Tag: avonroachproject

What next for our Barbel?

It’s just over a week ago since my talk at the Barbel Society conference and I have been overwhelmed by the response on social media, on email and by phone. I thank each and every one of you who has taken the trouble to weigh into this debate. The fact that you support my views means the world to me, especially at a time when I was doubting if I had got things right in fact.

The decline is real!

What has emerged from this affair is that most of us who love our natural fishing feel the same. We have all witnessed a decline in wild fish stocks year upon year and we are all losing faith in the statuary powers that be to do anything to reverse this trend. In fact, many of us believe that various bodies wilfully refuse to see the issues that we recognise as being paramount. I guess in the face of a catastrophic situation in so many of our natural waters many of us are feeling desperate, let down and powerless to act.
Of course action is what we all want to see, not just more empty talking. I believe that the excellent Anglers Mail are planning a story on the issue and I hope to use one of my columns to explaining why I feel so passionately cormorants must be tackled. A great friend Justin Whitfield who is owner of fisheries in both Gloucestershire and the south east  said to me yesterday “this is a war and one we cannot afford to lose.”

What can we do?

But what am I doing personally? I am thinking it might be a step forward if all of us help compile a list of our waters where we know cormorants have been a destructive factor. I am arranging a face to face meeting with Martin Salter, hopefully on the banks of the Wensum where I hope to put in place a proper plan of action by the time the cormorants reappear in the late autumn. I am meeting John Wilson on saturday 16th June ( how apt is that?) before he returns to Thailand. John was the first to recognise the impact cormorants would have on our sport and lives and it would be good to have his words of wisdom to guide us now. I am also renewing my own shot gun licence. I am also in constant touch with Trevor Harrop of the Avon Roach Project. He is the greatest of allies and if anyone has followed the route of action not words, it is Trevor. I hope we can all learn from each other-but do that FAST! By November, when our skies darken again with birds from the east, I want us all to be in a position to deal with them better than we have done in the past.”

Churchillian words from my heart gentlemen!

John Bailey

 

 

The angling week that left me with more questions than answers- part 2

The question  declining roach stocks has been a hot topic on Facebook with many passioned points of view, embellished by the wisdom and insight of Trevor Harrop who runs the Avon Roach Project.

The decline of roach

I’m fairly new to social media but when I posted a message saying I felt the major and central answer to the decline on the river Wensum was the presence of cormorants these last decades, my Facebook account went barmy. It is generally agreed that cormorants are a factor but getting rid of them would be no silver bullet, a phrase everyone likes to use these days.

All manner of reasons were put around why our Norfolk rivers, the Wensum principally, doesn’t seem to support big roach anymore. All sorts of solutions were offered, predictably alliance between individuals and statutory bodies, fundraising, projects, monitoring, data collection, meetings, committees, you name it. Pretty much everything but direct action.

The Snail?

One of the comments really struck me, though. It was suggested that roach grow slowly to about six years of age and then catapult forward in growth, largely because they change their diet to snails. Could it be that the Wensum doesn’t hold enough snails anymore to support big, fast-growing roach? I took this on board and was nearly convinced.

Then, I thought of the stretch of Wensum between Elsing and Lyng a few years back. At the time, it was heaving with good roach between a few ounces and a pound and a half. Over a couple of autumns and winters, I also either saw or caught plenty of fish between one pound fourteen ounces and two pounds nine ounces. Obviously, given a chance, the Wensum can still support big roach. The question is, with the amount of cormorants, do those roach ever seriously get the chance to live for 10 years or more. My gut feeling is a big no.

Cormorant population explosion

I’ve also been trying to find out why there has been such a massive increase in the growth of continental cormorants over the past 40 years or so. Their numbers have spiralled from virtually nothing to over one and a half million. Many of those have come to the UK because the continent has not been hospitable enough for them. What on earth caused this amazing increase in the first place?

Sometimes, it just seems so easy. I remember back 10 days or so, on the Island at Kingfisher Lake, when Enoka and dear friend Mick Munns just couldn’t go wrong. You walk off thinking you know all the answers and that you are really king of the lake.

How quickly you can be brought back to earth.

John Bailey