildlife pictures on our trips we would love to share them on this blog. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct

Babies hitch a ride

As spring marches on, the river is a hub of activity with birds bringing up their broods. Capturing everything on camera ourselves can be a real challenge – especially now the river is busier and we have much thicker bankside vegetation for wildlife to get a little photo in. Fortunately we have lots of guests on our boat trips armed with cameras and smartphones, who send us some cracking shots.

Here we have a couple of lovely photographs from one of our school tips on board the Discoverer for an educational outing to Hoveton Great Broad Nature Trail. Congratulations to primary school students Ellie and Poppy, who caught a young swan family on camera where the cygnets had bundled onto mum’s back for a bit of protection.

Credit Ellie

Credit Poppy

On the stretch of the River Bure covered by our one-and-a-half and two hour trips we now have three swan families with six or seven cygnets each.

It’s not just the swans that look after their young by offering them a ride on their backs, look out for the Great Crested Grebes who also give their young a piggyback. Salhouse Broad is a real hotspot for Great Crested Grebes. At least one brood of Great Crested Grebes have already hatched and we have seen them riding on their mother’s back as shown by these lovely pictures taken by Tobi and Oliver. We are also keenly awaiting a second nesting pair that has been hidden away in the undergrowth.

A water bird that builds floating nests for its young in the same way as the Great Crested Grebe – the Coot – has just hatched its young on Salhouse Broad. This is really good news as Coots, which were once extremely common on the Broads, seem to be very few and far between these days, perhaps due to the harsh winter of 2010. Hopefully we will have some pictures of the newly hatched coots soon!

Of course there are plenty of Greylag, Canada and Egyptian geese with their goslings to see too. These are mostly found in the gardens of Wroxham and Hoveton where there is plenty of grass to graze upon.

Remember, we would love to see your wildlife photos, so send them in with your name and they may feature on one of our nature blogs or on social media. Simply send them to info@broads.co.uk or via Twitter @BroadsTours or Facebook by searching Broads Tours or Instagram norfolk_broads_direct.

New arrivals delight passengers and otter makes remarkable appearance

The river seems to have exploded into life in the last few weeks with an abundance of young opening their eyes to the world for the first time to the delight of our passengers.

By far the most common – but no less popular– species are Greylag geese with their goslings which seem to be everywhere – both through Wroxham village and further along the river. Notably we have seen several families of Greylag geese out on the water together, with dozens of young all in one group. Greylag geese are very protective parents and this certainly seems to be paying dividends for the survival of their young.

We are following two families of swans, both of which are exhibiting interesting protective territorial behaviour – swimming adjacent to invisible lines on the river and puffing themselves up to warn off others.

We have also spotted a family of seven tiny cygnets on the river in Wroxham riding on their mother’s back. This delighted a party of school children from Hethersett, who we were taking out on a school trip to discover the Norfolk Broads.

On Salhouse Broad the first pair of grebes has successfully hatched their young. These elegant diving birds are well known for carrying their babies on their backs – which makes one of the loveliest of sights at this time of year.

But the most incredible sighting lately – which has certainly divided opinion among staff at Broads Tours – is an otter hunting Greylag Geese in the Broads Tours boat basin.

Last weekend I couldn’t believe my eyes when an otter hunted and killed a full sized Greylag goose before dragging it under bank pilings where its den and young are presumably located. I ran and grabbed my camera and took a video and pictures of the whole thing, which amazingly happened in broad daylight on a busy Saturday afternoon. This was the second week in a row, in which it had displayed this remarkable behaviour.

Firstly it surprised me that an otter, which are usually a shy species, would reveal its self in such a busy place and secondly that it would hunt such large prey. In the animal kingdom predators will usually select the easiest and weakest prey to reduce the risk of injury and avoid wasting unnecessary energy.

When there are so many smaller birds and their vulnerable young on the river, not to mention an abundance of fish, it seems very strange behaviour for an otter to attack a goose which is two thirds of its size.

As an ecologist I found watching this behaviour a remarkable experience, although many people at Broads Tours felt for the unfortunate goose. At any rate it shows just how much otters are expanding their territories, how brazen they can be and what powerful predators they are.

You can watch the Oliver’s video of the otter attacking the goose at the YouTube link below. Please be warned that the video is an accurate account of an otter hunting a goose so do not watch it if you might find it upsetting.