Monday, 14 March 2011

Out of their Sight, Out of their Minds - Coventry Canal Electrofished

I regret to have to inform you that the Coventry Canal between the M6 bridge, Exhall and bridge 13 in Bedworth has been electro fished by 'two men in a boat' who worked the section 'all day long' and took away 'two truck loads of fish' and drove them to 'a still-water up north,' according to my sources.

Apparently the valuable cyprinid species; the roach, bream, carp, tench, etc, were taken away but perch, zander and pike were thrown back as unwanted by-catch. Now, the trucks used to carry these fish were 'Land Rovers' and the tanks they haul can hold 750 pounds of fish each so a grand total of 1500 pounds of prime wild coarse fish have been taken out of the canal leaving a massively top-heavy fishery containing many predators and very few prey.

Interestingly, throwing zander back seems to go against everything that British Waterways (if they were involved) have ever said or done about a species listed in their own 'dirty dozen' of invasive threats to our indigenous wildlife...

What is most distressing to me is the fact that there was a population of rare and sexually mature silver bream living and breeding in one particular area of the affected stretch and these are fish that should never have been touched — surely this is an act of destruction akin to ploughing up a heathland's population of rare orchids, or allowing a commercial netting of Dartford warblers to supply the aviary trade in exotic birds?

But hey! It's just fish were talking about here — they live underwater, you can't see them....

Out of sight, Out of mind.

Heaven knows how this will affect the habitat in the long-term. I suppose over the course of a few years things will right themselves and the vacuüm will be filled. In the short-term I suppose the canal will not be worth fishing.

I will know just how devastated the place is come breeding season for bream in April and May when the fish gather to spawn in a splashy throng beneath the overhanging brambles. If things are still OK then they will be there once again, but if not, then they won't. I suppose it all depends on just how efficient the electro fishing method employed was, and how many fish out of the total population were actually taken away.

I have made general enquiries with British Waterways about this episode and am awaiting a reply. If anyone has the right contact details then please forward them.


  1. Sounds like an illegal operation to me Jeff. It would be a sad day for Angling if British Waterways have adopted a policy of abandoning the canal fisheries in order to use them to restock commercials. They wouldn't do that...Would they?

  2. If you want some men-with-baseball-bats Jeff just say. What an apalling situation. Be interested to find out who was behind it.

  3. Well, I'm not exactly sure who these people were but the reports I have heard suggest it was an operation by a private company driving vehicles coach painted with the company logo, possibly working on behalf of British Waterways or Severn Trent Water.

    These canal stories are always at least half true and because of the very public nature and popular nature of the stretch in question, one that actually has a small police station at Hawkesbury Junction, I doubt that criminals would have had the balls to conduct clandestine operations under the noses of hundreds of passers by.

    I heard on the same grapevine that BW electrofished the same stretch over a decade ago and put the fish in Makins...

  4. Vehicle registration numbers?
    company name?
    Have the EA been contacted to see if they know anything about it ?
    Section 30 licence?

    If not then Police, Angling Trust and Fish Legal.

  5. Mike, I have just reported the incident to the EA on your advice. I'll know what they know within a couple of days.

    I'll talk to more people today see what I can find out that's more specific

  6. Jeff,

    You are correct in stating that BW did in fact Electro fish this stretch a few years back, and indeed the fish went into Makins?

    Interesting too that Leamington AA now owns the rights to this stretch of the canal, i wonder if they know about this? Considering they want to charge an extra £10 per year for the canal ticket, i dont think i will be bothering?


  7. Gaza, you are right, they do own the fishing rights to it now. I had no clue. Keith is a core member so he'll be interested no doubt.

    I doubt very much that Leamington AA would have consented to a fish reduction on this scale as the fishery was coming back into balance after the previous netting for Makins

    Sounding like crooked business, isn't it?

  8. I would be devastated and feel absolute dismay for your loss. Clearly a punch to the gut for a rebuilding fishery.

  9. I've just had a confirmation from Phil Varley at the Environment Agency that the electro fishing was 'a consented activity being carried out by a contractor on behalf of British Waterways' .

    Can of worms open!

  10. And I just found this news item so I'm pretty certain about where Leamington AA's fish went to...

    Perhaps they should ask for them back?

  11. Just been on the blower to British Waterways West Midlands angling co-ordinator Carl Nicholls who assures me that Leamington AA do not hold the fishing rights at Exhall ~

    But Leamingtons AA's website is selling tickets to members for a tenner !

    Some kind of mix up there then...

    Seems they only had a license to take bream. Some pike were taken also but no carp were moved, apparently. Zander were indeed put back even though the public are advised by BW not to return zander

    The silver bream were also left alone...

