Aiming to get more newcomers fishing while improving biodiversity, Kingfisher Pond is a great example of what’s possible with a vision, teamwork and a little help from EA Rod Licence funds from the Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP). Dom Garnett spoke to some of those behind the inspiring project at Reading’s Sportfish Game Fishing Centre.
In an era where ponds are steadily disappearing, it’s always heartening to hear of the creation of new freshwater habitat. Not only are small stillwaters a magnet for wildlife of many kinds, they are a godsend for new anglers and especially youngsters. Friendlier and less daunting than large lakes or rivers, they tend to be easier to get to grips with, while also introducing young minds to the magic of waterside wildlife.
So, when Sportfish began talking to the Environment Agency and the Englefield Estate Trust about creating a new, smaller lake at their retail and fishing site near Theale, Reading, it seemed a potential win-win for angling and biodiversity alike.
“Sportfish and I had been working on various ideas to improve the fishery they had recently taken over management of at their site near Theale” recalls Fisheries Officer Adam Hilliard. “This involved creating a better fishing experience for current anglers visiting the lake, but we were both keen to explore opportunities to encourage non-anglers and juniors into fishing. This is where the idea of creating a small pond connected to the larger main lake came about.”
“This smaller, well stocked pond would be a fabulous addition to the various events held a Sportfish, as well as providing a useful fishing resource for juniors throughout the year.”
From pipe dream to finished pond
It would take a great deal of careful planning and hard graft to realise that vision, not to mention smart use of resources and partnership working. This is also where the Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP) came in.
“We worked together to ensure this idea was made a reality,” says Adam. “This initially involved a successful bid for Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP) money which allowed the project to get off the ground. Because the project was focused on encouraging non-anglers, and in particular young anglers into the sport, it ticked all the right boxes. The money would help pay for materials and hire of excavation equipment, while Sportfish match funded this by providing labour to get the project completed on the ground.”
Progress was quick once the plans and funding were established. It was started in early 2019, with both Sportfish and the EA working alongside each other during the project. The plan was to have the pond finished in time for it to bed in for the Sportfish Show in mid-May.
“It was a very challenging time frame, but we smashed it in the end!” says Adam. “The final jobs were to seed the area around the pond with grass and to seed the pond with trout ready for eager young anglers. The result was fantastic and the pond was busy for both days of the show. Nor was this a one-off and it has gone on to be popular with juniors and first-time anglers throughout the rest of the year. All in all, it’s a project that the EA and Sportfish are quite rightly very proud of.”
Above: Besides trout, the pond has rapidly become a home for all manner of life
Building towards a brighter future
“The realisation of the pond has been absolutely brilliant” said Sportfish Retail Manager Jonathan Randall, another key figure in the project. “The Environment Agency and Adam in particular were hugely supportive and as well as the vital match funding, which we wouldn’t have managed without, they also gave a lot of man hours into making it happen.”
“Ever since the opening it generated great interest with the young. We used to see lots of youngsters come here with parents or friends to fish the main lake- but it can be quite big and daunting for a newcomer and expectations can quickly be diminished. The pond is much easier to get to grips with. They can see and hopefully hook a fish quite quickly, and it really captures their excitement!”
The pond is regularly stocked with trout averaging around the pound mark, with a simple pay-by-weight system. At just under a fiver per pound of fish, it is highly affordable for any family to bring the kids and catch a fish or two without breaking the bank, while Sportfish also offer friendly, expert tuition and sell affordable beginner’s kits that allow newcomers to tackle up with a rod, reel and fly line for a very modest outlay. It’s also worth reminding any friends and family with kids that at present, kids of 12 and under don’t need a rod licence, whilst those of 13-16 can apply for one for free!
“Once they’ve caught one, they quickly get the bug!” says Jonathan. “We’ve seen a big increase in new anglers and people returning to angling- often bringing their kids with them. For the time being, Covid has meant we’ve had to close the pond temporarily, but we’re aiming to open it as soon as we can. It’s great to see the current upsurge in angling and we’re confident the pond will be as popular as ever.”
Another huge bonus has been the wildlife. In fact, there are times you would never imagine you were right on the edge of a business park and busy road and rail links!
“It has matured quickly” says Jonathan. “It’s fantastic to see so much greenery and wildlife. At present, the swifts love coming in to catch insects over the pond- and the Egyptian geese love it, too.”
The story doesn’t stop just here, however, as more improvements are planned in the area, including the planting of new trees and aquatic plants. This is so often the additional benefit of a success story; it is addictive and once you start, it’s inspiring to see what else can be done.
Further reading and links
For more on the Sportfish Game Fishing Centre and fishery at Theale, Reading, see: www.gamefishingcentre.co.uk
You can see some revealing footage of the pond’s creation in this special YouTube film, which includes stunning drone views of the site as it came together:
To see some more examples of Fisheries Improvement Programme (FIP) projects, take a look at the Environment Agency Blog.
For help and advice for clubs or fisheries looking to apply for funding from the FIP and other funding sources, contact Mark Wilton: AIFadmin@anglingtrust.net