DFA Hon Sec’s Report

The Hon Sec’s report from the Dart Fisheries Association. Points may be discussed at the AGM


2018 season and our Catches– The EA have reported that, provisionally, our catches were: Salmon 8 – we think number may have been closer to 20 against a previous 4 year average of 19 , Sea trout 120 – we think the number was closer to 200 against a previous 4 year average of 195, and Days fished was tba against a previous 4 year average 810days. Nb the Agency have advised that they are increasing catches by a factor of 1.51 to allow for those anglers who don’t submit their catch returns . Additionally the Westcountry Rivers Trust, who run our Passport scheme on the Duchy waters, have reported that 417 brown trout were caught, mainly by DAA members, in their first year of their agreement with the Duchy, in addition to 5 sea trout. Clearly our catches and effort, or lack of them, were affected by our long hot dry summer when there were very few days when it was possible to fish for salmon in a reasonable height of water, however the better news was that [a] there appeared to be a reasonable run of sea trout [b] there was evidently considerably less disease than in 2017 [c] the redd counting carried out in the early winter showed an encouraging number of both salmon and sea trout redds on the gravels that were worked on by Dave French and his team of volunteers in the summer. Information from our fish counters on Totnes weir will be provided at the meeting.

National salmon byelaws– notwithstanding that our river is considered to be “Probably at Risk” we have not had mandatory 100% Catch and Release imposed on us, but we are expected to achieve a release ratio of not less than 90%, which effectively means that all salmon caught should be returned. We also need to be aware that survival rates have been closely linked to water temperature and we should probably not be trying to catch salmon at all if the water temperature reaches 20 C, as it surely did last summer.

Electro-fishing– it was decided that the WRT would not be asked to electro-fish our upper river system last summer, instead our monies would be better spent on improving our spawning gravels on the Cherrybrook, Wallabrook, Stannonbrook and Blackabrook, which turned out to be money well spent. So e-fishing was limited to that carried out by the EA on the Cherrybrook and Wallabrook with disappointing results. This year it is likely the EA will cover more sites and we will ask the WRT to complement its work, so we should get a better picture idea of the numbers of our juveniles, both salmon and trout, in our upper river system. Then in 2020 the EA will be carrying out a full programme which they do every 6 years or so. 

Water quality– considerable monitoring of the quality of our water has been carried out by the EA, SWW, DWLT, Plymouth University and ourselves in the past two years without any alarm bells being rung, but we still have concerns that low ph flushes [ the WRT will be reporting on their liming trial in the upper West Dart at the meeting], pollution including from pesticides and discharges from our various sewage plants in the river system may be having an adverse effect on our salmonid stocks. Tom Hutchinson of Plymouth University will be our main speaker at our meeting on this subject. Luke Chester –Master and Chris Glover continue their good work on our fly life project, and it would be good if others would be willing to work with them.

Staverton hydro-electric scheme application– we are concerned about this application as, if agreed, it would mean a substantial amount of water being diverted from the river at Staverton weir into a leat to power the large [3 metre diameter] Archimedes screw at Town Mills. We have submitted a strong objection to the South Hams planners written for us by Roger Furniss to whom many thanks are due. The EA and NE have also objected so hopefully the scheme will not be approved. 

Canoeing – little news to report other than to mention Roger’s letter in the spring edition of the Dartmoor magazine demolishing Ben Seal’s [BC] contention that appeared in the magazine’s winter edition that the law is still unclear. The fact that BC have not disputed Roger’s arguments would suggest that it knows full well what the legal position is and is just trying to “muddy the water” for its members. Before that BC launched a new Charter in Westminster, promoting 365 day access on all rivers, in November which would appear to have been something of a damp squib, with little publicity nationally.

Our Partnership [DFA/EA/WRT] Work Plan– attached is our 2018 Work Plan showing progress, or lack of it, on the many issues affecting our river over the past 12 months. We have yet to finalise our 2019 plan, but it is likely to be very similar, with priorities being [a] to continue to improve our spawning gravels in the upper river system [b] try to ensure that our migratory salmon and sea trout can reach them without difficulty [c] to ensure as far as possible that the quality of the river’s water is not adversely affected by pollution from whatever source [d] continue, and possibly expand our liming trial, aimed at trying to reduce the damaging impact of low ph flushes in our river system. 

The GWLCT’s ongoing Samarch project– which includes the monitoring of movement of sea trout smolts from 5 rivers has shown that sea trout during daylight hours often go down deep. This information is likely to have an effect on the legal depth of off shore nets in due course. Re these offshore nets it appears there are around 2,500 legal ones in place around the Cornish coast on a daily basis!

There is a vacancy for the job of Secretary of this Association. Applications to our Chairman most welcome!