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Fishing: It's more zan lucky for Tom.

Byline: JOHN INGHAM

ZANDER are legal immigrants from eastern Europe that started a panic when they took a dive into an English waterway 42 years ago but are now known affectionately as 'zeds' with a busy fan club.

The first 100 of these alien fish-eaters were put into Cambridgeshire's 10-mile Great Ouse Relief Channel in 1963 by the former area river authority. Scare stories swept through freshwater fishing, with fears of a rapid spread that would empty popular fishing rivers.

Dracula of the deeps, said one report, in a vivid tale of a zander's big, light-sensitive eyes that help to corner shoals of small fish during night hours before daylight forces retreat to shady hideouts. Fangs to sink deep puncture wounds into prey, before rows of long, sharp gnashers finish the job, added to scaremongering.

Zanders, the largest members of the perch family, have since spread through several Midlands waterways but most anglers have probably yet to see one.

Fenland's drainage canals, in East Anglia, where the UK's 19lb 5oz 8dms record was set in 1998, are still the most popular hunting grounds.

All this is ancient angling history to teenager Tom Coltman, a 15-year-old SP fishing fan from Castle Hedingham, near Halstead, Essex.

He joined his father and a family friend for an after-dark zander hunt in a Cambridgeshire fen. That's no place to be on a winter's night without an Eskimo's clothes. But Tom broke out in a sweat when a 10lb 13oz zed fell for his legered chunk of lamprey eel.

Lampreys are just the job for zed-baiting. They are a particularly nasty variety of blood-sucking eel that use two teeth to attach to a victim like a drinking straw.

Tom's 'double' is the specimen-sized target that zed lovers aim to hit but few achieve. He wins a Shakespeare rear-drag Borak fixed-spool reel in The SP competition.

"Zanders are lucky fish for me," he said. "I was the first junior angler to catch one in an Essex Stour pike match last season. Now I have smashed my personal best by 6lb."

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ZANDER WONDER: Tom Coltman
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 13, 2005
Words:350
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