Be on alert for signs of carp stress

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The Independent Online

For those of you who have forgotten - and that includes you, Pete - fishing licences expired at the end of March. Although you can get daily, weekly or yearly ones at any Post Office, many of you will want to fish tomorrow or on Monday when they will all be closed. No problem: you can purchase an annual licence (not short-term ones) over the phone between the hours of 8am and 6pm. Ring 0870 1662662 and have a credit or debit card at the ready, plus the angler's date of birth details and a pen.

Your licence will be posted but you can start fishing immediately - a licence number will be issued so that you can quote it if collared by a bailiff. The price for the annual non-migratory licence is £19 plus a 70p administrative charge (which is down 20p from last year!).

And another number to make a note of is 0800 80 70 60. This is the hotline of the communications centre of the Environmental Agency in Reading and it is to be used to report environmental incidents such as pollution, flytiping, fish in distress and flooding. It was the third of these that intrigued me because, selfishly, I am in great distress at the moment. I don't have time to go fishing and it's making me cross and stressed and it's making my teeth fall out. Last Saturday, due to stress, I ground my teeth so hard during the night that I put an aptly named stress fracture in my tooth, which made half of it fall out. (I am a young woman who flosses daily and drinks lots of milk, so you will understand how scary this was.)

My dentist has said I have to wear a night-guard - like a boxer's gum shield - to protect the bashing my teeth get at night. But we all know that fishing is what I need to be doing to relax. After all, not only does it involve being in beautiful bits of the countryside but it tires me out - thus aiding restful sleep - and that celebratory/consolatory whisky makes me too boozy to do anything as athletic as gnashing my choppers.

But back to the fish: reports just in say that fish, especially carp at the moment, are dying due to stress. The exact cause is not known, which is why the EA wants anglers to call the hotline if they see carp in signs of distress - obsessively and compulsively drying their fins, not bothering to eat, swimming round in circles, or overeating and then ringing all their friends to tell them about it. Imbibing too much air, especially secretly and on their own... Sorry, the real signs are if they are swimming too close to the surface or flapping by the edge of the water. If you know your carp - and Lord knows carp fisherman do - anything out of character could be a sign that they are stressed, so call the EA which can come and have a look.

Also this week, photographs arrived of Pete's first salmon. Because he had taken them in a rush, not wanting to keep the fish out of water for too long, they weren't very good and this caused him some distress. I tried to tell him that it was better to have not very good pictures of a live salmon that he knew had gone back to continue its journey, than really good pictures of a stock-still salmon because it was dead.

He had estimated its weight at 15lb and now, with the aid of the photographs, we were able to take some measurements. Pete had snapped it next to his rod so we measured the length of the fish with a piece of string, then saw to what point it reached on the rod and measured that. It was 74cm long and, we reckoned, about 46cm in girth (this was quite spooky as, aged 16, I had a 48cm waist). Logging on to Ally Gowan's website (www.ds.dial.pipex.-com/ally.gowans) we were able to click on to his "Fish Weight-o-Meter" which allows you to input the length and girth and it calculates the weight. It put Pete's salmon at an estimated weight of 14.5lb. It also gives results according to data from NASCO and the Salmonid Council of Newfoundland and Labrador, and a mean estimate, but those results were not as generous so we ignored them.

Then I input the measurements of the UK record salmon, which we know to have been 137cm long and with a girth of 72.5cm (nearer to what my waist measurement is now!) and it said it would have weighed, according to Ally's data: 66.68lb. Which was closer to the truth (64lb) than any of the results given by the others. Happy Easter.

a.barbieri@independent.co.uk

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