A large part of the country is in drought and water levels in rivers and lakes are low even outside the drought areas. Low flows over the summer can also mean higher water temperatures, and warmer water holds less oxygen, putting fish under considerable stress. Lower water volumes also mean less dilution of pollutants and pathogens. The situation is likely to get worse as the year progresses, and it will be a difficult year for trout and other river wildlife in many areas.
How can we help?
First and foremost, reduce your own water use and encourage others to do so! Find top tips here.
In terms of habitat management:
- Allow trees, shrubs and bankside plants to grow and provide shade to keep water cool. Avoid cutting back vegetation to allow light in, especially on the deep pools which will be cool water refuges for trout.
- Minimise cutting of in-channel weed, even if this interferes with your fishing! Weed in the channel will help keep levels up, provide shady refuges for trout and places for them to avoid predation by birds.
- Where in-channel weed and shade is lacking, consider making bundles of brash and pegging them into the channel to provide temporary cover, or create temporary shading over holding pools using cut trees, or branches spanning the channel, supported by posts and cable/wire.
- Fish become stressed when water levels are low and the water is warm. Think carefully before fishing on hot days with low water levels. Don’t play fish for any more than absolutely necessary and release fish quickly and carefully.
- ‘ Fish Rescues’ are a last resort and must only be undertaken in consultation with the Environment Agency, or the relevant fishery authority in Ireland and Scotland. Make contact with your local Fisheries Officer and agree lines of communication and action if you think a fish rescue may be needed. Moving trout from drying sections into reaches further downstream is not always the best solution as it may put an even larger number of fish at risk by increasing the density of trout in the flowing sections. Be aware that unauthorised moving of fish may be an offence and could spread disease.
The Environment Agency website has up to date bulletins on the drought here.