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No, it isn’t a new Ukip policy but a way of protecting our freshwater fish for anglers. PETER FROST investigates.

On various European holidays, in Germany, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, I’ve developed quite a taste for a fresh water fish that is usually described on translated menus as Pike-Perch.

I’ve eaten the fish stuffed with herbs and wild mushrooms in a Gypsy restaurant on the shores of Lake Balaton in Hungary. Both the fish and the Gypsy band that played at our table were wonderfully exotic.

hungarian-gypsy-band

I’ve eaten them cooked in many ways all along the Rhine and the Moselle, including in Karl Marx’s birthplace — the pretty riverside town of Trier. Here they cooked the fillets on a barbecue fuelled by prunings from the local vines.

In Poland the fish is particularly popular and usually simply cooked with a little butter.

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The fish is the zander (Sander lucioperca) and I was amazed to discover quite recently that many British rivers, canals, lake and reservoirs are full of these immigrants from Europe.

Gös,_Iduns_kokbok

This is the result of a few being introduced into the East Anglian fens.

They spread rapidly after just 97 tiny zander fry were introduced by the Great Ouse River Board in a misguided attempt to give anglers another species to catch.

For reasons I have never understood we never seem to eat them here in Britain. Why is it that we Brits seem to be so unappreciative of some of the almost-free food found in our native countryside?

It is not as if there is any shortage of these delicious fish.

Today there are so many zander in our waterways that the Environment Agency and local angling clubs are doing all they can to eliminate these delicious but greedy beasts. Zander are carnivorous and eat many other fish.

Zander are so aggressive they have even been known to attack and bite humans.

One well documented case occurred in July 2009 in Switzerland. A zander weighing nearly 20lbs attacked tourists in Lake Maggiore leading to headlines declaring the lake had its own “monster.”

Two swimmers were so badly bitten that they had to be rushed to hospital. One suffered a deep bite almost four inches long that required many stitches.

The huge and dangerous fish was finally caught by the local police who, with a keen sense of poetic justice, cooked it and offered it to the wounded tourists.

In truth it’s very unusual for zander, however big, to actually attack humans.

On British waterways the preferred method of culling the unwanted zander is electro-fishing.

It’s a fascinating thing to watch as I discovered on the canal marina near my home.

From a small punt a couple of electrodes are dropped into the water and a high power but low voltage current is switched on. It stuns the fish within a short distance of the punt and they all float to the surface.

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The zander, and any other invasive or unwanted fish are netted or simply lifted into the boat and within a few minutes the rest of the fish have recovered, shaken their heads in disbelief and swum away.

This is an annual occasion and the fishing crew tell me that some of the bigger fish are old friends.

They stun a huge pike and several very large carp in virtually the same spot every year.

The electro-fishers also told me that there is little demand for the zander for eating.

They gave me a couple of decent fish to sample and the rest they told me had a willing customer in the proprietor of the local Polish delicatessen.

Zander resemble the pike but are actually much more closely related to perch.

They have a pike’s streamlined elongated body and head, and a spiny dorsal fin like a perch. However zander are not, as is often stated, a pike and perch hybrid.

Zander can grow to 44lbs although they are usually considerably smaller.

The fish love slow-flowing, sparsely vegetated, rather murky waters so are right at home in many of our lowland rivers and canals.

Zander_1

Zander are so popular as a delicious dish all across Europe that today the fish is being farmed commercially yet here in Britain we still ignore this bountiful source of some delicious meals.

This article first appeared in the Morning Star 16 October 2015.

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