Stillwater Management Workshop

Institute of Fisheries Management & Environment Agency course at Dinton Pastures.

The Stillwater Managment Workshop was arranged by the Environment Agency (EA) and the Institute of Fisheries Management (IFM) and took place on the 7th June 2008 at Dinton Pastures Country Park near Hurst, Reading. The event was set up to aid those clubs and organisations that either already have, are setting up or are planning a stillwater for the future. This was an ideal situation for Swallowfield to gain some important knowledge and information so that it could be put to good use on the Decoy Pond Restoration.

The course was attended by some twenty or so individuals from clubs in the surrounding area and presented by various EA and IFM members. Over the course of the day, various presentations focused on different aspects of building and maintaining stillwater fisheries. These included such things as small club lakes and ponds that were there for the benefit of its members to commercial venues that were run as a profit making business. Although at the end of the day these would both be lakes stocked with fish, the building and running of these stillwaters was very different.

To sustain a fishery on any sort, it was emphasized that the ecology of the lake or pond had to be carefully planned. The make up of plant life in marginal areas, bankside vegetation and trees all play an important part in the construction and development of a stillwater. They provide the spawning areas for fish, shelter, shade and a habitat for invertibrate life in close proximity to the water. The water quality must be at required levels to properly sustain life within the water and a suitable monitoring program undertaken to prevent the loss of life. Various aspects of structure within the water course were discussed that again, provide shelter for fish from predation and areas to spwan. The best materials and construction methods were touched upon with examples that had been used successfully in other fisheries over the country. Natural materials were obviously favoured, such as wood & coia (coconut) matting although made made materials could be used instead. With the basic structure outlined, this then moved onto fish stocking densities and the ability of the lake to support the life within it. A large amount of factors govern this aspect, the major factor being the size of the lake and the water capacity it carries. The lake such as the decoy pond would be capable of about 250kg of fish over a variety of species. At thwe opposite end of the scale for example, a commercial fishery would be looking at almost three times this weight in fish given the amount of bait being introduced by anglers on a regular basis.

Moving on from this the legal matters concerning the creation and development of stillwaters also reqiures considerable though. Council planing permissions and Environment Agency consents are but two examples. It was emphasied that all of these aspects should be examined and bought together in a management plan that should be submitted to not only councils and the EA but to any potential sources of funding that may aid the project financially.

Finally, a case study was presented on the resortation of the West Lake in Victoria Park In East London. It clearly showed the neglect given to this lake over the years. By working with local volunteers, councils and an angling alliance made up of local residents the lake was restored to an ameinity that would serve the park for many years to come.

In respect of Swallowfield Fishing Club and the Decoy Pond Restoration, the ideas on the use of and what materials should be used were invaluable. The construction and use of floating island to provide shelter and spawning areas for fish can be easily overlooked. The ideas seen on other projects can often provide valuable information to new projects and aid then in their development to completion.

Overall this was a very well presented introduction to stillwater management and along with all of the free liturature provide, should give the club a better understanding of making the Decoy Pond a successful project when completed. There will hopefully be further workshops arranged in the future to complement this initial course, dealing with more advanced issues.