Angling: Re-stocking is proving a reason to be cheerful

Leeds Amalgamation volunteers netting Roach Roundhay small lake in 1982.
Leeds Amalgamation volunteers netting Roach Roundhay small lake in 1982.
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Only three weeks now to the start of the new river season, a time that most of us think only of big catches, warm sunny days, no wind and every cast perfect.

Thoughts of losing a hook every throw, getting stuck and blanking while freezing your bits off won’t kick in for another six months, so now seems a good time to look at the reasons to be positive for the coming year.

Re-stocking of river fisheries though very different to the stocking of commercial stillwaters can, and has, given some remarkable results over the years, making those of us old enough to remember, wonder why the results have not been followed up on the upper reaches of our rivers.

Way back in 1974 the NRA, together with local angling clubs, took part in the huge stocking of roach to the Ouse system – fish shipped from Denmark’s river Guden and released at points from York’s Nayburn Lock to the middle reaches of the Ure and lower Swale.

With roach only making brief appearances in anglers’ catches through the late 70s, some at the top thought the whole project a failure (and still do). But most anglers never doubted the success of the stocking, and they were proved right during the early 80s with some massive match and pleasure weights from Boroughbridge through Dunsforth to the Ouse and downstream to below York. These fish, in my opinion, were definitely offspring of the Danish stockfish, as are the fish making up the lesser catches of today.

Abstraction, flooding, farming, climate change and a host of other excuses usually fall off the tongue when asking for reasons regarding the changes and decline of certain species on the Ouse and Ure.

But while stocking proved brilliant decades ago, and recently the Hampshire Avon’s rejuvenation project has had the full backing of the Environment Agency, it seems that North Yorkshire has to stand on its own. Fortunately, over six years ago Leeds and District took steps to do just that, putting in place an experimental barbel stocking programme.

Around 100 second-year class fish were released each season over five years at Linton on Ouse and Hunters Lodge on the Ure.

A remarkable match result through the winter should be proof enough to even the most sceptical that fisheries management and stocking policies on rivers can and do work.

First, second and third places were taken by anglers whose catches consisted of single barbel in the three to five pound bracket – spot-on weights for the year classes of the stocked fish, and the first time in over 30 years a match at the venue has had a barbel one, two and three.

The Ouse stocking project put together by Leeds we know doesn’t make the rivers underlying problems disappear, but ignoring the need to give nature a helping hand I think is reckless to say the least.

My first involvement with netting and restocking was over 35 years ago, removing roach from the small lake at Roundhay Park which was then used as a fishery and stock pond.

The netted fish each weighed around 8oz and were released into Leeds’ newly purchased prize asset Knotford Lagoon at Poole in Wharfedale.

At the time no significant catches of roach were reported from the new fishery, but within five years of the stocking I witnessed Knotford produce large numbers of roach to over 2lb for most anglers that fished for them.

It was this that convinced me that doing something is always better than looking for excuses, moaning, and doing nothing. I just hope the river results this season agree with me.