A RESPECTED angling author has slammed the Environment Agency for letting a once-prolific river become unfishable.

Paul Gustafson, who wrote How To Catch Big Pike, is furious rod licence money isn’t being used to help clear Abbey Mill Stream in the centre of Abingdon, Oxfordshire.

It was originally built by monks in the 10th century to power their water mill but has become overgrown with willow and reed beds, plus  it has silted up.

Paul explained: “The fishing was once excellent with bream bags over 200 lb and other species like chub, pike and gudgeon well represented, plus a few barbel, but this has all gone.

“It was also an important spawning area for fish in the Thames, but this has disappeared.

“Several years ago the EA started to do some clearance work but quickly abandoned it because, so I was told, an otter was possibly spotted in the vicinity.

“Now they are no longer interested and have rejected my pleas for something to be done.

“I contacted Julia Simpson, who is responsible for the Thames area but she didn’t want to know, and nine emails to government minister Michael Gove received only a stock response.

“Fortunately the local South and Vale District Council who are the riparian owners have recently cleared most of the willow, spending a week and about £8,000 in doing so.

“But this still leaves a lot of work to be done, particularly clearing the entrance to and exit from the stream which is hampering the flow, and dredging the silt which has reduced the depth from four to one foot.

“Sadly the EA have thus far taken the view that as the stream is non-navigable it isn’t their responsibility to keep the channel clear.

“Really one wonders what anglers pay their licence fee for given how little the EA seem to do for fisheries with our money.

“I’m sure the pattern is being repeated elsewhere in the country.

“There is no transparency in how much of our licence money is actually spent on improving fishing,” added the Abingdon resident.

Permits to fish the stream are available from Abingdon Council and are free to local residents, although outsiders pay £10 for a day ticket.

The EA told Angler’s Mail over £20million was spent protecting and improving habitats for fish and facilities for anglers last year but do not consider that maintenance work on Abbey Mill Stream is required for ‘flood risk or navigation reasons’.

Area environment manager Dave Willis said: “We are aware of the ongoing concerns of some local anglers on the Abbey Mill Stream.

Whilst the maintenance of the stream is primarily the responsibility of the riparian owners, we have arranged a site meeting with the local angler to discuss this issue.

“We have a range of river and fishery improvement projects in the area but there is nothing currently planned for the Abbey Mill Stream.”

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