Hooked on fishing: Joe caught a man-sized fish in Madagascar

Joe Spence - with the one that didn't get away! He caught this very large fish on the fishing trip of a lifetime to Madagascar.
Joe Spence - with the one that didn't get away! He caught this very large fish on the fishing trip of a lifetime to Madagascar.

It was a passion which began in childhood and now Joe Spence hopes to make it into a career.

The 26-year-old student wants to share his enthusiasm for what he says has become an overlooked sport for young people.

Whilst skateboarding, football, cricket, swimming, basketball and netball all have their obvious appeal, Joe maintains there is nothing to beat a spot of fishing.

So convinced is he of the recreational and therapeutic value of the sport he has even penned a short guide for youngsters on how to start fishing.

Copies are now available, free of charge, from his mother and stepfather’s shop, Market Place News in Garstang.

It was while working at the shop in the last summer holidays that the Joe, who is studying social anthropology at the University of Kent, began to consider how local youngsters could be persuaded to take up the challenge of fishing.

The shop was compiling its own “100 things to do before High School - six weeks of summer activities” and Joe, who was formerly a youth worker, began thinking about how his love for the sport was sparked in childhood.

He was just six years old when he had his first taste of success and was quickly hooked.

He recalled: “It was the 15th August 1994, my sixth birthday, when my neighbour Graham invited me to join him for an evening fishing trip.

“We arrived at a small muddy pond and Graham began introducing me to the basics.

“He showed me how to tie a hook, how to attach a worm, how to cast a line and what to look for in case the fish were to start biting.

“After an hour patiently staring at a motionless float it suddenly slid beneath the surface, just like Graham had told me it might.

“Seconds later my first ever fish flopped onto the bank – a rainbow trout of about a 1lb.”

That day sparked a lifelong passion, which has taken him round the world, most reently to engage in ice fishing in the Arctic.

He said: “Twenty years later I’ve found myself sailing the tropical waters of Madagascar in pursuit of sailfish and marlin, wading down the rivers of Patagonia chasing migratory salmon, fishing through ice holes in Lapland and – more often than not – back where it all began, trying to catch tiddlers on the Lancaster Canal.”

He persuaded the shop to start stocking fishing tackle and now Market Place News has a new bait room selling sealed containers of live bait and Joe has set up in business as Garstang Fishing with his own Facebook page and – when not at university – can be found dispensing advice to those wanting to cast a line.

As for the summer play list – he reports how a group of delighted 11-year-olds came into the shop for advice on how to get started.

The youngsters returned at the end of the day to say they had caught their first fish

“I don’t know who was more pleased – me or them!” said Joe.

He notes that even those who may seem too impatient can benefit from the calming effect of fishing and says Garstang Fishing will advise young people who need a new challenge.

Equally he says there’s been great satisfaction in seeing anglers of all ages and experience coming in to Garstang for fishing tackle and shop talk.

His zeal is clear: “Opportunities for young people to learn new activities and develop new interests are becoming more and more restricted.

“ We need to think about this and what it will mean for the future.

“Fishing is an activity which broadens horizons.”

He continued: “It is widely acknowledged that fishing encourages the personal qualities required for learning – patience, concentration, the ability to listen, to evaluate and persist even when nothing is biting! “

It has certainly given Joe new perspectives. He noted: “I enjoy and respect the outdoors in a way that I otherwise might not have.

“I’ve made new friends and used fishing as a way to relax and to travel.”

He emphasises that young beginners should be accompanied by adults and not take off for initial fishing trips on their own.

As for new ambitions – he would like to catch a 10 lb sea bass on a lure and persaude his girlfriend he doesn’t spend too much on bait.

The Lancaster canal and local fisheries will always merit his enthusiastic attention.

But it will take some catch to top the joy of achieving what for many anglers is a lifetime’s ambition – the six and a half foot sailfish Joe caught in Madagascar weighed some 145lbs.

It was, however allowed to get away – Joe promptly returned it to the Indian ocean after noting its size and weight.

Photo shows Joe with the man-sized sailfish .