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?

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.

Graduation day for Skipper School

After three months of intensive training Broads Tours trainee skippers Oliver, Richard and Phil had something to celebrate last Tuesday having all passed their MCA Boatmaster licence.

The qualification means that they can now take command of Broads Tours double decker trip boats unaccompanied and is the culmination of hours of practical and theory training, as well as individual courses in Personal Survival, Fire Fighting, and First Aid.

Discussing the achievement Oliver, who wasted no time by running a boat trip less than an hour after passing his test, said: |”After getting nearly 90 hours of lessons and accompanied driving experience in my log book it’s fantastic to finally have the Boatmaster licence under my belt and take customers out on the water under my own steam.”

“The exam, conducted by the Maritime and Coastguard Association, was pretty tough and nerve wracking as it took 4.5 hours for us all to be assessed in an oral and practical exam. I’m delighted that all three of us trainee skippers passed together though.”

“On behalf of my fellow trainee skippers, Richard, Phil and myself, I would like to thank our excellent instructor Patrick for all his hard work as well as the other qualified skippers who have given us extra practise and advice. There has been a real team effort from everyone at Broads Tours.”

Barbara Greasley, director of Broads Tours, said: “I am really pleased to have a new crop of three bright new skippers at Broads Tours. The average age of our skippers is very young – around 30 – which goes to show that there is a promising future in Broads boating and people wanting to work in this industry.”

“We are also attracting a very high standard of candidate to be skippers. Richard has a masters degree in Criminology, Oliver has a degree in Environmental Science and Phil is a commercial airline pilot!”

Snow doesn’t stop play as nature takes a home run


With snow falling on the 26th April it’s hard to believe that we are in late April. Fortunately the cold weather doesn’t seem to be discouraging our abundant wildlife, which is still busily nesting and rearing their young, even if the plant life is a little ‘behind’ for this time of year.

Nesting birds are becoming more prevalent and we are still watching the Greylag and Canada Geese with great expectation. One very cute brood of Greylags are delighting tourists and seem to be spending most of their time grazing the lawns of Wroxham gardens.

Animal behaviour is always an exciting topic, and wonderful to see. In one garden, we spied a swan going about nesting behaviour: whether the pair here are building or not is another matter, but it doesn’t stop the birds feeling broody and acting upon it!

We have had high water recently which can play havoc with some nesting birds. Although the Coots and Grebes are not usually bothered by this problem because they build floating nests, one pair of Great Crested Grebes struggled slightly when their nest became suspended. They are back on track now and continue to build up their nest with gusto.

The arrival of migratory birds signals the start of spring (even if the current weather doesn’t) and we recently reported that Swallows were flourishing on Wroxham Broad. This week House Martins have joined the Swallows, although they can be difficult to set apart: look for the white patch on the House Martin’s rump and a forked, shorter tail than on Swallows.

Overcast days seem to be best for seeing both Swallows and House Martins amazing acrobatics as they zoom low over the water, picking up insects. Another aerial acrobat taking to our skies is the Common Tern, which has recently arrived from Africa to make its summer home on Hoveton Great Broad.

Despite being as large as Wroxham Broad, Hoveton Great Broad has been cut off from boat traffic for more than a century and makes a wonderful wildlife sanctuary for Common Terns as well as many other species.

A visit to the reserve is highly recommended. You can spot the Terns nesting on a special floating platform from a bird hide along a kilometre long nature trail. Visiting Hoveton Great Broad is an adventure in its self as it can only be reached by boat, giving it a wonderfully wild feel. We would recommend hiring one of our day boats from Wroxham and mooring up at the reserve about 40 minutes downstream (check Hoveton Great Broad’s opening times with us first.)

We have also been taking school field trips to Hoveton Great Broad recently and they have been captivated by this areas abundant wildlife. Hopefully we have done our bit for a new generation of nature lovers!

With the future in mind, The Hoveton Great Broad Restoration Project has recently attracted millions of pounds of European and Heritage Lottery funding to secure this area for many years to come. The project will see the broad, which has been badly silted up, being suction dredged so that plants can take root and to improve water quality. Also to improve water quality, fish will be temporarily removed from the broad because they eat water fleas, which in turn eat algae. With no fish to eat the water fleas their numbers will boom and more algae will be eaten, which will make the water much clearer in a process called biomanipulation.

Back on the river, our plants are doggedly coming to life despite the inclement weather. The white flowers of Black Thorn and Hawthorn are now being set against the bright yellowy-gold of the marsh marigold (come on you yellows!) which is also known as ‘King cup’ due to it’s almost goblet shaped flowers.

Other trees are starting to leaf too, with the fresh pale green leaves of oak, joining the willow, sycamore and birch. Soon the banks will be more green than brown and offer valuable cover for wildlife.