A FISH stocking on one of Britain’s best barbel rivers could be key to improving angling action in the future.
Some 250 barbel went into a Rowley DAS stretch of the River Severn at Coalport in Shropshire. The introduction of the fish is part of a scientific study being conducted by the Environment Agency.
The EA, in partnership with the club, are trying to understand whether stocking barbel into larger rivers like the River Severn will improve the health of fish stocks and improve angling.
Chris Bainger, fisheries technical specialist at the EA, explained: “The members of Rowley DAS have always worked very closely with us, even if the angling on the middle Severn has gone through the good times or bad.
“They have consistently provided timely fishing match catch returns for two decades which gives us a great insight to the health of river and its fish stocks.
“We have taken this opportunity backed by the historical data they have provided, to include this stretch of river and the catch returns from anglers as part of this study.
“We have acquired 250 10–18 inch two-year-old barbel from the rod licence funded fish farm at Calverton in Nottingham.
“These fish are purely river strain fish and have been reared in conditions that enhance their fitness for river life.
“Each of the fish are marked so that local anglers will be able to identify them as the stock fish from this year,” Chris concluded
RDAS committee member Max Taylor said: “We have already been assisting the EA in collecting additional data from the barbel we catch in our section of the river.
“A couple of summers back, Chris came along issued us with kits and trained us how to record the barbel we catch in detail.
“Firstly we would measure the length, record individual weight and remove some scales so that the fish can be aged.
“I am told this will give us a real good indication to the health of fish and this fishery in the River Severn compared to other rivers in the country like the River Trent, where very similar studies are happening,” Max added.
RDAS committee members have been informed of the capture of 13 of the marked fish from last year, with the majority of those recorded having been caught downstream in the Bewdley area during the Kidderminster DAA matches.
The River Severn was first stocked with barbel 62 years ago with large adult fish brought in from the River Kennet in Berkshire from then they colonised the river.
Subsequent stockings of barbel have never been as successful as that first initial stocking. Some fisheries scientists believe that is because barbel have now exploited and filled that available niche.
Fish stocking help for other rivers
The Severn barbel were just one of a large number of fish stocking projects the EA has recently been involved in.
These have ranged geographically from Durham in the north, Isle of Wight in the south, Herefordshire in the west, Suffolk in the east and the River Parchey at King’s Sedgemoor Drain in Somerset.
In the past four weeks 143,000 fish reared for up to 18 months have been released into 41 stillwaters and 30 rivers. Plenty more fish stocking is planned by the EA for the coming weeks.
Kevin Austin, EA deputy director of fisheries said: “The main reasons for stocking Calverton-bred fish and larvae are: replacing stocks lost to pollution or following habitat or water quality improvements; improving stocks where natural reproduction is low; and helping to create fisheries in areas where there is a shortage of angling opportunities.
“We encourage anglers to enjoy fishing through the festive holidays. A fishing rod licence also makes an excellent Christmas gift for someone who doesn’t have one but wants to give it a go.
“The work of EA’s National Fish Farm is funded by income from licence fees, so it’s great to see the fish farm continuing to produce the strong and healthy fish needed for restocking and recovery,” Kevin added.
Alan Henshaw, Calverton Fish Farm team leader said: “The Christmas stockings have been extra full this season thanks to a lot of hard work and the exceptional growth of the fish during the warm summer.
“Stocking more than 70 different waters in a month shows what our busy team can do at this time of year as the stocking season starts.
“There’s still a lot of work ahead to complete the program and deliver more great healthy young fish to benefit our lakes and rivers this season,” added Alan.
Fish stocking examples include 1,700 fish in Lincolnshire, with roach going into the River Torne and bream and tench into Warping Drain at Owston Ferry to compensate for fish deaths in the long hot summer. And in the north west, dace, chub and barbel have gone into the River Irwell in Greater Manchester.
An exciting project is also underway in West Bromwich’s Dartmouth Park, West Midlands. It got a kick-start during the latest wave of fish stocking when 2,000 roach, 200 tench, 1,000 rudd and 300 bream were introduced to rejuvenate the pool.
Project manager Darin Alberry, fisheries technical officer at the EA explained: “Dartmouth Park was brought to the attention of the EA by the ‘Friends of Dartmouth Park’ who wanted to create a free fishing amenity with an offer of fishing tuition and a tackle loan programme to allow access to fishing to the under privileged youth in the area.
“After an initial advisory visit by myself, floating fish refuges were installed to create some habitat, but also to provide some cover from avian predators. Fisheries officers helped to build the first refuge.
“Additionally, the ‘Friends of Dartmouth’ have been working with the Angling Trust towards acquiring their fishing coaching badges.
“They have also purchased over £1,000 of fishing tackle to be solely used as a rod loan service,” Darin concluded.
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