By Jonny Irving
Fishermen fear an entire population of salmon could be wiped out from a major river, with poachers and pollution major factors.
They want action taken to address problems on the River Caldew which flows through Carlisle from Dalston, where fish stocks have declined dramatically in the past decade.
Figures collected by the Environment Agency (EA) show a large drop in the number of salmon caught in the river’s trap. In just four years the number of salmon surveyed in the stretch of river after it leaves the Lake District has plummeted from about 1,100 in 2008 to just 83 in 2012, the last available figure.
There is an even sharper decline compared to 2004 when about 1,700 salmon were trapped and released – more than 20 times more than the latest stock.
Paul Davidson, chairman of Carlisle Angling Association, which fishes a stretch of the river south of the city centre around Bousteads Grassing said: “The natural stock is in real danger of being wiped out all together. It is a real concern to us and we are trying our best to conserve the existing stocks.
“They are on the decline everywhere but this is such a dramatic drop in numbers.”
The exact cause of the decline is unknown but the group is working with other organisations to get to the root of the problem with poaching, pollution and fish traps believed to be playing a part. In a bid to increase the numbers of salmon – known as the king of fish – they are calling on the public for help.
“People can help us in trying to reverse that decline by stopping fishing after the season has finished, there have been a lot of reports of poaching recently.
“It is not just kids either, it is grown men as well,” added Mr Davidson.
“We want people to keep an eye out when they are walking their dogs or near to the river, and we urge them to report any poaching or pollution to the EA.”
The season for fishing activity started last Wednesday and runs until October 14, but anglers cannot kill salmon before June 15. Nigel Austin, honorary secretary of the association said: “However, don’t approach poachers, just report it to the EA and make sure you get a log number. We don’t want people putting themselves in danger.”
They are asking members as well as the public to operate a 100 per cent voluntary catch and release policy in order to try to preserve the current stocks.
Before cuts to their workforce, the EA conducted regular patrols of the area in an attempt to limit the amount of poaching. However, patrols are now less frequent, something which the anglers’ association is trying to address.
The CAA has increased the number of voluntary bailiffs patrolling the area, saying that they now have members out for the majority of the year.
To report a problem on the river, call the Environment Agency hotline on 0800 806040.