September 29, 2009
Well I’m nearly there, not quite having covered everything I had planned but certainly getting close, and have covered the more important sites! It is amusing how much I was looking forward to the electro fishing season starting, and now I am quite pleased that the end is in sight. Once I have had a little bit of time off (with plenty of rod and line fishing – rain and river level permitting) I will then set about that task of data inputting and analysis.
Last week was another busy week, I am struggling to recall all of the sites we covered and where we got to on which day! We started by undertaking a series of surveys on Chipping brook, in part to help the Hodder consultitative’s sea trout project. Although we found no fin clipped trout juveniles, we found an excellent population of trout fry up towards the release ponds. Andy Blezard who is working on the project was not surprised by the lack of clipped fish as in the area surveyed the resident fish will hold their territory, and the clipped juveniles will drop lower and lower down until they find suitable habitat. This might actually be beneficial in making sure the released fish head to sea and return as sea trout. We surveyed a tributary of Chipping brook, which was absolutely full of trout fry and will be one of the best sites on the Hodder. Lower down on Chipping brook we saw a marked improvement of both Salmon and Trout, but quite excitingly we found a good number of Brook lamprey, both the Adults and the Juveniles, I even managed to get “nipped” by an adult!
Tuesday we were on Langden to finish off the last of this years surveys on the Hodder. We found the Langden to be in absolutely fantastic condition, including finding both Sea trout and Salmon ADULTS!
On Wednesday we surveyed the Stainforth Beck sub-catchment, we found improvements on last year, but still no salmon juveniles, and a lower than expected number of trout fry, this is certainly not due to water quality, as the invertebrate surveys have shown Stainforth to be near pristine. I suspect that the shallow gravel substrate with under lying bedrock result in higher than average redd washout. Later in the day we headed to Wigglesworth where we reported what at first look seemed to be slurry pollution, however we retracted this as we discovered that the source was a farmer cleaning his land drains, although not as harmful as slurry this kind of diffuse pollution can also be damaging, inhibiting invertebrate populations, smothering eggs, within the redds, and also causing increased mucus production on fish gills, which in turn causes higher mortality rates.
Later on that evening was the RFCA meeting, which was held in Read constitutional club this time due to the fire at the Swan & Royal in Clitheroe. Much was discussed and plenty of information was passed around, including a succinct but long report on the trusts activities and upcoming plans.
Thursday we undertook 2 quantitative surveys on Long Preston Beck, the results were interesting, but a little disappointing. The amusing (although not at the time) incident was running the trucks battery flat a mile down a good off road track, and in a place next to the river where no other vehicle could get to! Thankfully George Howarth from Baileys (our main contractor for river works) was nearby and after attempting and failing to make it down the off road track, we removed his car battery, took it on foot to the truck, managed to jump start the truck and then go and pull George’s Van out! A big thank you to George, as otherwise I had a long walk home!
Friday we surveyed Brants Gill in Horton on Ribblesdale with the Help of Ian Fleming who is the River Keeper for Manchester Anglers Association. We found a few Salmon fry but good numbers of trout fry, the most satisfying part was the discovery of salmon fry further up Brants Gill than last year, not far from where is emerges from the Aquifer!
One more week to go, an I am as I write this two days in, and feeling very very tired!
September 21, 2009
Another week goes by and we have just two weeks left after last. We are now running into a new problem, the water is too low!! The typical response of a salmon angler, waters to low or it’s to high, to coloured or to clear – never happy! We concentrated on detailed quantitative surveys last week. We started on Long Preston Beck near the confluence with the Ribble, then gathering info far up to the upper catchment.
Tuesday the trust’s 4×4 was in for an MOT, which thank fully it passed with flying colours. After that we headed to Waddington to undertake a detailed survey, we found great results as with last year, including 2 brook Lamprey which is double what we found last year. One was a Juvenile and the other an Adult. The way to determine the difference is that the Juvenile have no eyes, where as the adults are eyed. The Juveniles are also Brown in colour, where as the adults are silvery. Juveniles before maturing into adults are also bigger than than the adults, this is because once matured the Brook Lamprey does not feed, a little like the Atlantic salmon!
