A rare brace of Avon two-pounders – but cormorant damage is plain to see

Happy with a rare roach brace

I was really buzzing the other week having achieved the all too rare feat of landing a brace of two pound river roach from the once famous Hampshire Avon near Salisbury. Although I guess I’ve been reasonably successful catching specimen sized roach, having landed well over 50 from seven different UK rivers, this is the first brace I have even seen, let alone caught, for over 12 years. The reason for the decline of big roach was staring me in the face with two of this lovely three fish catch bearing nasty stab wounds from cormorants despite all being too big for the birds to easily eat.

At least this one was sheer perfection

All my fish came float fishing with breadflake along a far bank run using my favourite 15 ft Daiwa Tournament rod, a 5AAA Drennan loafer and a No12 hook to 3lbs line. Having landed a couple of modest chub from an easier backwater to ‘save a blank day’ I headed off to an area where some pockets of roach are known to have survived. After two biteless hours trotting through a number of swims I returned to my original spot opposite a willow tree just as the light was fading which I had feed earlier with breadmash stiffened with sausage rusk. The float buried and my rod tip danced to the wonderfully unmistakable thumps of a big river roach as she surfaced in midstream and tried to shed the hook. The first fish weighed two pounds exactly and was in pristine condition. The second came a couple of trots later and was 2.02 and, when it was too dark to properly see the float, I had a third of 1.12 by simply striking and guessing !

My 1.12 roach bearing the scars of a nasty cormorant attack
Just to hammer the point home my friend Hugh Miles fished the same stretch a few days later and everyone of the six fish he caught, including a good size bream and a sea trout, also had scars from cormorant attacks. Hugh even re-caught my 1.12 roach with this horrible flank wound towards the tail.
Too big for the Black Death to eat but small enough to injure !

 These magnificent specimen roach, that were once a regular feature on rivers like the Avon, are now as rare as rocking horse shit thanks to 20 years of cormorant predation. When two out of three big roach like this are carrying wounds what chance do the rest of the diminishing roach population have of attaining their full potential? I am urging every angler to get behind the Angling Trust’s Action on Cormorants campaign. There are still plenty of postcards left in the tackle shops that need sending off to MPs and we need them to arrive before the Xmas recess. I am lucky to have caught a fair few specimen roach but I want the next generation to be able to do the same. These beautiful fish have swum in our rivers since the last Ice Age and they deserve our respect and protection.

More Details –  www.anglingtrust.net/cormorants/
Avon Roach Survey
The 2005 & 2008 EA stock surveys on the Hampshire Avon showed a huge decline in silver fish stocks on the middle reaches of the river. The Angling Trust will shortly be publishing a case study on the decline of the Avon.


5 thoughts on “A rare brace of Avon two-pounders – but cormorant damage is plain to see

  1. Hi Martin, congratulations on a fine catch and I couldn’t agree with you more. Our natural fisheries are becoming increasingly overwhelmed by predation from cormorants plus, as you know other non-avian threats, both animal and human! All of this could be addressed through sensible fisheries and countryside legislation/management, including the proper management of marine fisheries which is still woefully lacking. Only healthy fisheries can support the range of biodiversity which so many would aspire to. Unfortunately, others such as some Wildlife Trusts and the RSPB seem to think you can blindly march along putting the ‘cart before the horse’. Theirs is a ‘blinkered’ policy, to put it mildly and hopefully the AT’s initiative on cormorants, which all anglers should support, will help bring our fiheries’ plight to the public’s attention and initiate a trend towards the sustainable management of all our precious wild fisheries. Good Luck.

  2. Hi
    Nice to see good roach from the Avon. I fish the River Windrush and 5 years ago would regularly catch roach over 2lbs, there are many reasons for the decline but after much deliberation it comes down to is we cannot blame animals only greedy men over fishing in the North Sea. It needs more protected areas or ban fishing for ten years
    Phil Hamm

    1. Hi Phi. I moved from the Avon to the Windrush and Evenlode for my winter roaching in the late nineties and just caught the tail end of some decent fishing before the cormorants, otters and signal crayfish did their worst. Little rivers like these simply cannot stand that level of predation. Btw most of the cormies nowadays are the inland sinensis version which come over from mainland Europe, not the native carbos which are predominantly coast dwelling. These are the ones we need to control.

      1. Hi Martin
        the crayfish were introduced to improve the business in fish the situation got out of hand, the otters were introduced by do goods with out consulting the anglers who really new the rivers. Again you will find that the E A will not consult with local angling clubs who’s members are far more in touch with the balance, they will go to businesses who are concerned with financial side in their favour. I belong to an angling society with over 1000 members and we own our own multi million water complex and they don;t even reply to our comments or letters

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