    What amazes me is that Mr Nicholls admits that the fish from the drained Toddbrook Reservoir were put into 'midlands canals' whilst repairs were carried out but that when it came to extracting the fish back from the canals they just played pin the tail on the donkey!

    No fish were ever put into the Exhall stretch - only taken from it, so we have denuded areas of canal and overstocked areas too.


    The fish should have been stored in short pounds between locks and then extracted back from those places only.

  12. Sad news indeed jeff but it sounds as though it is now common practice by BW .I personally think that you are wasting your time with the EA personally I would try the angling trust / fish legal as they are more pro active .

    However if it was all above board and consented then there is nothing any one can do .Just recently BW have been raping the canal at Fazeley and removing alot of the carp .It feels to me that they are almost cashing in on our fish for their own benefit.

    Very frustrating .


  13. It is a real shame that BW seem to think that the UK canals are no more than stock ponds and the fish that are in them are no more than commodities for them to take to stock up their money making venues for free.
    They seem to have no concern whatsoever for local fishing communities when they take these fish.
    Last year when I was trying to find out about a Zander cull on another canal I phoned them and was speaking to someone who was actually there. So give them a call and have a chat with someone.
    The silver bream could be the real issue in this situation. I read something a while ago that suggested they were an endangered species which could put BW in a world of crap. Especially if one of the angling publications who are now gagging for articles now the season has finished get hold of it.

  14. In terms of Leamington AA, they don't hold any rights. They have just taken advantage of the BW offer to clubs under the Waterway Wanderers initiative launched last year.

    It seems the goalposts on the WW scheme changed at some point though. When I looked last year when it was brought in, the area around Bedworth down to Cov canal basin wasn't part of it.

    That aside, it's disappointing they have taken fish out (again!). Maybe it would be different if someone actually leased the fishing rights, but while they're getting no income off it, it's easy pickings for stock purposes I guess.

    Hopefully there is truth in that only Bream and some Pike were taken, i.e. that the clonking Roach, Silver Bream and Carp remain in there, along with other species. I want to believe it, but it's hard not to be suspicious. Time will tell.


    Your getting famous Mr Hatt!

  16. very sad news jeff holp u get all this sorted

  17. Sean's right Jeff, Leamington Angling don't control any canals in the locality but are able to offer a half price canal passport to members of the Association through the BW scheme.

    Let's be frank, apart from the stretches rented by clubs, no one really controls the canals nowadays apart from their custodians - British Waterways.

    Once the zander found their way in in the eighties the angling value of midland canals took a hit. In fishery terms things have levelled out now yes, but most clubs were burned during the decline and won't go back.

    Most clubs I've been a member of in the West Midlands area gave up their canal stretches a decade ago on the back of the zander and the continually high rental cost.

    If it wasn't through this organ who else would have heard about the fish removal? Who else would have cared?

    I agree, just because no club is 'controlling' the water it doesn't mean that no one is fishing it, but like-minded individuals like yourself have little recourse without some prior financial stake in the stock.

    I would guess BW's stance would be, "It's ours, and we can do what we like with it". I'm also guessing the loss of amenity to the casual local canal angler is simply not on their radar.

    Perhaps they left the Sliver Bream in......

    Keith .J

  18. The fishing rights on Coventry canal between the basin and bridge 34 belong to Tusse's AC,and have done for the past 2 years.I find it a tad rich that people fishing this stretch illegally,are kicking up a fuss about fish stocks,and how they are managed by BW and the club that pays to rent the water.A similar story to the situation on the Birmingham and Fazeley me thinks.

  19. Anon,

    I have fished the Coventry Canal a thousand times over the past few years and never seen a sign or a bailiff or anything that would suggest that anyone owns the rights. Even Tusses Tackle don't have any sign in the shop that they have anything to do with the canal or any mention of a club for that matter.

    The only sign that anyone ever did care for the place as a fishery is a series of fading pegs numbers painted on the towpath along the Courtaulds stretch. So far as everyone who does fish it is concerned it is free local fishing - and oddly enough we do care for it - I clear rubbish away and report diesel spills, etc.

    When I hear about or see suspicious behavior such as men netting fish then I make enquiries too. That's how fisheries are protected as a whole environment - by anglers being proactive in defense of the habitats they enjoy and wish to see prosper in the future, rather than sitting in an arm chair pontificating.

