From 16th March until mid-June runs the coarse fishing close season along rivers. These three months are spawning time and although of course such activities take place out of sight, there is one species, namely the pike, which I have watched on many occasions.

The large females cruise along pond and stream margins among water plants pursued by one or two smaller males called  'jacks'.

Translucent tan coloured eggs are laid among the plants and as a boy, I would collect a couple, place them in an aquarium and study their development before releasing them back where I found them.

Upon hatching, the tiny fry have a yolk-sac suspended beneath that is absorbed in about ten days, after which the fry begin feeding on tiny water creatures such as daphnia and Cyclops.

Once when peering into the aquarium I could see only one fish then realised that it had the tail of its one inch long twin poking out of its mouth. It had swallowed the other fish whole and did not need to feed for a week!

On another occasion I watched as a brood of nine ducklings were, over two days, systematically dragged down and eaten by large pike.

Some years ago on Wimbledon common it was noticed that water fowl were vanishing. A company of electro- fishers were called in and several pike were stunned ,caught and re-located to a fishing clubs water.

One pike weighed twenty pounds and upon landing, regurgitated a half digested black headed gull!

Voracious aquatic predators indeed.