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Rother Sea Trout

Sea trout and brown trout are the same species, Salmo trutta.

Rother sea trout and those in the River Ouse, have a very distinctive appearance. They are generally deep bodied, heavily spotted fish. They show exceptionally fast growth. The Sussex rivers produce, on average, the largest sea trout in England and Wales. Most sea trout are female. These large old sea trout produce thousands of eggs and are the most important fish to return.

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A sea trout smolt caught in May

A proportion of young trout are driven to migrate to the sea by a lack of food in the river. The young trout turn silver and change their physiology so that they can survive in salt water. These smolts shoal together and migrate to sea from March to May usually at night. The sea is rich in food and the trout rapidly increase in size. During the day migrating smolts may splash about on the surface, they can look like a shoal of dace or roach.

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A mature sea trout

Mature fish arrive in the summer and early autumn. They usually travel at night when the water level is high. During the day they wait in deep pools with good tree cover. The majority of sea trout entering the Rother are large fish which have spent a year or more at sea. They are usually in the 4-6lb class and are bright silver with black spots. After a few weeks in the river the silver fades to a pewter or lead colour with a purple sheen.

Mature sea trout remain in the estuary waiting for rain. High water levels provide better travelling conditions for the fish and encourage them to swim upstream. Adult sea trout are powerful jumpers and can clear a yard high weir. On the River Arun and the River Rother, barriers to their migration have been modified or removed by the Environment Agency working in partnership with the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust.

Sea trout breed when water temperatures are low during October and November but late arriving fish may spawn until mid-February. They spawn in the main river on gravel riffles and also in side streams. The side streams are very small and many can only be reached when water levels are high.

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A sea trout kelt from one of the new riffles

Once spawning is completed the fish quickly return to the sea. Sea trout are stressed during spawning and might show white or reddish fungal growths. If the infection is not too serious, the fish will return to sea and recover. Therefore sea trout kelts that have minor fungal infections should not be killed.

The club is fortunate to have a good number of wild brown trout and sea trout in the River Rother and is working hard to restore their environment. Members targeting sea trout must have a salmon and sea trout licence.

The club rules have been changed this season to permit only the use of barbless hooks on the river. All sea trout and wild trout must be returned.

Restoring the Rother

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The Arun and Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) is a registered charity formed in 2011 and is part of a national network of River Trusts. The main objectives of ARRT are to protect the rivers, improve biodiversity and to work closely with the Environment Agency (EA), farmers, fishing clubs and other organisations. Andrew Thompson, the club’s Keeper,  is a Trustee.

The Arun and Rother catchment area covers 575 square miles and is dominated by the chalk ridge of the South Downs, greensand and the clay of the Weald. The Rother valley is a Site of Nature Conservation Interest (SNCI) and since 2010, has been a part of the South Downs National Park. The Rother is not the original name of the river. The old name was ‘Scire’, a Saxon word meaning ‘bright and clear’.

The club’s stretch of the river was part of the Rother Navigation. Artifical cuts and locks were built between 1791 and 1795 turning the river into a canal for the import of coal and the export of corn and timber. The Leconfield Estate is working with ARRT, the EA, the Wild Trout Trust (WTT) and other organisations to return the river to it’s natural state.

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Regular surveys of freshwater invertebrates are carried out as part of the Rother Riverfly Scheme. The survey work involves volunteers collecting samples of invertebrates from the riverbed and recording the abundance of eight riverfly groups. The data is used to monitor water quality.

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The Wild Trout Trust is a charity that stimulates conservation projects to improve river habitat. The South Coast Sea Trout Project (SCSTP) is a partnership between the EA, the WTT, the Atlantic Salmon Trust and the ARRT. The project focuses on the freshwater element of the sea trout lifecycle The objectives are to improve the spawning and juvenile habitat and to improve fish migration through the installation of low cost fish easements.

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On the Rother new gravel riffles have been constructed to improve the habitat for invertebrates, to provide spawning sites for the fish, to speed the flow of water thus removing silt and increasing the amount of dissolved  oxygen. The restoration of the river also includes restricting the width of the river, leaving tree cover for shelter and shade.  All wild trout and sea trout caught by members are carefully returned to the river

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A redd above one of the new riffles

After several years the results of these projects are apparent. The riffles hold good numbers of invertebrates and the population of wild trout is increasing. During May there were lots of sea trout smolts migrating downstream. Several mature fish in the 4-5lb class were caught later in the season. In order to protect the wild brown trout and sea trout, only barbless hooks may be used.

 

 

2018 Membership

Membership renewal letters have been posted and enclose the renewal form, details of the 2018 charges and a standing order form. The membership fee remains the same but the fish stocking fee and guest ticket have both been increased slightly to ensure that the club covers it’s costs.

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The restoration of Lower Figgs is complete and the recent rain has filled the lake. Work to remove the weed and silt from Great Springs is underway and the lake has been drained. The objective is to stabilize the water temperature and pH during the hot summer months and to give members better access to weed free water.

The lakes at Little Bognor will trial catch and release. Both lakes are spring fed and the summer water temperatures are generally low enough to ensure the recovery of released trout. Barbless hooks or crushed barbs must be used on both lakes.

In view of the number of stocked trout that are returned to the river and the increasing number of sea trout and wild trout caught, barbless hooks must also be used on the river.

Diary dates:

AGM – Friday 16 March, evening

Spring Barbeque – Sunday 13 May

River Day – Sunday 24 June

Further details of these events will follow.

8 December

 

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The Last Fish of the Season

Lakes – The season ended on Thursday 30 November. During the last few days of the season members visited the lakes on 19 occasions and caught 9 trout including 7 over 2lbs and 1 wild fish. Both lakes at Little Bognor fished well and produced 6 of the fish.

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The restoration work at Lower Figgs is nearly complete and the lake is full again. The area surrounding the lake has been landscaped and will be seeded in the Spring. The lake looks magnificent and will be in excellent condition when the new season opens in March.

The Estate Maintenance Team have done an excellent job in a very short time. Lower Figgs should become a favourite with members next season.

The water level at Great Springs has been lowered. The fish will be removed next week,  the weed and silt will be scraped out and the lake left to refill. There will be regular updates to keep members informed of progress.

27 November

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Lakes – Members visited the lakes on 11 occasions and caught 5 trout, one of which was over 2lb. Although the season is nearly at an end there are trout to be caught at Little Springs and Little Bognor.

Good progress has been made  with the restoration work at Lower Figgs. The banks have been steeply graded to minimise marginal weed growth and the bottom of the lake has been contoured to provide deeper and cooler water for the trout during the summer.

 

 

 

20 November

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Lakes – The weather last week was changeable but it didn’t prevent members from visiting the lakes. During 19 visits 12 trout were caught, mainly from the top lake at Little Bognor. Half of the total number of fish caught were over 2lbs and 2 wild fish were returned at Little Bognor.

Work to restore Lower Figgs continued. When the work is complete the Estate Maintenance team will turn their attention to Great Springs.

13 November

Lakes – The rain and cold north wind kept members away from the lakes last week but those who ventured out were rewarded with good fishing. Members visited the lakes on 12 occasions and caught 8 fish. A 3lb rainbow was caught from Great Springs and a brown of 3lb 8ozs was the best of three browns from Little Bognor.

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Work to restore Lower Figgs began today. The banks will have a steeper profile to reduce marginal weed growth and the silt is being removed. The Estate Maintenance team are doing an excellent job and are making good progress.