Fish are important indicators of water quality and part of the natural wildlife in Ennerdale. Ennerdale is home to a number of species of fish including salmon, trout, brook lamprey, eel, stickle back and Arctic charr.
Ennerdale Water is home to England’s only migratory population of Arctic charr. These beautiful fish are one of the rarest species of fish in Britain and are confined to the coldest deepest lakes in the Lake District and Scotland.
Ennerdale is also home to Brook Lamprey, a primitive jaw less fish resembling an eel. To lay their eggs they create sand beds by clearing areas of the stream bed of larger gravel using their mouths as suckers.
Fish spawn (lay their eggs) round the lakeshore gravels and in streams in October and November each year. Very little fish spawning occurs in the River Liza because it is so dynamic and violent constantly moving gavels and its course
Where to see
Fish can be seen in the Ennerdale lake, The River Liza and in many of the streams around the valley. Good places to look for fish are from bridges that cross over rivers and streams.
In autumn you may see a Redd , a raised mound of gravel, where a salmon or trout has laid its eggs and covered them with gravel.
Restoring Natural Rivers
Removing a concrete pip bridge restored fish access to 5km of spawning river and restored gravel deposition to arctic char spawning grounds seeing the numbers of spawning char rise from a handful to over 500 in 3 years..
Improving aquatic habitats
We have been working with the Environment Agency for over 10 years to improve the valleys aquatic habitats. This has focused on three areas:-
Removing obstacles to fish spawning. Since 1999 we have replaced two concrete pipe bridges with new bridges which have been designed to allow fish to swim upstream and gravel to be transported downstream to spawning grounds. Recent fish monitoring has found salmon and trout along sections of river upstream of these obstacles where previously none were found.
Removing Conifers along river corridors to allow a more dappled habitat to develop with more native species and reduce the instances of high PH events which can kill fish. These high PH events are caused by conifer needles which store acidic pollutants from the atmosphere, being washed into watercourses during high rainfall events. Water quality monitoring has shown that high PH events have significantly reduced over the last 15 years as we have progressively removed conifers.
Restoring the Arctic Charr
From 2005 to 2013 each Autumn around 5,000 eggs were harvested from migrating Arctic Charr and taken to a hatchery below Kielder water in Northumberland. The fish are returned unharmed to the River Liza. The eggs hatch over the winter and fry (young fish) are released back into Ennerdale Water in the spring. This project has been very successful with spawning Arctic Charr numbers increasing from a handful in the late 1990’s to around 500 in Autumn 2013. In addition to the fish rearing part of the project the Wild Ennerdale partners, with support from Honister Mine, funded the replacement of a concrete pipe bridge over Woundel Beck. The new single span timber bridge provides better access for people but also restores natural gravel movement down onto the Arctic Charr spawning grounds and opens up 5km of new spawning grounds, upstream of the old bridge , for salmon and trout.
The project continues today in a monitoring phase. Read more in our joint article with the Environment Agency Rewilding and Giving Artic Charr a Hand.