Saturday, 11 May 2013
Ending in Eels
Finally, those of us who have wandered various marshes throughout our lives, or indeed been involved in eel trapping, as I once was, will know that in recent years the eel populations in our ditches and fleets have plummeted dramatically. Indeed eels in Britain are now considered as under threat as their numbers have fell by more than 80%. The most dramatic fall seems to have occurred over the last thirty years because when I was catching eels in the 1970's/early 1980's it was still possible to get really good catches in fyke nets on Sheppey each week. A couple of years ago, by way of experiment, I spent a few days with a small rod and garden worms on the reserve, trying to catch some eels and see how many were about. Three lengthy visits saw me catch just two eels (which were put back), something I found quite shocking given that we used to catch them on rods every few minutes at times.
I was therefore at first heartened and then dismayed, to read an article in the Daily Telegraph yesterday that reported that fishermen have seen a tenfold rise in elvers (baby eels) returning to the Severn in Gloucestershire this spring. Fantastic news until I read on to see that fishermen there in recent times have only caught just a few million elvers each season but this year they claim to have already landed up to 100 million already. Some catching stations along the river have been recording one to two tons (four million elvers) per night, which to me seems appalling at a time when the fish is becoming almost rare throughout the country, and all to be simply ate in restaurants like whitebait.
Apparently this year, 660,000 Severn elvers have been donated for restocking rivers elsewhere in the country, but when you consider the predation threat to these tiny fish from all manner of other species, just 660,000 out of 100 million caught already, seems a minute amount to give back and hope that stocks will increase.