  20. There is no sitting in arm chairs from my point of view,i have and do still fish the Coventry Canal on a weekly basis,and have done for almost 40 years.Whilst i applaud your efforts with regard to fish welfare,and clearing rubbish,reporting diesel spills etc,the fact remains that this canal isn't a "free" stretch of water,in fact there is no such thing on any of the midlands canals.Clubs and individuals pay an annual rent,which in some case's amounts to thousands of pounds a year,to lease these waters,and anybody wishing to fish,must purchase a day ticket,or at least ask the permission of the controlling club.Those stretches of canal which aren't being leased are only fishable after purchasing a permit from British Waterways.There was a similar situation recently on the Birmingham and Fazeley canal ,the controlling club had asked BW to remove some large carp from a stretch of canal that they ran fortnightly matches on.

  21. Anon, a couple of points here:

    Firstly, if a club or association pays for the fishing rights on a stretch of canal they should not be surprised that anglers assume it is free fishing when there are no signs, hints or clues that a day ticket or club book needs to be purchased first. If they take umbrage against this ‘illegal’ fishing, surely a form of bailiffing would be in order.

    In my opinion canals should be free for all anglers based on the fact that we’ve all paid for the right to fish them via the tax that is the rod licence – canals are a public resource to be enjoyed by all and managed (when the feel like it) by British Waterways via tax payers money. If anything British Waterways should be paying the clubs to look after these stretches they fish along with people like Jeff who tidy them up for free – I don’t see walkers, cyclists or canoeists being charged to use the tow path and water on the canals, nor do I see them caring for these waterways as anglers do.

    Secondly, and regardless of any of the above, for the life of me I can’t see why anyone should or would want to pay British Waterways anything to fish the canals when they pillage from the canal whenever they see fit. I fail to see how selling of these stocks to private fisheries such as Cudmore in Staffordshire (where the pike from the Fazely clearance went) helps anyone, other than BW to fill its coffers.

    Basically, as usual, anglers get taken for fools every step of the way – and then argue amongst themselves…

  22. 21 comments - wow, I couldn't have stirred the emotions enough in my post back in Feb! At least it's up on the agenda now.

    BW are regularly raping the canals of fish to stock theirs and others waters for pure profit. This would be fine but are they actually the legal owners of these wild fish ? With the EA backing them up all the way - it doesn't really matter what we think, they can do what they want. Just another quango playing god - look at the situation natural england have unleashed on our fish stocks, with their Springwatch friendly fluffy otters.

    Shame the recent EA bye law that is supposed to prevent the removal of fish only applies to rod and line!

    Well said Steve, I couldn't argue with any of that.

  23. Very sad news Jeff, a real shame that BW sees fit to mess around with the balance of fish stocks in this way.
    In response to Steves comment about canoeists not paying to use the canals he is very much mistaken (I have a foot in both camps).

  24. Steve,some of the points you've raised are spot on,and i completely agree.The person paying to rent this stretch of the Coventry Canal is a good friend of mine,i spoke with him at length last night,and he assures me BW did not ask his permission,or inform him of the electro fishing episode at the Marina.On the subject of Bailliffing,it is simply pointless trying to police this amount of towpath (the basin to bridge 34)it would involve some serious legwork,and the monies collected would be minimal.There is also the prospect of confrontation with our Eastern European cousins,who seem to think the Coventry Canal is some kind of personal larder.My last point,and one that Jeff may not appreciate is the Zander situation,all Zander caught in the canal must be destroyed,it is actually illegal to return them.Tight Lines

  25. The returning of zander is illegal under Part 1 Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

    However, given that most of the guys on here enjoy fishing for the species, and would rather run the risk of taking a ticking off from BW than kill one - except for when Jeff feels like a fish super - we will keep returning them once they're captured (or at least I will, don't want to speak for everyone else).

    Looking at it realistically, with the EA unable to successfully bailiff a bathtub, unwilling to deal with poachers and looking to scrap license checking on their part very soon (so I hear), are they really going to bother with a guy putting back a schooly zander on the cov canal in the middle of nowhere?

  26. Just had the following from Anthony Simmons (LAA)
    He has spoken to BWB regarding this incident, this is the reply from John Ellis (National Fisheries & Angling Manager)

    'You will be aware of the very great financial difficulties that all public sector organisations find themselves in, BW are no exception. BW fisheries get no rod licence income nor any government grant. We have a situation where a BW reservoir called Toddbrook was drained for engineering works and the fish transferred to club controlled waters in the West Midlands. Toddbrook had now been re-watered and as you can imagine we would not wish to retrieve the fish from those clubs who pay rents to BW! We have removed fish for Toddbrook for 3 locations in the Midlands, Exhall basin near Coventry where no fishing is allowed because of moorings and overhead powerlines, Tividale keys in Birmingham where again no fishing is permitted and the side ponds at Lapworth. Some pike have also been removed and swapped for silver fish. Club waters have restocked with silver fish as a result.'

