The bumper double issue of Angler’s Mail magazine (December 21/28 cover-dated) includes Eddie Turner revealing his 40 lb pike.
As a special online bonus, exclusive to this website, here’s a re-run of a revealing interview with E.T., from back in April 2007.
The INSIDE line…
FAMOUS figures talk exclusively on matters close to their own hearts. Here we question EDDIE TURNER, home counties pike legend, inventor of Backbiter alarms, Drifter floats and Twiddling Sticks, who is breaking his long silence with a new book.
What have you been up to all this time?
I’m still pike fishing, just keeping a bit of a low profile these days. Reporting every fish has never been my style. I prefer just to do my own thing. I try to fish every weekend. I’m as keen as I used to be, just remaining low profile.
Have things changed since you were in the public eye?
All of a sudden it seems to have become a race. When I caught my fish I wasn’t competing with anybody, I just went and caught them. Now it’s different. But I don’t need to compare myself with others. I work for a living and can only fish at weekends. But I’m still as keen as ever.
How do you fish these days?
I’m very into my boat fishing. I spend a lot of time messing about with them and fishing from them. I’m doing quite bit of fishing on the rivers, which means starting again, but that has stimulated me. I try and be more opportunist about the way I fish. I find it very hard to sit still for long periods. People reckon I’ve got St. Vitus Dance, but I’ve always got to be doing something. It’s always been my style of fishing.
You like gadgets on your boats?
I’ve got more gadgets than the Gadget Shop. I’ve got three boats, but the main one is the 15 ft Seahog Seajeep, with a 50 hp Yamaha engine. It’s fitted out with rod racks, rod holders, a livebait well, a swivel seat and an MP3/CD player. I blame Nige (Williams). He got me into boat fishing after we fished in Scotland years ago and we slummed it while he walked into his boat and everything was there. Now I can go from towing to launch in just 15 minutes single-handed. I’ve adapted it to the style of fishing that suits me, so it’s almost like a bivvy on the water. Part of the new book is the disasters that have happened with it and trying to overcoming the difficulties.
What made you want to write another book?
It’s been 17 years since the first one. This time I’ve written it with Jason Davis. We’ve only ever fished together two or three times, but we’re good mates and have been around the block and have both got something to say. We’ve tried to make it humourous. A lot of people take fishing very seriously. It was a chance for me to re-invent myself – a bit like Kylie, but not as pretty. We wanted to show there are a few old bastards out there who still catch a few fish but don’t tell the world.
What is the book about?
We didn’t want to do a how-to book. People like stories, and we fish with loads of people with a lot of character. I’ve caught a few fish in the years since the last one, and so has Jason. There are ten chapters, some amazing captures, lots of disasters, some really funny cartoons, 120 colour photos, and Chris Turnbull has done the cover picture.
Have you added to your tally of 30s?
I might have added a few, but you’ll have to read the book to find out.
You like keeping secrets.
I’ve sat on quite a few things over the years. When I first started pike fishing I caught a fish of 28 lb 8 oz and as I landed it the bailiff turned up. He put it in the paper, and two weeks later the place was inundated, and from that day onwards I’ve always been keen on keeping my cards close to my chest. Every now and then I give a hint, to keep people on their toes. I like there to be a bit of devilment. That’s why the book is coming out. There are going to be a few revelations.
Would you go public if you broke the British record?
It wouldn’t be any different. As long as I and my friends knew it was genuine, that’s all that would float my boat. If it was somewhere public where it would do no harm to anybody, then no problem, but if I felt it could be detrimental to the fish, to me or to the water, I wouldn’t.
Do big fish still motivate you?
They do, but I like to find my own. I’ve got no interest in trying to catch a known fish. But there’s a fine line between a reported capture and a whisper. If someone tells me about a fish they’ve seen, then it’s a different ball game. We all set our own hurdles and limits. Maybe that’s what sets us apart from carp anglers – we don’t want to know what the biggest fish in the lake weighs, but they do. There’s always that element of the unexpected with pike fishing, and that’s what keeps me going.
There was a strong rumour recently that you’d had a 40 lb fish from the Fens.
