An Irwell Fisheries Plan

We’ve been having some really good debate about the state of roach and dace fishing on the Irwell on our very popular facebook page (you can take a look by clicking this link)

Some very experienced anglers have come up with the following points:-

Where have the Irwell silvers gone ?

1. The Irwell mid 1990s to mid 2000s used to support an amazing roach population with good numbers of dace too.
2. Certain stretches of river are now barren of roach and dace – though trout and chub pike and minnow survive
3. Cormorants pushing fish down towards city centre
4. Floods pushing fish down towards city centre
5. Periodic pollution incidents knocking out whole year classes of fry
6. Eventual drop in critical mass of spawning population results in predators (trout & chub) having the upper hand
7. Larger trout and chub can deal with higher flows more easily than small roach, so remain in situ and can spawn successfully
8. Larger trout and chub are better equipped to evade cormorant predation
9. Roach regularly migrate long distances to spawn –(see Irish rivers, and Irwell fish moving upstream to the barrier at Adelphi) – unable to do so on Irwell system due to the large number of impassable barriers (weirs)
10. Lack of good spawning substrate even in the areas where roach are prevalent (Adelphi, Mocha Parade)
11. Cormorant predation / water quality issues is only a part cause – as roach are doing spectacularly well in MSC and Lower Mersey
12. Better aquatic weed growth in previous years coincided with better silvers fishing. The Roch and upper Irk have good weed growth but roach and dace have never been stocked in significant numbers since the rivers made a comeback as fisheries
13. Lack of cover, and strength of flow in lower river in flood conditions push fish into lower Irwell/MSC
14. We need fish passes which are suitable for both coarse fish and salmonids.
15. The furthest downstream barriers on the Irwell system, which are blocking coarse fish migration all have hydro schemes at the planning stage – which will hopefully incorporate fish passes (though the two existing hydro schemes don’t – how is this ????) Fish passes on the Irwell need to be suitable for both coarse and salmonid species
16. We need some accurate, up to date fish survey data. Not EA guesses based on expert opinion.
17. Salford Friendly Anglers have a meeting with The Healthy Waterways Trust, Apem Ltd, and the Angling Trust on the 7th Jan to set out a template for an Irwell/Mersey Fisheries Plan.

We asked some of these questions to the EA at our October 2014 meeting when our local rivers officer Ian came to spend an evening with us. Here are his comments on our Irwell Questions.

Salford Friendly Angling Society
Meeting -Kings Arms 22nd
October 2014 -7.30pm

Questions from the evening
Q. Most fish on the River Irwell, we believe are being washed down over the weirs and ending up in Salford Quays.
I don’t believe that this is the case and that there are large areas of the river not accessible or fished by anglers; fish could quite possibly be in these areas. I would suggest looking at improving habitat to encourage the fish to stay in areas. Examples such as woody debris have been proven to work. We would have to consider flood risks and only certain parts of the river would be suitable for this.
Q. Can you net fish from the lower Irwell and transfer them upstream?
No it is not possible due to the size and depth of the river, we do not have equipment / or nets big enough to do this work. Even if we did I think it is unlikely to help the situation, if fish are being washed downstream it would be pointless keep moving them upstream we should look at improving habitat to ensure fish are happy to stay in certain areas.
Q. What about electric fishing them out instead?
No, again due to depth and size of the lower river it would be unsuitable to electric fish.
It seems a lot of SFA concerns are based around loss of fish from catchment in spate conditions and these being unable to re-colonise because of large weirs (obstacles to movement). Are SFA aware of all the restoration work that has gone on in the Irwell catchment in last few years as part of Irwell GEP project, and the number of these obstacles already removed as part of EA project, with one of prime objectives being to improve fishery connectivity? There are still many more such structures on the Irwell and its tributaries, and SFA need to be patient as it will take time to undertake further river restoration works on a catchment that has a large industrial legacy, but it is hoped this would be far more sustainable that moving fish manually in the catchment on regular basis!
It would certainly be beneficial for the Irwell and its fishery if SFA and Irwell River’s Trust could work more closely together, with jointly agreed aims and objectives for the catchment as a whole.
In the meantime, can SFA identify their top 3 sites of interest, which they believe are suitable for hab
improvements? We can then discuss what options are available to improve these locations. Bearing in mind that large value capital schemes would be difficult to achieve in a short time.
Q. Would it be possible to stock fish into Irwell Tributaries rather than the main river so that they are protected from floods and they can feed into the river when able to?
It is possible, but most of the tributaries also have barriers and are not big enough to stock heavily with fish due to their size.Fish stocked in the main river will find these tributaries and use them for food, spawning and shelter in times of high flows.
Would it be possible to pan jet or other method of marking to track the migration of stocked fish and to confirm if they are being washed downstream?
I don’t believe it is feasible to do this work due to the scale and relative small stocking numbers combined with anglers catch effort any information would not be enough to obtain quality data
Q. Giant Hogweed is a problem on the Irwell along with other invasive plants, why are you not enforcing riparian owners to make them remove it? As it is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act to allow it to grow. You should be prosecuting these people.
I don’t believe that we are the enforcing authority for this and will double check.
We need to implement a catchment wide treatment plan rather than individual reaches otherwise they will
be self seeded each year from stands upstream. This work is being looked at for the future.
This is the current understanding of the law in regards to invasive species.

Click to access wildlife-countryside-act.pdf

The enforcing body for Wildlife & Countryside Act are the police. It seems the legal machinations of ‘cause to grow in the wild’ would seem to be a very difficult point to prove, when such invasives as Giant hogweed, Japanese knotweed are already prevalent in catchment. To tackle such invasives efficiently and effectively is to get a catchment wide invasives strategy agreed with all statutory, non-statutory, local authorities and major landholders –which is no easy
It should be pursued by the Irwell Catchment Partnership.
It is not an offence under any legislation to have invasive species growing on your land. The wildlife
and countryside act is enforced by Natural England and the police.
IF SFA or LBA wanted to have people trained to apply herbicides then here is some information on training requirements and equipment needed to give an idea of typical costs in being trained to apply herbicides in or near
Sprayer training to include in and near water

PA1, PA6 and PA6AW plus assessments is £750 per person with Millhouse Training
Equipment costs –spray and stem injector –Sprayer costs about £140, a decent stem injector will cost about £400 but you can get less fancy stem injector at about £270 but they’re not as robust
Chemicals –cost about £70 for a 5l bottle of Roundup Pro Biactive 360.
You can use this on or near water PPE –to kit someone out with visor, nitrile gauntlets and overalls (have to be of chemical standard) costs £35-£45 per person, and it’s better if you buy these items in larger quantities from somewhere like Arco
Any other cost associated with chemical control –time, mileage, insurance
Any gems of wisdom gratefully received –
•How will you transport and store the kit/chemicals
•Need risk assessments/ first aiders
•Buddy systems when working near water
•Make sure work at right time of year using correct concentrations of chems (a bit stronger than advised in training, but still legal)
•Consent to use chemicals near water from EA needed
Q. Do you have a list of
historic electric fishing sites on the Irwell catchment and data available?
A. I will check with our A&R team and see what information we have and make it available.


I’d like to thank Ian for getting back to us in such detail, and while we might not agree with everything he says regarding the EAs ability to fulfill certain actions/obligations it gives us a great source of discussion, and can kick start some action to make improvements.

I’m sure the discussion of our facebook page will be red-hot over the coming weeks, but if you’re not a facebook user dont panic or feel left out. The topic of an “Irwell Plan” will feature heavily at our next club meeting, and I will update this – our main website and source of member information on whats being discussed on facebook.

Your comments are welcomed.


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