Anglers in the North East are helping to monitor the fish populations in one of the country’s most important rivers.
Fishing enthusiasts have helped to provide vital information to the Environment Agency about salmon and sea trout stocks in the River Tyne by collecting scales for examination.
Under magnification, marks on the scales can be read – in a similar way to rings on a tree trunk – to show stages in the fish’s life cycle, its age in winters, and how long it has spent in the sea and freshwater.
With the new season about to start next month, anglers are again being invited to join the efforts to monitor the wellbeing of the fish returning to the Tyne to spawn. This Angler Scale Reading Programme is expected to continue for the duration of construction of the second Tyne Crossing.
“Anglers are giving us invaluable support in our work to monitor the salmon and sea trout stocks in the Tyne,” said ecological appraisal officer Morton Heddell-Cowie.
“Collecting just a few scales from the salmon or sea trout they catch give us a massive amount of information.”
Last year more than 300 samples were collected by anglers and some of those who took part in the programme met earlier this month to hear how the fish scales they provided were read for data and how this information is being used.
Samples can be taken from fish anywhere on the river and all sizes of fish caught can provide samples. Only three to five scales from each fish are needed.
The Environment Agency has a factsheet for anglers to explain how scale samples can be easily and safely taken without harming the fish. Environment officers also collect samples throughout the fishing season from 1 February until 31 October.
Each sample submitted by an angler is rewarded by a certificate and everyone who took part in last year’s programme was entered into a prize draw. Draw winners were John Arthur, from Hexham, who received a Hardy Swift fly rod, donated by Hardy & Greys Limited, and Robert Keeney, a member of Hexham Angling Association, who was presented with a fly box and selection of salmon flies, donated by Bagnall & Kirkwood Limited.
The Tyne Rivers Trust and the Salmon & Trout Association also supported the programme during 2008.