Loch of Blairs was a very popular trout fishery until the late 1990’s when the availability of boat hire ceased. Our plan is to re-establish trout fishing on the loch with 2 or 3 boats being available. The challenge, however, is removing 15+ years of aquatic weed growth which now covers virtually all of the open water.
Work commenced by clearing the reeds from the boat channels between the boat houses and the main body of the loch. With the help of a funding grant from “Money for Moray” we were able to send in a very large excavator, and a very experienced driver (well done Grant Nicholson!), to carefully dredge the channel clear.
See the video of the boat channel dredging at…..The Boat Channel
Next on the agenda was tackling the aquatic weed that is choking the main body of the loch. After taking expert advice we developed a plan to spray the weed with a specially formulated herbicide that is approved for use in the aquatic environment. This type of activity is carefully regulated by SEPA under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011, abbreviated to CAR, and required us to apply for a licence. The application process for a CAR licence is rather complex but, with the assistance of a couple of Friends (who have expertise in this field) and the local SEPA Officer, we were successful in getting a licence in June 2019.
Work commenced in mid-July, when growth of the weed was most vigorous, and went on through to early September. Spraying was a long and laborious task because it was limited to periods of dead calm conditions. Even the slightest breeze made the application wasteful of the herbicide and made control of the boat difficult.
It was not our intention to totally remove the weed, because it does provide an important habitat for insect life on which the fish, once stocked, will feed. The aim was merely to get the weed back under control so that fishing is possible and the weed growth can be managed in the future.
It perhaps goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on progress at the loch. We had hoped to use the spring and summer of 2020 to consolidate on the excellent work done by the volunteers in 2019. It was evident that the herbicide spraying had been very successful, with a impact on around 60% of the dense weed, but we were keen to find a method of mechanical control so that we did not need to use further chemicals.
With the help of funding from Viridor Credits Ltd (under the Scottish Landfill Community Fund) and the Nineveh Charitable Trust we have been able to purchase a specialist piece of equipment called a Neptune Rake.
This weed cropping device will allow us to clear large swathes of the loch whilst leaving important areas for the invertebrate population. This work will have a significant beneficial impact on the water quality in the loch.
We had hoped to be at a stage sometime in 2021 to put a small stock of fish into the loch to allow limited angling to start whilst we continue the work. At the time of updating this page we are still facing significant COVID restrictions so only time will tell. So, keeping checking for updates!
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