“This, then, is my plea for the creeks and little streams. It really asks for nothing more than reasonable care – the sort of care that would be given by any private owner of such a stream. It would not only serve the salmon (and sea trout) well, but would also give clear notice to all land and water users and to the public in general that streams are important and valuable assets, not mere accidents of nature”
Roderick Haigh-Brown 1961. Fisherman's Fall.
The Waterville Catchment is the principal Sea Trout Fishery in Ireland, with 99% of ‘Specimen’ Sea Trout (those over 6lbs) which are caught in the State are caught on this fishery and it is this Iconic status which attracts anglers from all over the world, to the greater benefit of the Waterville Community.
Sea Trout, which are an anadromous marine species, require small freshwater stream habitat to be able to spawn and for the young fry to prosper. Any disruption or damage to this habitat seriously reduces the productivity of the system.
Working with Volunteers and team members from the Rural Social Scheme streams will be cleared of obstructions, such as fallen trees, debris brought down by the winter floods together with annual overgrowth, to allow sea trout access into the gravel spawning areas in the streams. Where spawning gravel has been displaced by winter floods suitable clean gravel will be imported to those areas. Habitat for Sea Trout fry will be enhanced where appropriate, by creating small pools and increased flows in order to bring the streams back to their natural potential.
Salmon, like Sea Trout, are an anadromous marine fish requiring freshwater streams in which to spawn and nurture their young. Unlike Sea Trout they require a quite distinctly different habitat to do this. As a rule of thumb, salmon require larger streams, approx. 3 metres wide and above, together with larger sized gravel in which to lay their eggs.
This Stream Conservation work will be ongoing on a yearly basis. Plans are being made to increase the scope of this work to all sea trout spawning streams in both the Waterville and Inny catchments and in future years it is hoped that the work can be extended further to conserve the small coastal streams which flow directly into the ocean in this area.
The Atlantic Salmon Trust has this to say:-
“In recent years, in Ireland and the UK, there has been increasing interest in the conservation and management of small streams. These constitute a major proportion of overall river length. The European Environmental has estimated that some 80% of all river systems, by length, in Europe, comprise small streams. They are easily blocked by impassable culverts, farm crossings and minor land use changes and can be adversely affected by very minor land management practices. They are also poorly protected by existing legislation. Such streams are essential to the health of the wider aquatic ecosystem and of fish populations, throughout river catchments, but because of their size, small streams are particularly vulnerable, both to general pressures and to specific problems. For our purposes small streams are defined as any first or second-order hill streams or any small self-contained coastal stream, which discharges directly into the ocean. Although small streams have been identified as contributing to
failures to meet EU Water Framework Directive standards in larger river catchments, such watercourses are rarely classified as “water bodies” under the terms of the WFD. As such, they do not receive the formal monitoring priority and protection they need. Given the extent of the network of such streams, it is unlikely that agencies responsible for monitoring water quality and riverine habitat will be in a position to monitor even a fraction of such streams directly. Mobilising and training volunteers is the only practical solution to quantitatively assessing the status of such water bodies.”
You can read more about the Atlantic salmon trust here.