Humpbacks in the pink on county’s doorstep

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Will we be seeing grizzlies on the weirs of Nayburn, Linton or Boroughbridge?

Pacific Pink or Humpback Salmon, normally associated with wildlife films showing the bears of North America and Canada making the most of an easy meal, have been reported in the sea and tidal rivers of north east England.

Eight recorded humpback, or pinks (oncorhynchus goruscha) – a native of the Pacific Basin – have been caught this season, a couple off-shore in trawler nets, but, more surprisingly, the others by rod and line anglers fishing the rivers Wear and Tyne.

Both estuaries are only a little more than 100 miles from Yorkshire’s main river artery, the Humber.

As Yorkshire’s salmon season comes to an end, the heavy rains of the past few days have seen the river levels rise to give perfect conditions for good catches of our native Atlantic Salmon (Salmo Salar). These conditions will also be great for the supposed dreaded humpbacks. I understand the implications and meanings of non-native and invasive species, but find the call to kill any of the Pacific fish caught strange.

The fish obviously haven’t swum the Northwest Passage or travelled the Panama Canal, so are almost certainly lost overspill from the massive stocking of the Barents and White seas over 40 years by the Russians, and have reached our coastline by rounding Norway.

But, why the call to kill? Whales, sharks and even tropical fish have all been welcomed over recent years. Rare birds land every year after being blown off course and are the cause of traffic jams of twitchers all wishing them well.

So why should a salmon with no sense of direction be treated differently?

The Bob-co sponsored Yorkshire Winter League, meanwhile, this week got the season’s matches under way with a close contest on the lower reaches of the river Calder around Altofts.

Winner Martin Highe – drawn end peg at Woodnook – put together 11-13 of roach and dace, using his favourite waggler and caster combination to record his sixth major win of the season. Second-place Steve Raper made it a Mirfield willy worms one/two with 9-10 consisting of perch to over a pound, that he spotted hiding behind his keepnet, with pole-and caster-caught roach taken late in the match giving him the extra ounces needed.

Cleckheaton’s Dave Armitage – fishing under the Angler’s World banner – took 8-14 of dace for a good third place from the next peg to the winner.

Bradford’s Tackle-2-U won the day’s team event with 61 points ahead of Mirfield and Angler’s World, who tied on 57. The city centre’s well-documented flood defence scheme is now moving forward at a pace with visible changes to be seen every day.

Knostrop’s old masonry weir has now been totally removed and replaced with a temporary construction just a few yards upstream, helping to dictate river flows and levels during the piling and building of the new automated airbag weir and fish pass. Good news for invading Pacific Humpbacks!

Above the weir, large earth-moving machinery and barges were put in place for the breaking through and removal of Gibraltar island, merging the river and canal together to provide space to control and balance the extra floodwater.

I was fortunate enough to be on hand to witness and photograph the booms and first breakthrough to creating the new lake like area.