Environment Agency Thames West Area Fisheries Newsletter

New habitats for the Upper Thames!

We have recently undertaken further habitat improvement work on the Upper Thames near Cricklade. This has been done in conjunction with new fish introductions which it is hoped will further improve the Upper Thames fishery.

Historically, dredging was carried out for land drainage and navigational purposes. Sections have been artificially straightened destroying pool and riffle habitats. The removal of thousands of tonnes of gravel substrate from the river during dredging activities has resulted in a lack of shallow gravel fish spawning areas.

Creating the new gravel riffle at Cricklade
Creating the new gravel riffle at Cricklade

In November 2010 we reinstated an existing riffle at Cricklade. This is part of an ongoing plan of enhancements to improve spawning grounds on the Upper Thames. Spawning areas have been improved at Water Eaton (2006) and Cricklade (2008). In 2011 we will continue to look at opportunities to improve river habitat in this area.

In addition to the restoration work, we have  stocked 4750 barbel, since 2007, at Cricklade, Castle Eaton and Hannington Bridge. The fish have been marked with small blue spot on their belly, to help us keep track of how the population is developing. Electrofishing surveys of these sites show encouraging survival rates.

Fisheries Officer Jim Seymour said, “These projects follow recommendations made in the 2007 Upper Thames Barbel Project. The increase in juvenile barbel numbers is encouraging. This has been mainly attributable to recent introductions, however it is hoped that the newly created spawning sites will provide the much needed habitat to help the long term future of this species as well as other gravel spawning species such as chub, dace, gudgeon and brown trout”.


Fisheries suffer as the cold snap hits hard!

A number of fisheries have suffered from fish kills as a result of the freezing weather experienced in December. When fisheries become completely covered with ice levels of oxygen can become dangerously low. If the ice cover lasts for a long time, the dissolved oxygen concentration can fall low enough to cause a fish mortality. The deoxygenation effect is even more pronounced if the ice becomes covered in a layer of snow. The snow stops light passing through the ice, thereby preventing any photosynthesis by the plants.

The most vulnerable waters to ice related mortalities are small, shallow and have high stocking densities. To prevent fish kills on your water try to keep an area free from ice using an aeration system. Aeration not only adds oxygen to the water directly via the bubbles and agitation, but the open area allows for considerable diffusion of oxygen into the lake from the air.

However thick the ice may look don’t walk on it! You risk putting your own life in danger and the safety of those who come to your aid!


The Aliens are coming!

Anglers and other water users alike are being told to be vigilant as two ‘alien invaders’ are threatening to spread to fisheries in Thames West area.

The ‘Killer Shrimp’ as it has been affectionately named (its latin name is Dikerogammarus villosus), is a non-native shrimp that has spread to the UK from Europe. It's a native of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It has spread across most of Europe over the last 10 years via the Danube river. It can grow up to 30mm in length and is much larger than our native freshwater shrimp. It is yellow-brown in colour and has striped or spotted markings on its back.

It kills and eats many native freshwater species including young fish and insects like damselflies. It alters the ecology of the habitats it invades and often kills its prey and leaves it uneaten.The invasive shrimp may bite humans but their bites are no different to insect bites and they pose no risk to human health.

It's been found in the Grafham Water and the Diddington Brook in Cambridgeshire and in the Cardiff Bay and Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir in Port Talbot, South Wales. It may have spread to surrounding areas but at the time of going to press there are no records for the Thames Region.

Photo credit Michal Grabowski, from the GB non-native species secretariat
The Killer Shrimp!
The Killer Shrimp!

The other ‘Alien invader’ which has been found in Thames West Area is the Chinese Mitten Crab. The Chinese Mitten Crab (Eriocheir sinensis, for the more scientifically minded) was first recorded in the tidal section of the  River Thames in 1935. It is readily identified by it’s furry mittens on it’s claw. Females can lay up to a million eggs and the species can damage banks through burrowing activity and is one of the worlds top 100 worst invasive species!

Since 1935 it has become established in the lower Thames and other river systems and is now spreading, with recent records from Sutton Courtenay in Oxfordshire. The crabs migrate from freshwater to more salty water during the autumn. If any angler has spotted one please email  details, such as date and location to the Natural History Museum - http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/mitten-crab/index.html

Photo credit the GB non-native species secretariat
The Chinese Mitten Crab
The Chinese Mitten Crab


Cherwell gets another new backwater!

In conjunction with a local landowner we have recently completed a new backwater on the River Cherwell at Islip, near Kidlington. The project has been designed to boost local fish stocks on a section of the river where anglers have reported poor catches over a number of years.

