Concern mounts as cormorants feast on river fish

Concern is mounting over the long-term health of the UK’s river fish stocks this week, as predatory birds, frozen out of the country’s stillwaters, hungrily turn to running water for food.

With the nation’s lakes, ponds and canals remaining under ice, cormorants and other predatory birds are flocking to feed from still-accessible running waters.

The acute focus of predation is resulting in large weights of fi sh being plundered from waterways, leaving stocks on some more vulnerable venues fighting for their survival.

The problem comes just weeks after the sport’s governing body, the Angling Trust, launched a campaign to make the controlling of cormorants easier for fishery managers, with the fear now being that the longer it takes for waters to thaw, the greater the damage to stocks will be.

“The River Wissey and the Little Ouse at Littleport are crawling with cormorants up here,” Lester Pratt, owner of King’s Lynn tackle shop Shipshape Tackle told Angling Times. “Flocks of over 200 birds have been seen down at Wissey Pools, near King’s Lynn, and there are over 60 birds working the Little Ouse at Littleport.
It’s really impacting on the fishing – even the predator anglers are having a tough time.”

In the South of the country the large numbers of birds moving on to running water is also proving a huge problem, affecting both the Hampshire Avon and the Dorset Stour.

“There are frightening numbers of cormorants on the rivers down here at the moment,” Nigel Gray of Davies Tackle, Christchurch, told AT. “We’ve had reports of flocks of up to 60 birds on some sections since the stillwaters froze, and the silverfish angling is really suffering.

“The problem’s worse on the sections that aren’t controlled by bird scarers. The cormorants are wise to sections like the Royalty that are well controlled and just fly on to other stretches, so their numbers are concentrated even more and they’re doing real damage.”

Not even the river Wye has escaped the phenomenon, as Brian Powell, creator of
Three Counties Fisheries that runs a section of the river, told AT. “We’ve got a number of resident cormorants on a few of our lakes and I’ve seen them all disappear over the last few weeks, while the numbers of them, along with goosander, has increased on our stretch of the Wye,” he told AT.

“It’s a huge concern, but I suppose they’ve got to go somewhere. I just hope we get a good thaw over the next week and they move on as soon as possible,” he added.