John Bailey: Fish In need.. good news at last!

Paul Whitehouse and Bib Mortimer from Gone Fishing

The beauty of wild fish and rivers inspires us all - Credit: John Bailey

Just how those of us who love rivers and wild fish have suffered over the years.

For 40 years, the tale of our rivers has been one of woe, of abstraction, of pollution from a score of sources, predation and general misuse and abuse.

Throughout 2021, the hot topic has been the tsunami of raw sewage the water companies have dumped in rivers whenever it has suited them and the near complete lack of any action taken to curb this horror. The bottom line is that huge investment in water is needed over many years, but in the meanwhile, surely, as anglers and as those who care, we can do something? With that in mind, can I introduce you to Fish In Need (FIN)?

All the trustees at FIN, and I am one, are passionate about fish stocks in this country and we are hoping to make an active, on-the-bank difference to their lives. Too often, as individuals, we have been involved with groups who seem to be pre-occupied with endless data collection, never ending debate and endless time and money spent on no obvious action, never mind end result.

Notable exceptions to this exist. For me at least, the Wild Trout Trust is a model with a terrific record of improved trout waters behind it. And let’s not forget the old Norfolk Anglers’ Conservation Association that transformed miles of the Wensum through simple sweat, blood and tears, showing ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference.

FIN is now a registered charity and the trustees are working on a 100pc voluntary basis so that every penny of money raised goes where it is intended to go, to the fish. The trustees are, in my view, a great lot, though they might not speak as highly of me! We have top legal brains, great accountancy, a sound knowledge of the fish world and in Dr Mark Everard, perhaps the UK’s leading fishery expert.

Thomas Turner, the vintage tackle company, is a patron because it realises the necessity of sustainability .We have a dusting of star quality too: thank you, Paul Whitehouse, for pitching in. Let me emphasise that we are just starting out and feeling our way. There are those who feel we should be more sure about how FIN is going to work before launching it like this, but I’m an old man in a hurry and above all, I feel we need direction and that help can come from you.

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In a nutshell, our plan is to raise money in the form of grants to any of you who come to us with a well-worked out plan on how to better the lives and habitats of wild fish. We are a charity so we can’t help out a commercial fishery owner or anyone who has a water that the public cannot access or benefit from. So we are looking for projects that are as  inclusive as possible, with an educational bent if possible and they need to be thought out and environmentally sound if they are to pass the gimlet gaze of Dr Everard. We are also seeking partnerships where you do the work we all agree on and we provide the wherewithal for the essential raw materials. This is all about FIN and you and your friends teaming up to help fish now, not at some unspecified time in the future.

Let me give you the example of FIN’s first project so we can all get this straight in our heads. We are planning on giving about £1,000 to a group of fishers on a South Eastern river who have taken control of half a mile of river in dire condition. Above and below them, the river has been worked on and rejuvenated and wild fish have come back strongly and naturally. The concept is that this 'missing' half  mile will be brought up to the same habitat standard, the fish will have an extended corridor, spawning success will rocket and the entire river will gradually benefit from the work. The Medway men and women will do the work as Everard approves and I for one will get down there to lend a hand. Membership to this half mile is open so many will get to fish there. The public will enjoy seeing increased birdlife and it is hoped school parties will get there to study wildlife restoration in action. If these objectives come to fruition, and I think they will, I can’t think of a better way to spend a thousand quid. Can you?

So, there we are. we have a little cash in the bank already and we’d love to talk to you about any projects you might have in mind or any ideas that you think might help us. We are here for you and you need to be here for us. Please contact us at office@fishinneed.org.uk and let’s help fish together.