The actual works involved reconnecting an old section of the river Cherwell back to the main river which had been left isolated due to river realignment works in the 1960s. The old channel was desilted and cleared of scrub to allow light in to promote plant growth.

It is hoped that more juvenile fish will be able to survive within the new backwater and help supplement the adult fish populations on this section of the River Cherwell.

The newly created backwater on the Cherwell
The newly created backwater on the Cherwell

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Tom Sherwood said “This enhancement scheme will provide an important habitat type which is very much in short supply on the lower reaches of the Cherwell. During high water conditions juvenile fish have very few areas in which to escape strong flows which can result in them being flushed downstream. The creation of this new backwater will not only provide refuge from high flows, but will also provide an important nursery area during summer months, allowing juvenile fish to feed and grow in warm shallow water. This will put them in a more favourable condition for surviving their first winter.”

This project was fully funded by sales of anglers rod licences.


We help improve angling access at Wendover

An important wildlife area has been given a boost thanks to the Environment Agency and Wendover Parish Council. We have installed an angling platform at Hampden Pond in Wendover using money from the sale of rod licences.

The new fishing platform is set at two levels allowing wheelchair access to the first level. The fishing platform is constructed of timber and covered in a non-slip material.

The new platform at Hampden pond, Wendover
The new platform at Hampden pond, Wendover

Hampden Pond is an important wildlife area providing habitats for a number of species of aquatic fauna and flora. It is also a useful local amenity resource providing an area for walkers and those who enjoy the great outdoors.

The pond is also a very good fishery where locals can catch perch, roach, rudd, tench and crucian carp for the price of a cheap day ticket.  Although Hampden Pond holds good fish stocks, access for fishing was problematic at certain times of the year due to fluctuating water levels. It was because of this that the Environment Agency and Wendover Parish Council decided to construct an angling platform to provide a solid, sturdy and safe area in which to fish from.

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer, Lizzie Rhymes said: “It was identified that this pond, which is an excellent angling resource for the local area, really would benefit from having some purpose built angling platforms. Both disabled and able bodied anglers can now fish in comfort and safety.”

“Angling is a popular, cheap and environmentally friendly pastime. The money from rod licence fees is ploughed back into the sport and used for projects such as this. By buying a rod licence anglers can be assured that they are investing in the future of their sport.”

West Area receives stocking bonanza

We have just successfully completed stocking thousands of young fish into a number of the region’s rivers and stillwaters. The fish have all been bred at the Environment Agency’s fish farm at Calverton in Nottinghamshire.

The work carried out last week saw over 10000 young, fast growing fish stocked into the Upper Thames, the River Cherwell, River Thame and River Evenlode as well as stillwaters near Wantage, Aylesbury and Bicester. Chub, barbel, dace, roach and bream were stocked into the rivers with crucian carp and tench being stocked into the stillwaters.

The majority of the fish have been introduced into fisheries where the Environment Agency have recently undertaken enhancement works to improve the habitat for local fish populations.

New arrivals taking residence in West AreaNew arrivals taking residence in West Area

Fisheries Officer, Tom Sherwood said, “Our fish farm at Calverton is an amazing resource producing hundreds of thousands of fish each year.

The fish are mainly reared to help revive rivers that have suffered major pollution events or to help fish populations in recovering rivers such as those in industrial areas where for years the water quality was so poor the river was biologically dead.

However, we also receive fish to help improve stretches of river where fish populations have declined as a result of a decline in habitat. These fish are introduced in conjunction with habitat improvements that we have carried out.


Enforcement team undertakes overt surveillance operation

The Environment Agency is calling on members of the public to be aware of poachers in the Kingsey area, near Thame.

There have been a number of reports suggesting illegal activity at the Kingsey Lake and the surrounding waters within the Thame area. The reports indicate that possible illegal activity is taking place during the evening throughout the week.

We are carrying out an operation to tackle this.  The aim of the operation is to target the taking of fish, the use of illegal traps, set lines and rod and line offences and other bylaw offences which we might come across.

We have undertaken evening patrols at the waters where we have had various reports of illegal activity. We will be furthering our investigations and more of these patrols will be taking place. 

Fisheries Enforcement Officer Nicholas Robinson said:  “Although poaching is often portrayed as a victimless crime, this is far from true. It can have a very serious impact on the local fisheries, angling clubs and businesses that are reliant on healthy fish populations in rivers and lakes.”

If any person needs to report an incident please phone 0800 80 70 60 which is an Environment Agency hot line, it is manned 24 hours a day 7 days a week”.


Rod Licence Checks

Our Enforcement Officers in Thames West Area checked 676 anglers for rod licences in October, November and December. Of those 15 failed to produce a valid licence. These anglers have been reported for possible prosecution.

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