Why Do We Need to Know About Fish?
Because fish are hidden beneath the water, they are often ignored and there is a lot more to discover about the sorts of places where they live. They need good aquatic habitat; they are also indicators of good water quality so a healthy fish population means a healthy environment.
For many people, fish are important for recreation; angling is the biggest sport in the country in terms of numbers of participants. Anglers need healthy fish populations, and they have often been at the forefront of highlighting water pollution incidents which can kill fish.
Like other animals, some fish are rare and protected. The Leicestershire and Rutland Red Data Book highlights four critical species which we need to look after; brown trout, brook lamprey, spined loach and bullhead. The last three are protected by legislation.
What Are We Looking For?
Around 30 species of fish are likely to be found in the flowing and still waters of Leicestershire and Rutland. Some of these are rare and unlikely to be seen (and some have even become extinct in recent times). Some are obvious if you come across them whilst pond-dipping, or just gazing into a river from a bridge. Many fish species, though, are rather difficult to tell apart – this is where we need the help of the experts - anglers!
How Do We Find Fish?
Pond-dipping or stream-dipping will turn up some of the smaller fish species which can be identified (with help from naturalists). However, the best way to find out what fish live in a river or lake is to ask anglers what they are catching. Most fishermen are happy to tell you what they have been catching, but try not to cause disturbance to the anglers, or the environment.
There are various sources of information which can help you. The following books are all useful:
Collins Pocket Guide: Fish of Britain and Europe (Miller & Loates, 1997)
Hamlyn Guide to Freshwater Fish of Britain and Europe (Maitland, 2000)
Pocket Guide to Freshwater Fish of Britain and Europe (Greenhalgh, 2001)
Freshwater Fishes in Britain: the species and their distribution (Davies et al, 2004)
Where Should We Look?
We know quite a lot about the fish in most of our rivers, from surveys done by the Environment Agency (though we don’t know much about rivers in north Leicestershire, such as the Smite and Devon). However, we need much more information on the fish of small streams, canals and stillwaters (including ponds, lakes and reservoirs).
All photos kindly supplied by the Environment Agency
Produced by the Community Heritage Initiative, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Rutland County Council
Page Last Updated: 25 November 2008