An aquatic head count took place near Guildford this week, as Environment Agency staff completed another phase in restoration and renovation works at Britton’s Pond.

The ongoing project – involving Surrey Wildlife Trust, the Guildford Angling Society, Guildford Borough Council and the Environment Agency – seeks to improve water quality, limit silt build-up and promote sustainable fish stocks in the pond.

This week, Adrian Bicknell, fisheries officer for the Environment Agency undertook the slippery job of trying to count the number of carp living in the pond.

The survey involved carefully netting each fish, which were then weighed, measured, logged, and marked with a harmless blue dye before being released back into the water. The Environment Agency fisheries team returned three weeks later and the pond was netted again. By counting all the marked and unmarked carp, fisheries officers were able to get an accurate estimate of how many carp live in the pond, which is placed at approximately 400.

Carp are of particular interest because they are large fish that feed from the bottom of the pond, and can, therefore, stir up the mud and silt in the process. With the average size of carp in Britton’s Pond reaching 10.4lbs, project leaders are keen to introduce greater numbers of other fish species, such as tench, roach, perch and gudgeon. As well as reducing the impact of the carp’s feeding activities, introducing different sizes and breeds of fish will provide new angling challenges, especially for those just taking up the sport.

Mr Bicknell said: “Over the past few years we have been called out to Britton’s Pond on numerous occasions to deal with dead fish or to deploy emergency aeration equipment to enable the fish to breathe. These problems are caused by a large build-up of silt in the pond, coming from surface water drainage systems in the surrounding area, which can be stirred up by large fish like carp.

“The project aims to prevent further impacts by removing some of the build-up and constructing a purpose built trap to stop further silt leaching into the water. However, we also need to ensure we have the right number and mix of fish for a pond of this size and type. Reducing the number of carp will make Britton’s Pond a better all round fishery and improved habitat for wildlife. It will also improve the quality of the remaining carp stocks.”

Alan Tanner from the Guildford Angling Society said: “We are looking forward to working with the Environment Agency to decide exactly which new fish to introduce as we really want to encourage more people to come and get involved down at Britton’s Pond. We plan to hold angling events to show beginners how to get to get to grips with baiting, casting and assessing their catches once the new stock is introduced.”

The whole project is due for completion in 2008 or early 2009.

Find out more at www.channel4.com/castleford or from Carmel O’Toole cotoole@channel4.co.uk 07838 368813

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