Dr David Summers of the Game Conservancy Trust
major cause of the decline in stocks of wild
game fish in Britain is habitat degradation
caused by ever intensifying forms of land use.
Fortunately, however, much of this degradation
may be reversed. At the Game Conservancy Trust,
we have been performing studies to see just
how successful habitat restoration really is.
study commenced in 1993 on the River Piddle
in Dorset on the Tolpuddle fishery belonging
to Richard Slocock, REFFIS Secretary. There
we initially experimented with techniques
such as building weirs, coppicing trees, creating
cover structures for trout and cleaning spawning
gravels. However, it soon became apparent
that the habitat at Tolpuddle was very good
relative to much of the River Piddle, where,
cattle had free access to the banks, and consequently,
vegetation was eaten down, leaving little
cover for fish. Further to this, cattle even
eat the weed in the river and push the banks
in, making the river wider, shallow and silty.
demonstrate how easy it might be to restore
such habitat, in the autumn of 1994 we created
a sequence of new pools in a badly damaged
tributary. Then, in the spring of 1995 a fence
was erected. By the summer of 1995 the change
was astonishing! The bankside vegetation had
made a remarkable recovery and the stream
was narrow and fast with a clean gravel bed.
On electro-fishing in the autumn we found
that numbers of wild brown trout had increased
about six-fold in the improved areas, whereas
in sections, which had been, left unfenced,
numbers had hardly changed. Since that time,
numbers of trout have continued to increase
throughout the Piddle thanks particularly
to a very generous grant towards fencing work
given by Wessex Water plc to many owners of
fishing rights along the River. Wessex Water
has also taken steps to improve low flows
caused by abstractions.
to the success of the River Piddle work, in
conjunction with Dr Nick Giles and Associates,
we have commenced similar studies on the River
Avon at Malmesbury and on the River Wylye
in Wiltshire to see if habitat restoration
is as successful on larger rivers.
the work we have done so far I believe there
is tremendous potential to improve opportunities
for fishing in Britain through habitat restoration.
If you would like to do it yourself then I
suggest you obtain Helping Fish in Lowland
Streams, from The Game Conservancy's Sales
Centre at Fordingbridge, price £3.50 inc.
Game Conservancy Trust. Fordingbridge. Hampshire.
WILD TROUT SOCIETY
YEAR OF PROGRESS, writes Mike Weaver
Wild Trout Society, the organisation created
to provide a powerful united voice for all
who love wild trout, completed its first year
on 1st March 1998 - a year in which the society
made rapid strides towards achieving its initial
objectives, and which culminated with the
publication of its first Yearbook.
rehabilitation and improvement of wild trout
habitat is at the forefront of WTS activities
and the first project at Amesbury on the River
Avon was completed in October 1997. A 400yd
stretch was re-profiled to reduce the width,
increase flow and depth, and to restore the
pool/rifle sequence. The Game Conservancy
will monitor the success of this joint project
with the E.A. and Salisbury & District
Angling Club through regular surveys.
first phase of a wild trout project on the
Duchy of Cornwall fishery on the upper Dart
system started on the 15th March 1998 with
the introduction of voluntary catch-and-release
on three tributaries and a slot limit on the
West Dart. The aim of the project is to restore
the middle sized and larger trout, which many
experienced Dartmoor anglers believe to have
declined. Funding is now being sought for
a major study into one of these streams, looking
at issues like spawning gravels, invertebrates,
acidification, erosion and the impact of livestock
levels, with a view to producing a blue-print
for managing fragile moorland fisheries.
in 1998 the WTS announced The Famous Grouse
Wild Trout Society Conservation Award for
excellence in the field of wild trout management
and conservation. The award with a prize of
£2000, is open to angling organisations, individuals,
owners and managers, and will be made to what
the independent panel of judges considers
the best wild trout project on river or lake.
The presentation will be made at a dinner
sponsored by the Arundell Arms Hotel.