Anglers on the River Wye in Herefordshire could be in for a bumper fishing season next year as salmon stocks have almost returned to normal after an all-time low.
More than 1,000 fish were caught on the river in the last year after £5million in improvements over the last 12 years. The move came after more than 20 years which saw as few as 300 fish caught in 2002, compared to the glory days when more than 3,500 salmon were caught on the Wye every season.
It is also thought that current stocks could be even higher than estimated as summer floods meant anglers missed out on several days of fishing this year.
Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith, chairman of the Wye and Usk Foundation, which has been carrying out improvements to the river for the past 12 years, said: “This is the first tangible sign of what is a huge achievement. Together with our partners, we have removed barriers that previously prevented returning salmon from spawning and reinstated almost 50 per cent of the entire Wye catchment area that was previously blocked to returning salmon.”
Other work to encourage salmon to the river has included buying up fish-catching farms in the mouth of the River Severn which prevented returning fish from getting upstream and creating alternative routes past obstacles that stopped fish getting to spawning grounds.
Major Patrick Darling, chairman of the Wye Salmon Fishery Owners Association, said: “There should be more to come because the real benefits of these improvements, in terms of the number of fish returning to spawn, will not be fully realised for several years.
Pete Gough, senior technical specialist for the Environment Agency, said: “The partnership approach to addressing the problems on the Wye, prompted by the Wye and Usk Foundation, has been inspirational and together we have worked hard and spent a lot of money to improve habitats and ensure that fish can safely and successfully gain access.
“One result of this has been salmon spawning in remote places where they have not been seen for decades. In other locations, we have higher numbers of fry.
“Importantly, much of the work has been of great benefit to the wider biodiversity of our river. We are now building on this success by investing more money to achieve greater results for the environment.”