Anglers help needed for Upper Trent Barbel/Chub study

We had a very interesting trip up to Staffordshire recently to chat to Environment Agency Fisheries Officers Darin Alberry and Mick Buxton. They were keen to tell us about the Barbel and Chub study the the EA are running on both The Upper Trent and The Dove in an attempt to understand fish stocks better so that resources to improve the fishing can be directed to the right projects. Darin was full of enthusiasm for the study and keen to help us understand it’s importance for anglers.

“We get lots of conflicting reports from anglers with regards to fish stocks, some say the fishing, particularly for barbel and chub is declining, whilst others feel fish stocks are in a healthy state. Of course we do carry out regular fish survey work, but that doesn’t give us a complete picture as we don’t have the resources needed to survey every stretch. That’s where this study comes in.”

Darin Alberry working hard with colleagues on another fish monitoring project in the Midlands.

Darin then outlined how the scheme would work, with anglers being asked to record what they catch on each fishing session they undertake on the rivers.

“We want anglers to tell us when they fished, for how long they fished and also details of their catches, such as fish length. We also ask anglers to tell us where approximately they were fishing. Of course we realise that anglers aren’t going to want to give away where their best catching areas are exactly, so we have created maps that break the rivers up into sections a few miles long, all we need to know is what reach you were fishing, not exact locations. This will allow us to build up an detailed overall picture of how chub and barbel stocks are distributed. More importantly still, we want anglers to take scale samples of the fish they catch so that we can analyse these and work out growth rates, so that we can judge how healthy the river ecology is and how well the fish are growing in different parts of the rivers.”

Mick Buxton demonstrates the technique for taking a scale sample.

The recording process, looked pretty simple to us and should only take a minute or two at the end of a days fishing, but will provide crucial data, to help the Fisheries team direct their resources to tackling areas where fish stocks are low or growth rates are poor. That’s got to be a good thing for anglers on these fantastic rivers.

Alex shows off just one of his many chunky chub

We were keen to see a demonstration of how scale samples are taken and of course that requires a fish ! So our Regions co-ordinator Alex Clegg made sure he brought some tackle along. Alex is a talented river angler, but even he was taken aback by just how his short session turned out. With anglers in pegs upstream and downstream struggling, it was a bite a chuck for Alex fishing maggots under a chubber float down the far bank and the bites weren’t from small fish either. Again and again Alex struck into one chunky looking chub after another, within a couple of hours he had amassed around 60lb of fish ! Local club official and AT staff member Mark Wilton was soon watching slack jawed as Alex landed yet another beautiful Chub and at this point offered his rod to Mark so he could get in on the fun. Third run down and the float dipped again, but this time instead of a chub, Mark landed a pristine brown trout of around 3lb. What a result ! It certainly showed that stocks in this particular area were healthy, despite the fact that this reach had suffered a major fish kill due to pollution a decade earlier.

Mark with his stunning Brownie

The scheme has already been run on the Middle and Lower Trent and the data has proved invaluable for Darin’s EA Colleagues. Similar schemes have also been run in other parts of the country, such as the Severn Catchment Predator Study and angler based studies in the Norfolk Broads looking at Pike and Bream stocks. We think these angler based “Citizens Science” projects are absolutely fantastic, not only do we learn a huge amount about fish stock density and distribution, but it connects anglers with the ongoing work of EA Fisheries Teams and ensures they are an integral part of making sure that valuable resources are targeted towards problem areas and hopefully fishing for everyone is improved in the long term. That’s got to be good news.

To get involved with the scheme, please drop an email to Darin Alberry via  darin.alberry@environment-agency.gov.uk

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