FROG SPAWN SNAFFLERS STRIKE AT CROSSLEY QUARRY

THERE being a lot more to fishing than simply catching fish, the Stoney angling club is rather proud of habitat improvements which it has carried out over many years (without a penny of public money) at its Crossley Quarry trout fishery at Netherley, to encourage wildlife there.

Friday, 2nd April 2010, 12:43 pm

Swallows, wrens, grey wagtails, chaffinches, field voles, lizards, roe deer, rabbits, stoats, weasels and other land animals are all resident or frequent visitors. And a pair of breeding (no, not bleedin'!) otters using the flooded concrete hopper to raise their young, was a particular privilege a couple of years ago........Tarka and family remain occasional visitors each year.

In the waters of the pond itself (quite apart from the rainbow trout and brown trout which are the reason for that fishery in the first place), newts, frogs and toads are present and the spawn laid down by the latter two species is very evident at this time of year.

Far too evident, it seems, as the club's diligent Crossley Quarry convener, Hugh Mitchell, tells me that numerous clumps of frog spawn which were visible in the shallows almost within days of the winter ice melting, have suddenly been reduced to a single small clump.

Any naturalist will tell you that whilst the spawning adult amphibians are easy prey to heron, hoodie crow and other predators, the deliberately gelatinous and virtually indigestible spawn is a different matter and is invariably left well alone by their enemies.

So yet again (for it happened last Spring, too), we anglers must assume that the spawn has disappeared by the hand of man. An act of environmental vandalism which once more raises the question, "Why did you have to snaffle the whole darned lot..........would a jam jar full not have been quite sufficient for your purpose?"

Long before the Scottish Outdoor Access Code ever came into being, the SDAA as outright owner of Crossley Quarry and its surrounding fenced land, was completely relaxed about non-member access there provided that the ramblers or wildlife enthusiasts who did visit, remained aware that the main purpose of the pond was for trout fly fishing and that this activity presented a hazard to passers-by.

But disrespect by the few (in this case removal of spawn) may just spoil things for the many, because the Code is pretty clear on the mutual responsibilities of landowner and casual visitor.

On the one hand, it imposes an onus on land proprietors (such as the SDAA at Crossley Quarry) to "respect access rights by not purposefully or unreasonably preventing, hindering or deterring people from exercising access rights on or off paths and tracks".

On the other, it imposes a reciprocal and very equal duty on the public to "care for the interests of other users and for the natural heritage of rivers and lochs by......not intentionally or recklessly disturbing birds and other animals". Not to mention the fact that taking frog spawn (especially in the gross amount raped from Crossley Quarry) is a statutory offence under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

It seems pretty clear that the angling club could (and might) "act lawfully and reasonably" in its management of this quarry as a fishery and wildlife reserve, by restricting access to halt this abuse, perhaps by installing a lockfast gate allowing member-only entry, as presently exists at the Allochie Lochan car park.

If, however, the men-in-suits were to deem this an infringement of the spirit of the Code, then it could be argued that the dangers of wandering uninsured around a flooded quarry complete with cliff faces, represent a good enough reason to refuse access. The Ways and Means Act of Nineteen Oatcake is a powerful tool!

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HAVING newly returned from three months in stunning New Zealand, I probably have enough stories of angling exploits in river, loch and sea to fill a book, and I hope to share some of these with my readers. From time to time, that is, as I would not wish to bore non-fishers or cause some stampede of emigrating anglers!

The one most striking difference between the two countries which I have immediately noticed on our return? In a word, LITTER. Having driven many thousands of kilometres in North and South Island, and rambled many hundreds more on foot in the city and countryside there, I became so used to zero litter anywhere, that the mess on roadsides and elsewhere which was immediately apparent on returning to my beloved Scotland, was staggeringly ugly in comparison.

Why, the pupils across there even pad to and from school on the pavements and grass verges in their bare feet.......can you imagine the queues at A&E were our own kids to attempt that here, with all the broken glass and dog faeces lying around?

What a difference proper education and real enforcement would make...........together with an appreciation by our younger generation in particular, that under the layer of discarded polystyrene packaging, beer cans, broken bottles etc, we too have one of the world's most beautiful countries on our very doorstep!

"Tight Lines"