Dropping Hedgehogs into the River Wear - Durham City
This morning I went along to see the team from the Environment Agency effectively creating sheltered housing for fish.
Plastic hedgehogs are the latest idea to come over from the USA and work by creating space where fish can swim but predators cant. The hedgehog is a simple device in the form of a plastic spikey ball about a metre across – weighed down at one end.
Plastic Hedgehogs waiting to be planted in the deep holes of the River Wear
As I write, a dozen hedgehogs are being strategically placed in the deep holes in the slow water around Prebend’s Bridge in Durham City.
This stretch is well known in angling (and boating) circles for its deep holes caused by subsidence of the old coal mine levels below, and while I was there the EA were boating the stretch and using sonar to find them. The deepest hole found today was 4.5 metres and was said to be well occupied by fish – probably roach it was said.
Surveying the deep holes of the River Wear
Apparently the hedgehogs will not cause a problem for anglers who can also cast into, and catch fish from them without getting hooked up. And their effectiveness will be monitored using a fish finder to see whether or not they are harbouring fish.
Paul Frear, fisheries officer at the Environment Agency said:
“Local anglers are very concerned that fish numbers continue to be affected by cormorants in Durham. We wanted to try a new approach, that will help protect fish stocks without targeting the cormorants. The hedgehogs will really help boost fish numbers as they will prevent cormorants from catching important coarse fish and trout. Our research has shown that if it takes a lot longer for cormorants to find their food, their numbers in that area should reduce. With the fish being well hidden in the refuges, we can reduce the numbers being caught by as much as 70 per cent.”
John Hepworth, from Durham City Angling Club said:
“Only five years ago the River Wear attracted anglers from almost every corner of the country, but today there are fewer anglers because fish numbers have been depleted. We fully support the work that Paul and his team are doing in Durham, and the work they continue to do on the River Wear and its tributaries. These refuges are much needed and will help to protect and restore the Wear’s silver fish populations back to what they were.”
Durham City is well known for harbouring a very healthy population of cormorants – with at least ten ironically residing near the fish pass!
Durham City's Cormorants
Even while the EA assembled the hedgehog kits, a cormorant, goosander and heron were happily working the river in front of us. I think Durham’s fish will welcome their new spikey friends!
Nevertheless with so many predators it does indicate that there must be lots of prey – perhaps these hedgehogs will tip the balance in the fishes' favour.