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Hundreds of fish back in Grand Western Canal

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: December 11, 2012

Environment agency staff and volunteers battle appalling conditions to rescue fish

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HUNDREDS of fish were rescued from the lagoon which was created by the collapse of a bank on the Grand Western Canal, which was nearly 200 years old.

Pike, bream and tench were among the species to have been captured but work will need to continue if more are to be saved, organisers say.

Anglers and Environment Agency staff combed the lake for fish which were then kept in tanks before being reintroduced to the canal in batches at the Dudley Weatherley swing bridge.

Attempts to rescue fish earlier in the week were postponed due to poor weather.

The rescue was made necessary after the canal bank near Halberton collapsed, leading to two miles of water draining into the surrounding fields.

Nick Maye, of the Environment Agency who co-ordinated the operation, said the weather had also thwarted attempts to rescue fish last week.

He said: "The first netting did not work at all because parts of the lake were completely frozen and we were getting huge amounts of ice in the nets.

"The second and third dragging of the lake caught some good fish, though. We were particularly pleased to see tench, because they will be spawning next summer."

He paid tribute to the volunteers who helped to haul out nets and carry fish to safety in muddy conditions.

Mr Maye said: "Everyone has worked so hard and I was really heartened to see so many people come out to help with this.

"I thought we might get five or six people come along but we had more than double that number and some people took time off work to come along and help," he said.

Mr Maye described the mission as one of the "biggest and most difficult netting operations" he had taken part in.

He said: "We are often asked to move fish for restocking purposes but it is always on a smaller scale and it is relatively simple to get them out.

"The cold and muddy weather has made this quite difficult. We are pleased with the amount of fish we have rescued. We have got some larger fish and some smaller fish and those larger ones are particularly important for the restocking of the canal.

"There are a lot more fish to come out and I would like to come back and try again," added Mr Maye.

He was unsure when further work to remove fish would happen but he hopes to discuss a possible start date with the local authorities soon.

Among the fish rescued during the first four hours at the lake were a 12lb pike, a 5lb bream, as well as rudd, roach, perch, tench and eels.

The breach of the embankment occurred on Wednesday, November 21, after nearly a month of rain fell on what was already saturated ground.

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