  27. I talked to a load more people up the canal yesterday and it would seem, if local people without any particular axe to grind are to be believed, that BWB are lying through their teeth about the actual extent of this operation of theirs because I have now collected five witnesses who swear that they ranged as far as bridge 13 in Bedworth in order to fill their quota - that's another mile of canal further than the 300 claimed metres around Exhall Basin.

    I also found a silver bream floating belly up not far from bridge 13 and while this is not proof of anything, I took a photo as it seemed somehow symbolic...

    And yes, I have eaten four zander (two pound schoolies are the right size for eating) but safely returned all the rest, and one of those in front of two BWB officials who took my trophy shots for me but hadn't a clue about the legal situation until I made them aware of it just as the fish was slipped back into the water...

    Very nice eating are zander, highly rated by the worlds top chefs and as fillets, very expensive at Billinsgate (£30 per pound!) but not nearly so dear as live specimen size carp oiked out of the Fazeley Canal...

  28. What BW are doing is completely legal and above board,and now has the blessing of the person paying the rent on this stretch of canal.Unfortunately they didn't have the required paperwork to deal with the Zander today,but have agreed to return and hopefully eradicate this menace from the canal over the next few weeks.

  29. I'll bet they didn't...

    tasty, tasty, very very tasty...

  30. Ummm interesting.Let me just run through this again,i must have missed something.BW own the water,they lease a stretch of this water (Canal Basin to Bridge 34) to an individual who pays an annual rent.BW explain to the person leasing this stretch that they will be electro fishing in and around the marina.They also explain,that fishing in and around marina's,and permanent moorings,isn't allowed anyway.The fish (Bream and Pike) will be taken in order to restock a stillwater that has had repair work done,but is now being restocked.However.....a group of individuals,who have been fishing this stretch without permission, (poaching) are now kicking up a fuss,because whats happening doesn't suit them ????? Perhaps you'd like to fish my garden pond without permission? maybe help yourselves to a few of my prized Koi ? maybe tell me you don't like the colours of my Koi,and ask me to reposition the novelty Gnome ???

  31. Poaching? Come on. That infers that something was stolen or that the people who have been fishing have been fishing here for their own gain at someone's expense - stealing, in other words.

    The only thing I ever stole was a few peaceful moments out of the house and away from the crowd.

  32. British waterways have taken fish from more than just the Tividale Keys area of the Birmingham mainline canal, most of the stretch from Oldbury down to the Keys have been extensively netted recently, this is obvious from the damage that has been done to the lilly pads along this stretch,
    Just 2 wees ago I was fishing for some Carp and Tench that were sitting just under some of the pads near the top end of the Gower Branch canal on the mainline, the fish have always been quite visible in this stretch of canal with carp over 20lb being caught,
    I walked down there today to find the lilly pads destroyed and no sign of any fish,
    no roach, bream, tench or the massive carp that are usually there.

  33. @Jeff Hatt....

    Fishing without a licence or permit or any required permission - regardless of if you catch anything or not - IS poaching and also a criminal offence under the Theft Act 1968 and the owner is entitled to call the police and insist they arrest and prosecute you... and you risk a £5000 and/or 2 year jail sentence. The police take this VERY seriously and are in fact working in conjunction with the Environment Agency and are setting up specialist 'poaching' fast response teams.


  34. Jeff,your a complete dick head to think and agree that people who buy a rod licence to fish a relatively unused stretch of canal,paid for by all of our for fathers a hundred times over is a VERY SERIOUS OFFENCE!!!As for the taking of wild fish from there natural habitat and then having the gall to slag off caring anglers who's only aim is to protect what is all ready there,there not asking for anything other than to LEAVE THINGS AS THEY ARE.

  35. Cowen, 'leave things as they are' was my whole argument.. Glad you agree...

  36. Get a life Jeff! You sad git! Christ! It's just fish. Go and find other places to fish and atop moaning likwe some old washer woman! And the same applies to the rest of you aad lot.

  37. Now there's no need for bad language is there? And it is very bad indeed...

    Lekwe? aad?

    Hwat's htat? Swahili and Afrikaans?

    Look, I'm closing comments on this thread now because it's been two years since it was published and those who comment now are plainly idiotic and I simply won't allow such verbal pollution on my blog, so...

    Go freak out elsewhere.

    And if you decide that you'll publish comments along the same lines on other open posts, then I'll simply delete them as soon as I see them and deny you your voice.

    Is that understood?