Only a few days to the opening of the coarse season and sadly we have to tell you that our two main coarse lakes , Petersfinger and Steeple Langford will remain closed for at least the next month.
The fish kill at PF has ended with several clear weeks now and no further losses. The numbers lost remain as published in our last update. Clark’s lake has lost a large proportion of its stock and Hand’s lake has had a smaller loss. We are unlikely to reopen Clark’s this season but when the stock have had a chance to recover and we have a better idea of fishing possibilities we hope to reopen Hand’s as soon as we can.
Steeple Langford lakes still have an active blue green algal bloom which means we have to keep it closed until we have clear tests through the EA laboratories confirming it has gone. It is not possible to say when this will be but it is being constantly monitored and will be reopened as soon as the bloom has cleared.
Meanwhile the staff, committee and volunteers supported by the Environment Agency are working at both sites beginning the process of recovery.
One of our committee members who is himself an EA fisheries expert is preparing summary reports on the fish kills and problems at both sites taking in all the data that has been gathered by our own teams and the agencies. The cause of the problems at both lakes is water quality allowing algal blooms that have damaged the fish. The “water quality problem” diagnosis is not just a one off kill to be blamed on unpredictable algal blooms but rather it is an ongoing and developing problem with the water that has weakened our stock and made them vulnerable to the fungal and algal blooms.
We know we must shift the lakes away from an algal ecology to plant based. To this end and now that the clear up is over the team at Petersfinger have begun work to map and sample the silt. The first results of this are now available and show we have lost up to half of our water depth across the lake. For example across the centre of the three main areas of Clark’s lake we have depths down to the gravel base of 273 cms, 318 cms and 330cms, at these points we have also got 126 cms, 167 cms and 196 cms of silt. Some of this silt has been found to have a gaseous content. Sampling and testing will enable us to decide if we can treat the silt or whether we will have to move some of it. Taking silt away from the site would be immensely costly but some lakes have been improved by pumping it into one bay and letting it consolidate over time. Area is sacrificed for depth but this will be the sort of decision that needs to be taken. We are also investigating ground water quality and the EA have produced information from the nearest existing boreholes that will give us a baseline of nutrient levels to work from. The stock density we will eventually maintain will be decided from this and other work.
Establishing aquatic plants at PF will begin as soon as we know what we are doing with the silt. Stock assessments across the lake will begin by test fishing and later in the year by full stock surveys.
We are also going to be looking at ways of year round water quality monitoring with the support of the agencies as this can be an expensive and complicated process.
At Steeple Langford work has begun on plans to restore the small lake but at the moment the team are restricted to working on the bank. They will be reducing trees and building island structures that will be installed in the lake when the bloom has gone and planted up to both shelter fish and absorb nutrient. The causeway has had a good haircut with much of the material going to the owner as logs and brash to build up the organic material on her ground. They will also be working on platforms and better access. There have been no fish losses at SL and there are signs that the fish have had a successful spawning with plenty of fry showing.
The committee have been exploring leads as to how we might increase fishing opportunities on the coarse side bearing in mind Watergate and Walden’s are unavailable and our lakes closed. We have several enquiries underway and any new fishing will be reported to members as soon as we can confirm it.
One or two members had raised the question of holding an emergency general meeting to discuss the problems. The committee discussed this at the May meeting taking in to account the relatively small number asking for a meeting, the generally good support we have from member’s feedback and the continuing commitment to update members via email, Forum website and Facebook. The decision was that an EGM at this point is not necessary and that it would distract from the job in hand.
Members have as much detail as is currently available although there are some technical papers still being analysed. Some individual observations on fish sizes have been posted and all the information on overall weights and numbers is linked from the forum. Assessment of the total stock loss against what remains is ongoing but what is clear at this point is that we have had a build up of stock exceeding recommended levels by a considerable margin and this is very likely to have been a contributory factor to our problems. Set against the much reduced water volume this will be a key issue.
We will be publishing more of the detailed findings to members by way of links from our member’s forum as they become available and are verified.
The committee thanks the members for their ongoing support.