Wednesday we undertook survey on the Trust’s habitat schemes on Rathmel beck and the rest of the subcatchment. We had some fantastic results, but unfortunately we found a serious pollution. We found the pollution by spotting long stringy fungus in the beg, and a sweet fermenting/rotting smell. We rang it straight through to the EA hotline and within an hour a local EA pollution officer came out on site and identified the source of the pollution. This is now being dealt with by the EA. This is a great result, for a dreadful find. The EA officer (Neil Finch) said that it was in fact a quite serious silage liquor leak into the beck and much praise should be given to the EA for sourcing it and putting a stop to it so quickly.
Thursday we surveyed Tems beck in three locations, finding White Clawed crayfish and top Trout populations, however very few salmon fry. Later on we headed to Bashall to undertake a couple of surveys. There was a definite improvement from last year with both salmon and trout fry present, as well as some sizable brown trout. However this beck is still far below parr.
Friday we headed to stock beck near the confluence with the Ribble. I started the morning setting the stop nets, as I was setting the stop net I spotted a wasp nest right above my head. I carefully freed my stop net and moved away steadily but quickly, just as I thought I was clear I got stung right in the back of the head! I then pegged it as when a wasp stings it releases Pheromones which attract other wasps to defend the nest. Once I was clear I had to sit down for a while as the throbbing in my head was making me a little dizzy. We got the survey done, and then I decided to call it a day, well apart from some paperwork. Although the sting is gone, I’m still carrying the lump which is a little itchy!
September 16, 2009
I’m guessing my glee at the river running at summer low will not be matched by the salmon anglers out there. However, it is certainly giving me the chance to get plenty of surveys done. These surveys really help us to identify long running problems and being out on the river bank helps us to pick up pollution incidents. This means we can get these thing rectified and increase the number of salmon (and trout) that anglers can catch. I should apologise for not getting my blog done monday but these summer levels are meaning that the surveys are non stop!
Monday we did 5 fry surveys, Kirk beck at Bolton by Bowland, and Pan & Hellifield beck. Our most surprising survey of last year couldn’t be surveyed this year as the bankside vegetation and macrophytes have grown across the beck. This is a natural occurence and to be expected, but a bit disappointing that it means there is less fish habitat. In the evening Eddie the Baliff for Ribble Valley borough council’s fishing popped into the office to talk about various ways that he might be able to help the trust to improve the river and/or education. We hope to move forward with Eddie by installing another Trout-in-the-Classroom tank in a school in Clitheroe.
Tuesday we undertook 3 surveys on Stock Beck and 2 on a tributary of Stock Beck. The most positive find was that salmon are now spawning in Barnoldswick itself! What a result! This is a result of all the work we have done in conjunction with the EA, in improving habitat, access and water quality. I headed back to the office to have a meeting with our Chairman, Stephen, and the new Fisheries Team leader, Area Manager and Fisheries Technical specialist all from the EA. What a positive meeting, a really good team that are keen to not just work with us but make a real difference to the river, I hope we can all work together as we discussed as the Ribble will continue to go from strength to strength.
Wednesday we had a meeting with Ribble Valley Borough Council to discuss a proposal for change of use of Primrose lodge in Clitheroe, this was a great meeting and a great scheme, that will, if we’re lucky, mean that salmon can ascend Mearly brook to spawn all the way through Clitheroe itself and into the great becks above the Town! In the Evening it was the Calder Catchment Fisheries Consultative meeting. This was a good meeting where we talked and informed each other of the various things going on in the Calder catchment. It was a shame that attendance was low, but I hope that perhaps wit the work that is going on more people will be willing to get involved in this group and the work it’s doing.
Thursday we were back onto surveys and we undertook 5 surveys on the Skirden catchment, some mixed results and interesting finds, including 2 pollution incidents that we reported to Fred Higham (Pollution officer of the RFCA) who passed on the details to the EA, who have followed up the discoveries.
Friday we undertook a quantitative survey on Wigglesworth, this was the first survey being done this year as part of the monitoring for potential impacts from the Settle Hydro scheme. We also undertook 2 5 minute fry surveys which were really useful. Our surprise of the day was the Game Keeper for the lower section of the popping up and asking us to check a Mink trap located on the far bank of our survey site. When I asked whether he caught many he held up the biggest mink I have ever seen!
A small mink!
Saturday we went out to finish off the surveys on Skirden. Which we achieved! Another couple of weeks we will get pretty good coverage of the Catchment, long may the dry whether hold!
