2021 got of to a slow start again with further Covid lockdowns and restrictions on public meetings.
Our AGM scheduled for last February was therefore cancelled. With further restrictions on public meetings in the first half of 2021 and the closure of our meeting venue for some time thereafter the Committee were unable to get together until September of this year. We have nonetheless managed to maintain all of the Clubs functions and access to all waters during 2021.
You will no doubt recall the membership numbers for 2020 had fallen to an all-time low of 126 adult members (no doubt aggravated by the Covid situation) and the Club therefore decided that they would not renew the leases on either the Inny or West Looe to reduce costs in 2021.
Early in the New Year I was able to talk with the Duchy about this and they very kindly offered to reduce rates further to enable the Club to maintain access to that fishing. I would therefore like to take the opportunity to publicly thank them for that additional support.
In addition a short stretch between the Upper and Lower Boconnoc beats on the Fowey became available (designated unsurprisingly as Middle Boconnoc) to the Club and this has now been incorporated into our Boconnoc lease.
With a very full agenda the business of running your Club is now back up and running in the real world. The Committee are able to plan ahead with some certainty and to meet up as a group to discuss and decide on various matters. The drop in membership seen in 2020 seems to have stabilised now and we have exactly the same number of adult members in the Club this year (126). Whilst it is good to see that there has not been another drop off in membership the club continues to struggle to make ends meet as external costs are always rising and it is just the membership fees that generates the income we have to pay all the bills. The Committee has decided that following the welcome freeze in subscriptions last year it is now necessary to increase fees once more. This decision will result in a £5.00 increase across the board. Whilst small, this increase should enable the Club to just about break even in 2022 – provided our membership numbers do not drop any lower.
The 2020 catch returns have now been received and the data gathered enables us to report on the results of our angling efforts.
The 2020 season saw a significant increase in the total of rod-caught salmon. From 2019 to the 2020 season salmon catches rose by 129% with 96 reported fish caught.
Sea trout numbers also rose from a low of 136 in 2019 to 308 in 2020, up by 226%. These 2020 figures are very encouraging, especially as the early part of that season saw a total ban on all fishing as a result of the first Covid lockdown and our fishing effort was down considerably.
On a river-by-river basis the Fowey fared best with the largest number of rod-caught salmon (62) in 2020 and it also produced the highest number of sea trout (218). Catch/release for salmon on the Fowey was 99% (where just one fish was reportedly taken) and the corresponding figure for sea trout was also excellent, at 99%. The Lynher reported 33 salmon caught in 2020 and a further 85 sea trout were also caught. Catch/release figures for the Lynher show a 100% return for salmon but a lower, more disappointing figure of 79% for sea trout. The 4 other rivers contributed just 1 salmon (from the Camel; returned) and 5 sea trout (all returned) to the 2020 figures.
Whilst it is too early to speculate on the 2021 season the early weeks seemed to show a paucity of fish crossing the counter at Restormel (on the Fowey) and annual and 10-year average numbers were disturbingly low. Few salmon and sea trout were seen and even fewer were apparently being caught. However there was a slight up-turn in catches into the early summer. The early lack of fish was exacerbated by what seems to have been very few summer peal entering any of our rivers and sea trout catches reported over the summer were very disappointing. However, all was not lost as an increase in water levels in late Summer and early Autumn seems to have led to a bounce back and many more MSW salmon were being reported as caught during October. Indeed one lucky member had 4 fish, up to 13lbs, off the Lynher in a single 2-hour session.
It is not clear why the peal run in 2021 appears to have been so poor but it certainly cannot be helped by the many miles of commercial netting that is continuing to take place in and around the estuaries of Cornwall all year. Many members will be aware that responsibility for these matters lie directly with the MMO and Cornwall-IFCA, not the EA.
The two organisations have been working for nearly a decade on a new bylaw to restrict commercial netting offshore to protect salmonids. Meanwhile the Devon and Severn-IFCA have had an effective by-law for this in place for many years. After far too many years of what appears to be nothing C-IFCA finally proposed a by-law in November 2021. Time to finally celebrate I hear you say? No. Much to the disappointment of anglers and others, the new C-IFCA by-law was significantly watered down from that originally proposed and consulted upon publicly. The original draft had 1km offshore exclusion zones and net headlines set no shallower than 5m and was replaced (by Committee decision) to include just a 500m exclusion zone and a 3m headline despite hard evidence as to the need to set nets deeper and have meaningful exclusion zones to protect salmonid species at sea. With almost no advertisement a brief consultation period was then opened and this Club, a key stakeholder, only found out about it through other channels 3 days before the deadline closed. It appears that many other angling stakeholders were also unaware what was happening. Following discussions with SWRA, FRA and other interested parties it was agreed that it would be in the best interest of salmonids (and the Club) to have something rather than nothing for another decade. LDAC have therefore supported the by-law as drafted and comments stating that were forwarded to MMO and C-IFCA ahead of the closing date. However, there is more uncertainty to follow. The C-IFCA by-law has now to be sent up to DEFRA for Ministerial approval and be formally made; but it has with it an Impact Assessment that suggests that local commercial fishermen will lose over £80mm in revenues if the by-law is signed off. This impact assessment (IA) has been heavily criticised as being wildly inaccurate, unbalanced and detrimental to the overall approval process. There is therefore concern that if weight is added to the IA then Ministerial approval could be withheld and we will return to the status quo of having no netting restrictions in Cornwall to protect salmonids. WATCH THIS SPACE as they say……………………….. To keep abreast of any changes to your fishing please do remember to always log onto the Club website at ldac.org.uk.
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