In the mid-1990s, when the impact of the ‘first flight’ of cormorants was felt by those who fished our major rivers for roach and dace, I commented that the most serious effects would be felt in years to come, when year classes of fish had become seriously depleted.
In many instances, and on some rivers, the roach and dace stocks have recovered – indeed, several well-respected anglers have said that this season about to close produced the best sport for these species in their angling career.
What worries me is this – where is the next generation of chub?
A few friends fish the River Lea regularly for chub and, once found, they are not difficult to catch, even the really huge fish. I believe they are a single year class, at best two.
When no mega-chub are caught, no chub are caught. There are no pounders, twos or threes to go at – it’s either massive or nothing.
By my calculations, these Crown Fishery monsters that seem to spend much of the year in Carthagena weirpool, or Dobbs Weir, and leave in winter when there is some flow appearing in certain swims over a mile or so of river, arrived in the 1980s so they are approaching 30 years old. They can’t be long for this world and, like cheap flights, when they’re gone they’re gone. If there is another generation coming along behind, they don’t seem to be caught, even in the warmer months when small roach appear quite frequently in decent bags.
With the bottom a carpet of signal crayfish, plenty of perch of all sizes and no shortage of pike, will we ever see chub from the Lea once this super-stock have died?
It isn’t only the Crown or Lea Navigation: the ‘Old Lea’, best known for Fishers Green, I suppose, has a similar situation and, although I’m not so close or so much in touch with the river, so does the Throop Fishery on the Dorset Stour.
If it does happen, I will be the one saying “I told you so...”