THE Environment Agency has introduced new rules to protect declining salmon stocks in south Cumbria.
New byelaws mean netting on the Leven Estuary is now banned during June, with the netting season reduced to July and August only.
Also, a ‘catch and release’ byelaw means rod-caught salmon in the Leven and Crake catchment, upstream of the Leven viaduct near Ulverston, must be returned to the water unharmed.
The Leven and Crake catchment includes waters inland of the Leven viaduct, including the Rivers Leven and Crake, Coniston Water, Windermere, Esthwaite Water, Rydal Water, Grasmere, Elterwater, and associated tributaries.
The byelaws will be in force for at least the next 10 years, after which they will be reviewed. In the meantime the Environment Agency will monitor fish stocks and carry out habitat improvements in the catchment, working closely with anglers and landowners.
In addition, a Net Limitation Order means netting licences will only be issued to people who already hold such licences and continue to fish year-on-year. No new netsmen or women will be able to enter the fishery during the next 10 years.
The new measures have been introduced because salmon stocks in the catchment are declining. Spawning targets, which would indicate healthy fish populations, have not been met for several years.
The Agency is recommending that anglers also adopt ‘catch and release’ when fishing for sea trout, as its stocks have also declined.
Jeremy Westgarth, the Environment Agency’s Fisheries Technical Team Leader, said: “We are very concerned about the salmon stocks in the Leven and Crake catchment. These new legal measures are vital to the conservation of these stocks. All anglers need to be aware of the changes and make sure they comply with the law.
By using ‘catch and release’, anglers can continue to enjoy their sport, and fish can safely continue to their spawning grounds. Anglers can help us by doing all they can to help increase the survival of healthy fish.
Anglers can help further by adopting measures to ensure fish can be released unharmed:
Decreasing hook sizes and using barbless hooks.
Fishing with a fly rather than bait, to avoid deep hooking.
Landing fish quickly, with suitable tackle.
Using soft mesh landing nets.
Keeping fish in water during unhooking.
Keeping handling to a minimum, and remembering to wet hands first.

Copies of regional fisheries byelaws, and further information about ‘catch and release’, are available from the Environment Agency’s website or by contacting the Agency on 0845 933 3111.
The new ‘catch and release’ byelaw for salmon on the Leven and Crake catchment comes into force on
16 June 2003
. It is in addition to an existing national byelaw banning the taking and killing of salmon up to 16 June.
The new netting byelaw, on the Leven Estuary, came into force on 1 June.
Anglers breaching byelaws can be prosecuted by the Environment Agency. The maximum penalty is £2,500 for each offence.