The upper reaches of the River Lambourn is a winterbourne which means that it doesn’t usually flow year round. Most autumns the stream completely dries up between Lambourn and Great Shefford and any fish (usually brown trout or grayling) in that part of the stream are in danger. Fish are capable of swimming many kilometres up and down a river but they often get trapped in pools as the water level drops and will eventually die as the oxygen levels drop in the stagnating pools and the water completely evaporates.
So the Fisheries Department of the Environment Agency sends out teams to rescue fish in danger to help keep fish populations on rivers like the Lambourn as abundant as possible. We caught up with Adam Hillard, Environmental Agency Fisheries Officer for the Kennet and Pang Rivers, and his team when they were rescuing trout from Eastbury earlier this week.
Video of the Rescue (click arrow to play)
Interview with Adam Hillard, Fisheries Officer for the Kennet and Pang Rivers
How do you catch the fish?
We use a technique called electric fishing. This allows us to net the fish and put them into bins, they are then moved to our fish transport trailer.
Why do you catch them and why is it important to do it now?
The Fisheries department have a responsibility to protect fisheries and the environment. We carry out fish rescues for this reason. It is important to do these rescues before levels get too low, but if they are too high the fish are harder to catch.
How has this year compared to last year?
Numbers were lower this year, probably because the river has not been high enough for long enough. This means that fish have not had time to recolonize this area of the river. The average size of the fish was large, supporting the fact that this bigger more mobile fish have migrated from downstream.
Could fishing be a contribution to low numbers?
Rod and line fishing would not normally contribute to low numbers of fish in the river but obviously poaching and other illegal fishing activities will have an impact. So if people suspect that someone is fishing illegally than please call the EA on 0800 80 70 60. Please also remember that there is a closed season for brown trout on rivers which is 1st October to 31st March, to protect the fish when they spawn in late December.
Where do you release the fish?
There is no set place to release the fish, only downstream on the same river with the owner’s permission and where we know the flows are good.
What should members of the public do if they see fish still in this part of the stream where we know it will dry up?
In the first instance please give the incident line 0800 80 70 60 and one of our Fisheries Officer will be able to advise you. Or contact Eastbury Village Warden James Potter on 07899 795060 or [email protected]
Why is it important for the stream to have a good population of fish in it?
Fish are an important part of the ecosystem. They are a key indicator for the health of a stream and it makes people feel better that they have fish in their bit of river. Chalk streams are very rare. England has 85% of the world’s chalkstream, this makes chalkstream trout a very important fish.