Anglers deserting a 'fishless' river Severn

Concern over the future of one of our most historic stretches of river is mounting this week as anglers continue to turn their backs on the venue in response to rock bottom catch returns.

The famous Shrewsbury town centre length of the River Severn ¬ historically known for producing some of the best roach and dace fishing in the UK ¬ is now said to be ‘virtually devoid of silverfish’ after a string of diabolical match and pleasure nets.

A host of leading river anglers taking part in the prestigious 2010 River Classic series held on the waterway have failed to catch a single fish, with the latest qualifying matches having been won with as little as 6lb as anglers struggled to find bites from the occasional perch and chub.

The very same pegs on the County Ground and Quarry stretch once produced regular 20lb-plus nets of silverfish, and many locals are convinced that the blame rests firmly with flocks of goosander and cormorants now resident on the section.

Former England international and well-known river specialist Dave Harrell has fished the Severn at Shrewsbury for more than 30 years and is just one of many who have recently blanked on some of the stretch’s most sought-after pegs.

“It’s a tragedy,” Dave told AT. “You can’t even buy a bite from pegs that used be among the best in the country.

“There’s something fundamentally wrong with this stretch in particular, because I’ve visited the river at Droitwich and caught over 20lb of roach and dace on the float.

“Angling is the best barometer by which to measure fish stocks, and it’s as if there’s nothing left in this area apart from a few perch and chub. But I’m not totally convinced that these birds could have eaten everything.” Local tackle shop owner and organiser of the River Classic matches, Andy Jones, also has serious concerns about the Shrewsbury stretch.

“When you get 50 of the best river anglers lined up and most fail to catch more than a few pounds of silverfish, you know something’s wrong,” he said.

“I showed a local Environment Agency officer the results of one of our local matches and his jaw nearly hit the floor. That reaction spoke a thousand words.” The EA has admitted that it is ‘well aware’ of the current concerns regarding silverfish stocks on the River Severn and will be studying match results this winter in order to assess current stocks.

“We are as concerned as anyone about silverfish numbers on the river,” said Alan Jones, EA fisheries and conservation team leader for the Severn catchment.

“The heavy floods of 2007 have definitely had an effect on roach and dace in the river. We are planning to compile match results from Shrewsbury, Ironbridge, Bewdley and Bridgnorth, so that we can then analyse the scale of the problem properly,” he added.