Nene Fish Stocks Raised with Nifty Sluice Work

07:20 Tuesday 11th October 2011
Peterborough Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: The River Nene is now home to more fish, after the Environment Agency opened one of the lock gates, to encourage more fish to pass through. As a result there are now more elvers, smelt, sea trout and bream, and roach can be found as well. Johnnie Dee is fishing this morning. Morning sir. (OB)
JOHNNIE DEE: Good morning young Paul. I’m at the Dog in a Doublet sluice, on North Bank Road between Whittlesea and Peterborough. And what a fantastic sight greets me here, because we’ve got this big gantry walkway, going right across the River Nene here. I’m actually going to go up the steps if we can. I’ve got a black gate just to the left of me, which is actually the sluice gate they open up. And it’s 25 feet across. A big black steel beast it is Paul, and about 25 feet deep as well. And this is the thing they open up. I’ve got with me a guy from the Fisheries Team at the Environment Agency, Chris Reeves,. Now when did you start this project Chris?
CHRIS REEVES: The project was started this year, in April. There’s only a few tides where we can open the gates. It has to be certain high tides, that have to be high enough so the water doesn’t all flow out from the upstream section going downstream. So we started in April this year. The gate was opened three or four times then. We also opened the gate a couple of weeks ago as well.
JOHNNIE DEE: We’re on this elevated gantry Paul. I tell you what, it’s a fantastic view we’ve got here, haven’t we Chris?
CHRIS REEVES: Yes, a wonderful view. And in the winter, it’s all flooded if there’s a lot of rain about, and lots of wildfowl and very spectacular.
JOHNNIE DEE: Why did you want more fish here in the first place Chris?
CHRIS REEVES: Well the more fish the better really. The fish that are downstream of the lock, stranded downstream, belong in the freshwater side. They’ve been swept down by high winter flows, and they really need to get back. So by opening the lock up we can enable them to get back home.
JOHNNIE DEE: Counting fish must be like counting moles, difficult. How do you know you’ve got these fish here?
CHRIS REEVES: We’ve got an acoustic camera, a very clever bit of kit. It fires a sound beam at the fish, and gets a signal back, and paints it on a screen. And so you can see the number of fish swimming through. You can identify them by their movements, and by the size.
JOHNNIE DEE: You can identify them? And what sorts of species have you got then Chris?
CHRIS REEVES: We’ve had dace, bream, pike and carp. Some fish that could well be sea trout, and probably some smelt as well.
JOHNNIE DEE: Smelt? Never heard of smelt. What’s smelt?
CHRIS REEVES: It’s a small migratory fish. It runs to fresh water to spawn, and they smell of cucumber, hence the name.
JOHNNIE DEE: And how long will this gate stay open for then Chris? It’s not open now of course, is it?
CHRIS REEVES: Not open now. The tide’s not big enough. But it’s been incorporated into the standard working practice of this sluice here, so every time there’s a suitable tide, the gate will be opened, provided the weather conditions and the flows are right.
JOHNNIE DEE: Well this really is good news, more fish here on the Nene, yes?
CHRIS REEVES: More fish, the anglers are happy. We’ve had really good reports, yes. So it seems to have worked.
JOHNNIE DEE: Thanks very much indeed Chris Reeves.