Strathclyde Park Loch 5

bryanh

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Cormorants and cock-ups.
Ever wished you hadn't started something? This thing seems to be developing into a saga to rival War&Peace but on the basis that somebody out there might still be tuning in,I'll carry on a bit further'

After the loch received its initial stocks of coarse fish in the late 1970s, it took about six months for them to settle down and the few of us who were fishing on a fairly regular basis had limited success during that period. Gradually however,sport began to improve and early hotspots were becoming evident. The area of the old boating pond at the southern end of the loch consistently produced the goods but the opposite bank alongside the M74 motorway was also rapidly improving. As time passed, the concentrations of fish increased in both locations but the boating pond was always the better, more consistent area, particularly during the summer months due to its exposure to the prevailing westerly wind. As the fishing improved and an increasing number of anglers began to explore other areas,good catches were reported from the northern end of the loch and from other marks near the mouth of the South Calder water on the eastern bank.

As word began to spread, the loch became an increasingly popular venue and with healthy numbers of of visiting anglers on the banks, the future was looking good.

Unfortunately this period coincided with a massive increase in the numbers of predatory birds which, in common with other venues throughout the UK had begun moving away from their natural coastal habitats to take up troublesome residences further inland.

Strathclyde Park was already playing host to large flocks of Gossander and while they were a threat to fish stocks, their main prey tended to be small fish in the upper layers so the larger, bottom-dwelling species were far less vulnerable.

The cormorants were an entirely different kettle of fish however and they took up residence in increasingly large numbers with a resulting devastating impact on valuable fish stocks. I well remember sitting in my car watching the damn things through binoculars in 1982; I counted over 400 of them perched on a series of pontoons anchored in the middle of the loch and I roughly calculated the weight of fish they could consume.

A full-grown cormorant weighs anything up to two kilos and if experts are to be believed, they are capable of consuming their own body-weight of fish every couple of days; it's a simple task to calculate the total weight of fish consumed in say, a couple of months - the results are quite staggering.

Interestingly,the RSPB claimed at the time that cormorants only spent the winter months on inland waters and returned to coastal areas in the spring. The problem with this claim was that the late 1970s and early 80s saw a massive decline in coastal fish stocks, particularly in the Clyde area due to illegal and largely unregulated inshore fishing which resulted in larger numbers of over-wintering birds remaining on fish-rich inland water such as Strathclyde Park loch.

Our pleas to the Park Management to investigate the problem and implement suitable measures to control the cormorant population, not surprisingly fell on deaf ears so we could only watch in dismay as valuable stocks of coarse fish continued to decline.

An angling colleague and fellow Monklands AC club member decided to take matters in hand however and waged his own personal war against the birds, large numbers of which had taken to roosting in a heavily wooded area at the northern end of the loch. Employing a powerful .22 rifle and operating at dusk and dawn he disposed of a remarkable number of cormorants but obviously he had only minimal success in significantly reducing the overall population.

The publicity material released during construction of the loch made special mention of the rowing facilities which were to be provided. It was envisaged that those facilities were to be the equal of any others, in any part of Europe and would be comparable to those built in only one UK location, namely England's National Water Sports Centre at Holme Pierrepont near Nottingham. Accordingly The Strathclyde Park facility was given the green light and six 13.5 metre racing lanes were incorporated alongside the west bank and an impressive water sports centre was constructed nearby.

More importantly however and as if we didn't have enough problems with the cormorants, the future procedures necessary for maintaining the Park's status as an international rowing venue were perhaps, the final nail in the coffin so far as long-term,quality coarse fishing was concerned.

To satisfy international requirements, the depth of the rowing course must be maintained at a minimum depth of 3.5 metres and additionally,shorelines and embankments must undergo stringent ten-yearly inspections to satisfy health & safety requirements.

The procedure for achieving this involved dropping the water level of the loch so that the rowing lanes could be more easily surveyed for signs of silting-up and the first time this operation was carried out, the water-level was dropped quite considerably.I don't have specific figures to hand but from memory it was around eight feet.

The procedure for dropping the level is quite straightforward; built into the western shore are two large sluices, which when opened,allow water to empty from the loch and into the nearby river Clyde. A simple enough procedure you might think, but no, at least not when organised by our heroes on the Park's Management team and carried out by the bright sparks in charge of the physical operation.

We (the local club anglers) were aware that the operation was imminent and we offered to provide what we felt was logical assistance to net-off both sluice inlet chambers to prevent the loss of valuable fish stocks. Our offer was met with a curt refusal on the basis that the Park Rangers knew what they were doing and despite repeated overtures to Management; we had no alternative but to reluctantly withdraw and leave them to it.

The operation was subsequently carried out on a Saturday morning and coincidentally, half a dozen of us were fishing in the vicinity of the first sluice; within half an hour of the main valve being opened, three of the Park's intrepid Rangers came galloping along the bank, to request that we hurry along with our landing nets to try and rescue fish which were pouring from the loch and into the main sluice chamber. As the lip of the chamber was almost eight feet above the water,it was, as can be imagined an impossible task and while a few fish were rescued, the force of the water flowing into the chamber largely prevented any serious rescue operation so we could only stand and watch as thousands of coarse fish were swept into the river.

It's impossible to accurately estimate the total stocks lost to the Clyde on that weekend but the sluices were running for almost twenty four hours before the required water level was achieved. Surely, things couldn't get any worse?.....

.......Don't count on it.








At least we found out where all the features were!

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Happier times; by 1990, an encouraging number of youngsters were joining the sport.
2018316124825_mds33.jpg.jpg
 

Seanm

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Another nice write up. from the sound of it the 1970's,80's and 90's park management is still employed today
 

bryanh

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Originally posted by Seanm

Another nice write up. from the sound of it the 1970's,80's and 90's park management is still employed today

I would imagine that most of them have since retired or moved-on but sadly, the anti-angling attitude is still very much in place.
 

Dave Spence

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"Cormorants and cock-ups.
Ever wished you hadn't started something? This thing seems to be developing into a saga to rival War&Peace but on the basis that somebody out there might still be tuning in,I'll carry on a bit further'"

Glad you did start it Bryan, it is a fascinating read. Being reminded of the past may,hopefully, shape the way of the future. Keep on writing mate your audience is appreciative. [:T][:T]
 

crackatoa

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Great read Bryan. I've always been a fan of Scotland. As a family we holidayed near Lochinver Sutherland for many years. Also used to spend weekends fishing for Bream on Castle Loch as well as few other waters in the Borders and the South West. I wish I'd spent more time exploring other venues
 
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