Today, in partnership with the Environment Agency, the Wandle Piscators are launching an important new study – to find out if migrating salmon and sea trout are now returning to spawn in the Wandle.

Here’s the full text of our press release, complete with all the details:

Fishermen from a South London angling club, the Wandle Piscators, will be helping the Environment Agency to monitor salmon and sea trout in the River Wandle during the 2010 salmon and sea trout season.

The Thames Region salmon and sea trout fishing season does not start officially until 1st April, and runs until 30th September. 

But following accounts of migratory fish being captured in the Wandle in early 2009, Wandle Piscators coarse anglers who brave the winter weather are being asked to take scale samples of any sea trout or salmon that turn up accidentally in their catch, using special sampling kits provided by the Environment Agency.

The fish will then be carefully released to continue their journey, and hopefully spawn.  When the scale samples are examined, scientists will be able to determine how old the fish are, how long they have spent at sea and in fresh water, how far they are able to swim up the river past weirs and other obstructions, and even (by DNA analysis) where they or their parental stock originated.

As part of this important monitoring project, the Wandle Piscators and the Environment Agency are also very keen to hear from other local coarse fishermen who accidentally catch out-of-season Wandle salmon or sea trout – and photographs and measurements of any fish caught would be very helpful.

During the Middle Ages, the River Wandle was as famous for its trout as the Thames was well-known for its salmon.  As a tributary of the Thames, the Wandle is likely to have supported a population of salmon, and provided spawning areas for Thames fish, until weirs constructed for milling blocked their migratory route, and the Thames itself became too polluted.

Efforts have been made since 1979 to restore a self-sustaining population of salmon in the Thames, and many juvenile fish were stocked into Thames tributaries by the Thames Salmon Trust (now the Thames Rivers Restoration Trust).

In spring 2005 the Wandle Trust also stocked one of its Trout in the Classroom tanks with salmon eggs, and around 20 little salmon fry were released into the Wandle at Hackbridge in May 2005.

Despite a serious pollution incident in September 2007, the Wandle is recovering from its polluted industrial history, and is already a well-known mixed urban chalkstream fishery, with good numbers of chub, dace, roach, and barbel boosted by Environment Agency stockings every year.  The Wandle is also a major stronghold for southern England’s declining population of eels.

If the Wandle Piscators are successful in catching salmon and sea trout, and collecting data, this will help local conservationists secure additional funding and make even more improvements to the River Wandle, as part of the 5-year Living Wandle project sponsored by Thames Water.  In turn, this will directly benefit all species of fish in the river, as well as birds, animals and insects.

Local Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Tanya Houston commented:

“Reports of recent salmon and sea trout caught in the Wandle are very interesting.  One of the photos that I was sent in early 2009 year looked just like a salmon kelt (a salmon which has already spawned).  There is a very good chance that salmon and sea trout are using the Wandle: if we can show this to be true, it will be another fantastic sign of improvement. ”

Salmon and trout caught as a by-catch from coarse fishing are of interest to the Wandle Piscators and the Environment Agency, but anglers should not be deliberately targeting these fish until the salmon and trout close season ends on 31st March.

Local anglers who catch salmon from the Wandle are asked to contact the Environment Agency on 0208 3054806 so that scales and vital details can be taken to help this important study.  Photographs of any salmon, sea trout or large trout caught are also very helpful. 

For more information or to request a scale sampling kit, please contact William Tall on 07710 322 800 or the Environment Agency as above.

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