Fish at Hales Pool in Cheadle, Staffordshire, will have a safer and more peaceful life next winter as a result of a new fish refuge built by the Environment Agency and Cheadle Angling Club.
The fish have been falling victim to an increasing number of goosanders (mergus merganser), fish eating birds that come to Britain from Scandinavia to spend the winter.
These birds hunt in packs, forming a line to drive fish to one end of the pool, then feasting on as many of the trapped fish as they can. We have received reports of regular visits by about twelve of the birds to Hales Pool, and occasionally as many as thirty turn up to hunt at any one time.
Goosanders are protected by the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and Hales Hall Pool is a Local Nature Reserve so deterring the birds is very difficult. Small fish are being killed in great numbers and it is possible that a whole year’s young will be wiped out.
Fisheries Technical Officer, Mick Buxton, says “So many fish were being killed that we had to do something to help. Over the last three years the Environment Agency has provided funding to build fish refuges at a number of fisheries which have this problem, including Hales Pool. We can carry out this life-saving work only thanks to the anglers who provide the money for it by buying rod licences.
“A fish refuge is a floating island with cages beneath. It is planted with indigenous rushes and plants and, once established, looks completely natural. More importantly, there are masses of root systems below where fish can escape the predators. It won’t stop all the fish from being eaten but at least some will survive for the regeneration of the fishery.”