September 9, 2009
Well My aim of 300 electro fishing surveys has no been dashed. The last three weeks has seen me struggling to find any suitable water level to conduct surveys, and as a result I will have to accept that I can’t get 300 surveys done. This is a bit disappointing as the early survey season weeks were very productive. However I can say that we have an excellent picture of salmonid populations on the Calder, Lower Ribble and most of the Hodder. I hope in the last4 weeks of the season that I can get us over the 200 survey mark. We have had to reprioritize our sites concentrating on repeat visits and areas of particular interest to try and get some overall picture that will enable us to concentrate our work for next year.
I did take advantage of the Bank Holiday last week to get out and fish, all be it on a Resevoir and not River! I had an enjoyable day on Fewston in Yorkshire, catching a couple of Wild Browns and a Rainbow trout, all on the Dry Fly, and if I had been on the ball I could have double or tripled that catch!
Tuesday was an office day, and it kept me inside and dry, I summarised our American Signal Crayfish trial results and sent that out to the various organisations, as well as getting survey data entered, finalising some grant applications, discussions with the Association of Rivers Trust on a few catchment issues, and organising the works for our River Don fish pass and the Fish easement on Hellifield Beck.
Wednesday was a complete washout, with admin up to date I went looking for surveys sites, but all of our becks were running to high and coloured, so in the mid afternoon I decided to try my hand at a different kind of fish survey using a rod and line!! Needless to say I can assure everyone there are salmon in the Hodder!! Although I never managed to bank the fish due to careless fishing!
Thursday I confirmed with Landowners that we would start the two previously mentioned projects at the next opportunity and sent of our commencement of works card to the EA. I also discussed a potential project for the Hodder next year and chased up a few loose ends.
Friday was much the same emails and correspondance. It is very frustrating not being able to survey, when I set myself such an ambitious target, but I have been assured that we are due a high pressure any time soon, so fingers crossed!!
September 1, 2009
The weather….. what more do I say, early in the week, we managed to survey the spawning channels on the Dunsop and were encouraged by yet another set of A grades on the Upper Spawning channel. The lower spawning channel requires some more work, improving flow, but still produced good results. We also surveyed Pendleton brook just below Pendleton and were really encouraged by great results, despite a tributary being poor.
Tuesday was a busy day as I had a site meeting with Baileys (our contractor for the majority of our works) to discuss modifications to the design of the Fish pass on the River Don ( Calder Catchment). Followed by a stint on Radio Lancashire. We squeezed in a couple of surveys, and I fell guilty to the one thing I tell other not to, I looked at a tiny brook and pronounced the survey to be a waste as it was to small for salmonids. How wrong I was!! The brook was full of trout fry, in no small part due to the work of the Clitheroe Estate fencing off becks to improve habitat.
The rain Tuesday night and Wednesday morning resulted in no survey work Wednesday, but I still was non-stop with correspondence, reporting, data entry, and projects!
Thursday I managed to get out and survey Bashall Brook. This brook is one that has three sections, a piece above a weir impassable to migratory fish, a section down to Cow Hey Brook, and one below. The top two sections perform well for the respective Fish able to reach it, however due to intensive farming, Below Cow Hey brook just doesn’t stand a chance. The contrast in the results is so stark it is depressing, but a perfect example of how modern “Factory” farming can ruin the environment. Not all the farms below Cow Hey brook are this way, with several supporting habitat schemes and river improvements.
Friday was another wash out, we had aimed to survey Chipping brook to provide data to the Hodder Consultative on the performance of their Sea trout Project. Early morning correspondence between us resulted in cancellation, the correspondence went something like: “Andy can’t get a quad bike across Chipping Brook”, “well there isn’t much hope for us standing in it then!”. We utilised the day to get more Data entry done, and send off a few more of the bits of information required for upcoming projects, both this year and next.
I had hoped that I could then get back to surveys this week, but it looks bleak with the Ribble Running at what must be near 3 foot and coloured. We still have a lot of surveys to do, and I am now nervous as to hitting our targets, so sorry salmon anglers, I’m praying for a dry September!!
Oh I was going through some old photos from January of this year and found one I had taken of a rather sizable dead salmon Kelt. I was out walking my dog one weekend, and was counting how many kelts I could see on the Ribble just below Calder Foot. I came across this “little” which I got the dog to stand next to for scale!
My dog is nearly a metre from rear end to nose and weighs around 16kg or 35lbs, So this fish when it entered the river was at least that size!