Not me. I’d like to have done. The only 40 from the Fens I know of is in a glass case. It was the second biggest Whittlesey Mere fish, caught in 1875 at 42 lb. It’s mentioned in Fred Buller’s book. I kept it in a shed and somebody wanted to buy it so I sold it last February.
Have you got any other glass case fish?
I’ve got a 30 that was found dead at Grafham, and one from Norfolk that was caught in 1933. The Grafham fish has been set up by Richard Brigham from Norfolk and it looks fantastic. It’s a classic trout-water fish – small head, big frame – and everybody who sees it says it looks like it’s just come out of the water. Jason has got a 32 lb fish found dead at his lake, done by the same guy, and it’s just as good.
Do people still recognise you?
I’ve got older and greyer, now, though I did fish somewhere this year where three different sets of blokes came up to me. I’ve got a stupid number plate – B19 PKE. That’s got to go. People get excited when they see my car because they think they’ve stumbled on something. They think if he’s here, there must be something special. But it doesn’t work like that.
Do you miss being famous?
I’ve become infamous instead of being famous. After we got rid of the tackle company, which was only ever a hobby gone wrong, there was no need to be in the limelight. Your catches speak for themselves. I like to tease Neville Fickling because he’s got a list he does every year of the biggest pike. I purposely haven’t put a posting on it since 2000, just to wind him up. Somebody’s got to keep him in check.
You still give talks?
Neville came to one of them and managed to fall asleep in the middle, which isn’t easy. I sneaked a couple of extra slides in of me with unreported 30s. They were only on the screen for a few seconds, but you’ve never seen anyone wake up so quickly in your life. Everyone was roaring with laughter.
Are you active on the forums?
I just sit back and watch, mainly. They seem to bring out the worst in people, slagging others off. I don’t get involved unless somebody starts having a dig at me. If I can help people I will. A lot of the time I send them private emails with my advice. The internet means you can get information so readily, using Google Earth to find exactly what a lake looks like, but seeing pike anglers bickering with each other on forums is not good. People like PETA and other anti-angling bodies are watching, and they can lift bits of what people say and quote them out of context. We need to clean up our act.
Would you still pike fish if livebaiting were banned?
It’s hard to say. Livebaiting is a big part of my style of my fishing. I’m not good at lure fishing. I don’t actually enjoy it. I can fish deads, but drifting a herring looks so sad. It’s always at the back of my mind, if only I could livebait, but you are limited to what can do at some venues.
In particular in Scotland.
It’s a shame about Scotland. They still blame us for taking daddy ruffe up there. I can’t think of one pike angler who has ever used a daddy ruffe in vain. They are the last thing you’d want to take up there. You’d put your hand in the bucket and it would come out like a dartboard. It’s so easy for people who don’t understand to blame pike anglers. I thought Scotland was about freedom, with such a low density of anglers, and all of a sudden it’s restricted.
Do you still design tackle?
There are loads of things waiting to be discovered and I’ve got an idea that I would really like to see made, but it’s just getting the right time and place. I’m a shop fitter by trade, so I’m fairly practical and good with plastic and wood. I’m always making things. But these days people are quick to copy, and innovations is sadly disappearing. I think people are scared to be inventive. Vic Gibson and I invented unhooking mats after an Irish fellow at Abberton used a hessian sack at water’s edge rather than walk the fish up to the grass. I wish we had patented it, now.
Did you used to have a Backbiter that played Jingle Bells?
Yes. We nicked a speaker from a Christmas card and it played a whole medley of Christmas songs. We also had one with a police car siren. We were just a group of guys into our pike fishing and looking for the next advantage while trying to be different.
WHAT I LAST CAUGHT…
A mid-double from a local gravel pit on the last day of my season (I don’t fish after March 14) on a turbo smelt (one of Neville’s eight-inch Lucebaits) injected with air, cast ten yards out.
WHAT I LAST BOUGHT…
Some 30 lb trace wire from the States, from Cabela’s web site (www.cabelas.com), which is fantastic. They do some unusual items of tackle.
• This interview with Eddie Turner was with Greg Meenehan in April 2007.
* Eddie’s new book Mega Pike – The Return was published in September 2007. Visit www.megapike-thereturn.net