Angling: Why river bailiffs need your help to combat illegal fishing across Lothians

An artist's impression of the completed works at Howden weir
An artist's impression of the completed works at Howden weir
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Bailiffs on the North and South Esk have carried out a joint patrol with local community police officers to share knowledge about the river and fishery rules.

However, the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board (FDSFB) said that bailiffs could not do their work without the support of local eyes and ears.

Appealing to the public for help, the board said: “If you spot or hear of illegal fishery activity within the Forth make sure you report it to the head bailiff on 07887 835549 or call the police on 101.

“If you are out on the River Tyne or Esk and spot illegal activity you can also contact the bailiffs on 07736 466725 of for the river Avon 07736 466723.”

For clarification, the North Esk rises in the Pentland Hills near Carlops and flows past Penicuik and Auchendinny, and continues through Roslin Glen and the Penicuik–Dalkeith Walkway, past Polton, Lasswade and Melville Castle.

The South Esk starts in the Moorfoot Hills and flows through Gladhouse and Rosebery reservoirs past Temple, then to Newtongrange before running through Dalkeith. The rivers converge near Dalkeith Palace.

In West Lothian, work on the Howden Bridge weir on The Almond will help migratory fish like salmon, sea trout, brown trout, lamprey and eel over this redundant structure.

The project is part of RiverLife: Almond & Avon, a partnership between the Forth Rivers Trust (FRT), West Lothian Council and The City of Edinburgh Council funded by Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), The Scottish Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland.

Howden Bridge weir was originally built to power the New Calder Paper Mill and a rock ramp will be built across the face of the weir to form a waterfall-like structure made up of pools, runs and easy leaps to help fish.

The contractors will be working on the right bank (looking downstream) first and the left channel will be completed in the new year.

The trust FRT said: “Working in stream during winter is not ideal, but safety and mitigation measures have been put in place to protect the environment and wildlife.”

Finally, Water of Leith bosses have urged anglers to send in their catch returns as soon as possible so they can gauge what is happening in the river.

One catch return for River Esk submitted to Musselburgh and District Angling Club brought a smile on social media. It said: “48 average sized leafs, three branches and a crisp packet. I thought the crisp packet was a fish when I saw the flash, but no. My return is a blank, but I’ll be back with a bang next year.” Tight lines, whoever you are.