Michael Portillo tries his hand at Walton fishing for a TV show

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TV presenter and ex-politician Michael Portillo has tried his hand at fishing in Walton as part of his latest British coast TV series.

After visiting Grayson Perry’s home for Essex in Wrabness, the former Conservative cabinet member joined Clacton angling expert John Popplewell at Walton Pier on Monday.

They spoke on camera about the plight of the fishing industry following the expansion of commercial fishing trawlers.

John, who wrote the Gazette’s All at Sea column for a number of years, said: “We discussed fishing and how things have changed over the years on the fishing front .

“I talked about growing up in Walton and my angling exploits and how the commercial fishery in the 1960s and 1970s decimated the cod stocks.

“Walton was once a winter fishing spot, but thanks to trawlers, cod stocks have been nearly wiped out in the Thames Estuary.

“It is now a summer area for bass and rays fishing.

“I invited a few Walton fishermen to come with me so he could learn about local fishing.

“We had a great afternoon and since Michael had never fished or used a rod, I showed him how to use a rod and reel.

“Unfortunately he didn’t catch anything, but I did manage to catch a small wrasse.”

John said a large crowd gathered to watch part of the filming, after which Mr Portillo stayed to take photos and sign autographs for fans.

“He’s a very nice, down-to-earth guy,” John added. “He liked Walton and thought it was a quaint town and was impressed with the renovations to the pier.

“He’s never been here before but will be back in the area next year for a theater conference in Clacton.”

After filming in Walton, Mr Portillo was to continue his journey in the Southend area.

Last week, Mr Portillo spent a day in Canvey while filming a new episode of his Great British Railway Journeys.

The series has previously featured Dedham and Harwich.

The final documentary series featuring Walton will be screened in the spring of next year.

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