Fishing feast turns into famine: Keith Elliott reports on every angler's nightmare - a world championship where the quarry fails to take the bait

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The Independent Online
BANGOR PIER was the venue for some of the most dramatic fishing matches I ever entered. Six of us, all keen anglers, would compete. The trouble was, there was hardly any fish to catch, so in an attempt to brighten up the results, we included crabs too. However, even crabs were scarce, and sorry specimens at that, so we made catches sound more impressive by counting legs.

Something of this sort might have helped the World Freshwater Angling Championships in Nottingham at the weekend. The national water sports centre lake was so devoid of fish that the loudspeaker commentary resorted to remarks like: 'We've just heard a rumour that one of the French team has caught a fish.' After the event, the commentator announced: 'We hear that five sets of scales are for sale - hardly used.'

This would have been an event to rival last year's record-breaking catches in Portugal if the competition had taken place three years ago, when England first bid for it. Then, Holme Pierrepont was renowned as one of the best fisheries in the country. 'It would have been the best world championships ever, if the fishing had not declined,' said Bob Nudd, of Great Yealdham, Essex, whose unprecedented third world title in five years was one of the few bright spots of the weekend. But a lot of Trent water has sloshed through the rowing course in the interim.

First, cormorants have gobbled up many of the fish.

Although more than 20,000 fish were put in earlier this year, it made little difference (which is not surprising, considering the water is 2,000 yards long). In fact, a cormorant mocked the fishless anglers on Saturday as it dived down and collected its lunch. The only species that appears to have survived the fisheating birds' depredations are perch, and it may be that their spiky fins make them an unattractive meal, rather like eating a plate of thistles.

But it is not only cormorants that have affected the fishing. The water is now so clear that you can see the bottom 2ft down, which is bad news for fishermen. A couple of years ago, the lake had a problem with blue-green algae, so the management used a natural remedy to cure it - bales of hay. Unfortunately, this also kills other algae that colour the water and feed fish. The clearer water has been applauded by other users, such as rowers, board sailors and jet skiers. But it has driven away the anglers. Anyone willing to pay the pounds 3.50 day ticket now will be there only to drown maggots.

The 150 anglers who had travelled from as far away as Australia and South Africa were not too pleased at finding the best competition water in England was so bad that catching a fish was a bonus. England took the title because they only had one dry net each day. That was quite an achievement, as in some areas, 24 out of 29 anglers caught nothing. Perhaps it is time to stock with a few freshwater crabs.