Fears over fishing as flood works go on

Fishermen Fred Bainbridge, Peter Rogers and Ken Mason, on the banks of the River Skell where flood defence works have devastated their fishing grounds.
Fishermen Fred Bainbridge, Peter Rogers and Ken Mason, on the banks of the River Skell where flood defence works have devastated their fishing grounds.
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A GROUP of Ripon fishermen have spoken of their worries over the late-running flood defence works on the city’s River Skell.

The work below New Bridge on Bondgate Green began almost a year ago and is being carried out by the Environment Agency to protect homes in the city from floods like those of summer 2007.

The river has been diverted to allow access to the river bed and levels below the site are much lower than normal.

However, progress has been delayed by several months and anglers are concerned that the river will take many years to recover.

Ken Mason has been fishing the Skell for more than 50 years.

“This river has been fished for years but since this work has been done no salmon have been seen in this stretch of the river. I am in my 70s and I have never seen it as bad as this.” he said.

“You used to be able to see trout spawning in the clean patches of gravel, but now all the spawning beds are covered with filth, and I worry about this as a viable fishery.”

Fellow anglers Peter Rogers, Fred Bainbridge and Roger Trees, secretary of the Ripon Angling Club, share Ken’s concerns.

With water diverted, the river’s wild fish population is without its natural breeding grounds.

“We are not against the flood defence scheme but from our point of view the river is unfishable and we are worried about the long-term impact of missing two spawning cycles,” said Roger.

The angling club relies on selling annual fishing permits to local people to rent the fishing rights from the Church Commissioners, he added.

“Our rent is a four figure sum and ticket sales usually cover that, but this year they won’t,” he added.

Fred Bainbridge, a champion angler who captained the England team to victory in an International Bank competition in Cornwall in October, is worried about the Skell’s rare wild brown trout population.

“This has been a self-sustaining river for many years and we are very lucky to have it. The flood work needs to be got on with so the river can recover.”

A spokeswoman for the Environment Agency said the project had been delayed by problems with access at the beginning of the work and by harsh weather over winter, but should be completed by November this year.

“The water has only been diverted for 100m, and although we accept it has taken longer than planned it was diverted so we could reach Alma Weir, which was an obstruction to fish. We will replace it for something easier for fish to get over, which will be better for the salmon population.

“It will also help up stream as the water will be lower, which creates better spawning grounds.”

“We have some sympathy for the anglers but the work is for long-term gain. It is there to protect the city of Ripon from flooding and really is essential.”