The year 2016 is set to be a record one for roach, thanks to a series of revolutionary projects to rejuvenate the species on rivers and stillwaters nationwide .
Leading the charge to revive Britain’s most iconic fish is the longest-running conservation drive – the Avon Roach Project – which has seen a record-breaking year.
Species enthusiasts Trevor Harrop and Budgie Price created the scheme to boost redfin stocks on the Hampshire Avon by installing dozens of spawning boards. Roach lay their eggs on these and the juveniles are then nurtured with the aim of later restocking them back into the river.
According to Trevor, this year has been the best for the project, launched in 2005.
“The past couple of years have been the most fruitful for us by far and 2016 is going to be a special year for the species,” he said.
“The fish we restock are now bigger and better than they have ever been, and we are producing more numbers as we have honed our techniques after 11 years of running it. The work is starting to make a real difference.”
However, the Hampshire Avon isn’t the only river with its own successful scheme to secure the future of the roach.
Other groups, including numerous river trusts, are using Trevor’s ideas as a blueprint for their own initiatives on their own waters.
One of these is the Kennet Roach Project. Run by Del Shackleford, fisheries officer for Reading DAA, it’s a project that has installed spawning boards into the Kennet for the first time and built two tanks to hold fry for restocking.
“Fish stocks, in particular roach, have been in decline on the Kennet in recent years and we wanted to do something about it, so we have been working hard with the Environment Agency to improve fish habitats on the waterway and breed more fish,” he said.
Anglers are already feeling the benefits of the projects, with clubs and fisheries up and down the country reporting bumper match and pleasure catches which have coincided with increased demand for quality silverfish sport.
And it’s not just on our rivers where anglers are crying out for more roach.
Lemington Lakes fishery is one of many stillwater venues which have cottoned on to the renewed popularity of the species.
The Gloucestershire fishery has worked tirelessly in recent years to provide some of the best roach fishing in the UK, thanks to the help of leading fisheries consultant Andrew Ellis, of AE Fisheries.
He said: “A lot of people want to fish for big roach, especially the more traditional anglers, and plenty of fisheries have started to try to provide this, including Lemington.
“We have been netting and cropping the stock at Abbey Lake to help produce some of the biggest and best fish.
“This year’s netting saw us pick out a handful of roach to 3lb 4oz – the lake has some truly stunning fish in it,” he added.