Source: Morning Star Online
Sussex’s native sea trout have returned to Britain’s freshwater rivers and streams since before the last ice age, yet their habitats are being destroyed, writes DAVE BANGS
FOR ME, there is only one native British fish more beautiful than the Atlantic salmon, and that’s the sea trout of the Sussex race.
I should explain that the sea trout is a particular type of our native trout species which leaves its birthplace in our little streams to roam the sea before returning to its natal stream to spawn.
Many of its close relatives choose to stay all their lives at home, however, and they are known as the brown trout or “brownies.”
They tend to be much smaller because their freshwater diet is poorer than a sea-going diet.
Our Sussex sea trout can be as big as salmon and spawn later than other races of their kind.
You find their gravel nests around Christmas time, especially in our chalk streams.
At deepest dusk, if you are lucky, you may see a giant “hen” fish lying in the scrape she has dug, whilst the “cock” fish sidle up to her to mix their milt (sperm) with her roe (eggs).
Their backs emerge from the shallow riffles like surfacing submarines, whilst the water breaks over them.
In their breeding finery they are spotted brightest pink and black and grow to 2.5ft long and over 12lb in weight.
These fish have probably been returning annually to our local rivers from their rich sea feeding waters since long before the end of the ice age some 12,000 years ago.
Their migrations have marked the retreat of glaciers and tundra and the greening of our 30-mile wide Wealden vale to the lush “salad bowl” of trees and meadows that it is today.
Things are not good for these ancient beasts, however, whose numbers may be counted nowadays in the hundreds rather than the teeming thousands of the deep past.
Obstructing weirs have been built along most streams to facilitate farmers’ irrigation and commercial navigation, to make mill ponds, and manage coarse fisheries.
Sewage works and farmers’ pollutions periodically plague the rivers...