THE Environment Agency have carried out the biggest barbel restocking ever after putting in 100,000 fish into the Great Ouse above Bedford.

The much-needed fresh fish are going into the Ouse, which produced a string of  record barbel,  are the smallest ever stocked by the EA. They are just a couple of inches long.

Whilst the reduced catches in the past decade or more suggest restocking action would provide a future Ouse barbel population, survival rates might be tiny.

Some anglers also wonder whether the fry are just a publicity stunt after the area was hit by recently a detergent pollution killed 2,000 prime fish at Brackley.

That pollution left a ten-mile stretch of river looking like a bubble bath and the EA were waiting on test results to see if they could bring any prosecution.

Former record barbel holder Ray Walton caught his 17 lb 6 oz British best from the Ouse at Adam’s Mill. He thinks few of the fry will reach specimen size.

Ray said: “They usually stock barbel at over two years old, not fry, which gives them a much better chance of survival and growing on in the wild.

Record barbel of the future? These fish are of the size normally used for river restocking.

Record barbel of the future? These were some larger fish of the size normally used for river restocking.

Ray continued: “Fry probably won’t survive due the river contamination from pollutants from water company sewage works, and farmers’ pesticides.

“This happens to most wild baby barbel in most UK rivers, hence why they have to re-stock every now and then to maintain the species presence.

“They also usually stock them in winter, not summer, which is a bit strange.

“If they are re-stocking the area of the pollution as a quick fix and to gain publicity, then the tiny barbel won’t survive anyway.

“The macro-invertebrates food would have been wiped out too, so (there would be) nothing to feed on,” he added.

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