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For anyone unfamiliar with the site always check the FRESHWATER, SALTWATER and TACK-TICS pages. The Saltwater page now extends back as a record of over several years of (mostly) sea fishing and may be a useful guide as to when to fish. The Freshwater stuff is also up to date now. I keep adding to both. These pages are effectively my diary and the latest will usually be about fishing in the previous day or two. As you see I also add the odd piece from my friends and correspondents if I've not been doing much. The Tactics pages which are chiefly 'how I do it' plus a bit of science are also updated regularly and (I think) worth a read (the earlier ones are mostly tackle and 'how to do it' stuff).
Has something happened to coarse fish stocks in some rivers?
What with the wind and rain, and trying to catch up with repairing fences and doing the garden following my long trip away, my fishing activity has been severely curtailed. Anyway, I felt that I ought to write something just to keep the website alive.
It is now well over fifty-five years since I moved to south Dorset. For much of that time I have fished the local rivers and, until I retired, carried out research, which often involved electric fishing and other means of assessing stocks; so I know for certain that for most of that period Dorset's River Frome was an excellent fishery. The lower reaches held decent numbers of salmon and also provided exceptionally good coarse fishing for dace, pike and grayling. Of course it is well known that there have been a number of obvious changes in UK populations of river fish over these years.
With regard to the obvious changes in the Frome; perch were effectively absent in the 1980s, except for a few from downstream of Wareham (we very occasionally caught them while fishing for thinlipped mullet). Chub, which did not occur in the river, are certainly a new phenomenon (In recent years I've had a few of a pound or less and heard of a couple of three-pounders from the lower reaches) but they are still very scarce.
A much more worrying change (to me) seems to be in stocks of dace and pike, and this reduction occurred very recently (mostly within the last ten years or so) and it is dramatic. With regard to the dace there are a few possible explanations. One of the more popular suggestions is cormorant predation but I can't imagine that cormorants are a significant factor because the numbers just don't match up. It is possible that there has been a change in the availability of food items - for example the Frome dace feed heavily on the little filter feeding caddis Brachycentrus but I'm not conscious that there has been any significant change in the community of invertebrates. In the 1990s the behaviour of Frome dace was studied intensively by Dr Stuart Clough and myself showing that the fish underwent daily, short-distance feeding migrations, and perhaps more significantly, they generally spawned en-masse in small mill streams before moving to little tributaries to recover. Changes in breeding habitat may have taken place but as far as I'm aware there is no data to suggest this. Pike which were also numerous, and often large, in the Frome have also declined over a similar timescale. Interestingly, Stu tells me that on his local river, in Cheshire, the roach and dace have declined massively in last 10 years, but grayling and trout have boomed.
Before making any wild speculations as to the cause of such changes it would be a good idea to establish whether this is just a local shift in a single river or whether it might simply reflect widespread alterations due to climate change or some other general phenomenon.
PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED SIMILAR CHANGES IN THE RIVERS WHICH YOU FISH
Of course, like many other rivers in the UK, the most obvious decline in the Frome has been that of salmon (counter results down from almost 5000 in the 1980s to a few hundred now). Most research has been directed to investigating this national salmon decline - but this seems slow to produce any definitive answers. My personal angling experience suggests that,in the Frome at least, seatrout stocks have increased over this period but that's another story.
If you have any comments or questions about fish, methods, tactics or 'what have you!' get in touch with me by sending an E-MAIL to - email@example.com
Several decades ago - young Mike Tomlinson with a Frome perch caught on a mullet spinner.
Dace such as these were abundant until quite recently
... and another example!
... and another.
... and another!.
And there were lots of large (and small) pike too.
... another example!.
... my pal Ben Lagden with another Frome beauty!