I joined South Molton Angling Club members Edward Rands and Roger Bray on a stretch of their club water on the River Bray to observe work being undertaken to clean the gravel where it is hoped salmon and sea trout will spawn this coming winter. Jeremy Weeks and David Weeks have been working to cleanse potential salmon and sea trout spawning areas over recent years for the Taw Spawning Habitat Improvement Project (SHIP). This important work is coordinated and funded by the West Country Rivers Trust and River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association. The work entails pumping water into the gravel at the tail of pools to loosen and dislodge the silt that clogs the potential spawning areas (redds). Plentiful oxygen is essential for the successful survival of salmon ova and fry. The South Molton Angling Club have also carried out moderate bank clearing to expose riffles to light and maintain shady pools.
It was unfortunate that sods law intervened with heavy rain the previous night colouring the water to make conditions poor resulting in the work being rescheduled for another day later in the week. Jeremy and David were however able to give a demonstration and talk at length about their work and its value.
The dwindling stocks of salmon and sea trout are of great concern to anglers who invest time, money and effort into habitat improvement. The reasons for the decline in salmon and sea trout are many and complex. Whilst many of these factors are beyond the influence of anglers every bit of habitat improvement can help to ensure the long time survival of these iconic species.