More fishing and more fish

In 2018, the Foundation began its first project designed primarily for the benefit of coarse fish

The Foundation’s work has quite often been seen as for the benefit of one fish species – the Atlantic salmon. This however, is nowhere near the whole picture. Whether it is reducing siltation in the tributaries, reducing the amount of phosphate washing into the river or pressing for less abstraction of river water, nearly everything we do is for the benefit of all fish species and the natural environments of the Wye and Usk.

However, earlier last year we started our first project whose primary beneficiaries are the Wye’s coarse fish. The objective of our Environment Agency Coarse Habitat (EACH) project (no need to spell out who our partners are!) is to work out what the main factors influencing the number of coarse species are and, based on that, to take actions to boost stocks.

Our first task was to analyse 15,000 Fishing Passport catch returns from the last five years to establish the health of fish stocks in the English part of the river. We then undertook a survey, looking at four key areas of interest: coarse woody debris (otherwise known as snags to coarse anglers!), graded willow banks, ranunculus and areas of deep, slow flow. After mapping this out using aerial imagery, we then confirmed it through a boat survey.

That was the easy bit! We then had to compare the catches against the habitat types. Thankfully, there are clever algorithms that can help with this and the results quite quickly concluded that the most significant positive influence of the four habitat types on coarse species was the abundance of ranunculus.

"Our survey showed that the single biggest factor determining coarse fish stocks was the amount of ranunculus"

Downstream of Hereford there seemed generally to be plenty of the highly protected plant. Focusing upstream of Hereford therefore, we identified two sites that we believed could be improved significantly for the benefit of coarse fish. The first was a site that was suffering from high levels of erosion through damage from stock incursion. Working with the landowner, we will install the necessary infrastructure so that cattle and sheep do not need to use the river for drinking water. The ranunculus that was absent previously will be given the chance to recolonise.

The second site was a nice gravel bank that was being over-grazed by cattle and sheep. Here we will install a single strand of electric fencing to keep animals off an area that would otherwise be suitable for ranunculus. We can only use single strand, as anything else would be washed away each winter.

Want to know more? Click the link below to find out how you can help protect and improve coarse fish stocks.

We are very grateful to our partners the Environment Agency for their support in this project. We hope to be able to extend this work and ensure that the Wye’s habitat is as good as it can be for both adult and juvenile coarse species.