Baby Barbel as a Barometer of our Rivers’ Health

There is a debate raging between the fishery scientists and the angling community which i believe is one of the biggest challenges to our rivers future prosperity and that of two of my most beloved species; Roach and Barbel. Sound dramatic? Well it is!

Baby Barbel on the Wensum

The fact that Robbie Northman and I have seen numerous barbel in the Wensum between 1 and 2 pounds in weight, over the last few months, is of enormous significance I feel.
As there has been no stocking of small barbel into the river for over 5 years these are obviously grow ons.
They prove that there are mature barbel in the river and that the spawning beds are at in some respects viable.
They also prove that the river has enough of the right food to support these barbel from the egg to at least 3 years of age.

Fishery Science

There are those in positions of authority, namely the fishery scientists at the EA, who would have us believe that the Wensum is not capable of producing and nurturing a barbel population but theses young fish surely give the lie to this.

This of course links to the whole debate as to whether rivers like the Wensum should be stocked with barbel and even with roach. The barbel society have been fighting the cause for restocking but have found it equally difficult to get commited nationwide action . I think it is fair to say most anglers would say restocking is well worth a try whilst fishery scientists insist it is not advisable and the whole future of our rivers lies in habitat improvement alone. This I believe is set to become a major debate soon, even if it is not now.

The River Roach debate

My article in the Anglers Mail and my recent Facebook post on the River Roach debate has caused a storm. Most who wrote into AM letters were in support of my belief that in the absence of support from the authorities my plan to move healthy unwanted roach from a nearby lakes was a viable and even desirable option. There is at least one example in the my locality where this has been a success and not detrimental to the existing roach populations. I’m sure there must be more?

However i have been roundly taken to task by Trevor Harrop of the Avon Roach Project who has suggested the ‘science’ does not support the idea. I have great respect for Trevor and what they are achieving at the ARP and the knowledge gained from this project will be invaluable. In the real world sometimes we can perhaps be blinded by science and perhaps practical solutions for the short term can co-exist with long term. Otherwise could it be a case for our sport of ‘fiddling while Rome burns’!

What are your thoughts? Do you have any examples of your rivers when restocking with these species has worked I wonder? 
It really would be great to hear from you and at least explore partial solutions that could work now not in a far distant future.