River Carron bailiffs keep poachers away from fishstocks

Volunteer bailiffs David Hunter, Michael Fitzgerald, Bob Baird, Brian Studholme and William Salmond at the River Carron by Larbert viaduct. Picture: Michael Gillen
Volunteer bailiffs David Hunter, Michael Fitzgerald, Bob Baird, Brian Studholme and William Salmond at the River Carron by Larbert viaduct. Picture: Michael Gillen

It’s the waterway that has been transformed from little more than a stagnant polluted creek to a haven for wildlife and people alike.

The River Carron is now one of the most popular destinations for fishing in central Scotland thanks to the abundance of trout and salmon, which is down to the hard work of conservationists and a local angling club over the last three decades.

Now a team of dedicated volunteers is playing its part in ensuring the river can continue its regeneration.

The fishing season on the Carron officially closed on October 31 and no angling is permitted on any stretch until March 15. It’s the responsibilty of 10 bailiffs to patrol the riverbanks in the meantime to ensure that rule is adhered to.

Bob Baird is one of them. The 69-year-old retired foundry manager from Larbert regularly visits the riverbank in his role as treasurer of the Larbert and Stenhousemuir Angling Club (LASAC).

The group has sole fishing rights to the river from the former Carron Works weir up to the Auchinlillian spout at Carron Glen, which it leases from Callendar Estates. In turn it awards more than 800 permits to paying members of the public each year.

“We do get reports on social media sites that some people are fishing on the river out of season,” he said. “But we’ve not caught anyone. If anyone is doing it, they’re unlikely to know that the season has ended.”

The fact that anyone is fishing on the Carron at all would have shocked residents in communities along the Carron only a few decades ago.

“When I was growing up, my mother would have skelped me if she caught me playing by the river,” said Bob. “It was so polluted it would burn the soles of your gutties.”

Following the closure of nearby industries, the Carron’s water quality slowly began to improve. LASAC began restocking the Carron with salmon, sea trout and brown trout in the mid-1980s as part of a joint project with the University of Stirling.

The introduction of migratory fish was halted in 1994, and now only brown trout are stocked by the club.

“The salmon that can be seen leaping in the river every year at the Larbert viaduct are the spawn of those original fish,” added Bob.

“There are often more people with cameras than fishing rods down by the river.”

The Carron’s regeneration is not only a boost for anglers. The abundance of fish means that a whole range of wildlife can be seen from the riverbank.

“Because of how the water quality has improved, it’s a rare day when you don’t see a kingfisher on the river,” Bob said. “You also see some otters, and even, sadly, mink.”

Much of the conservation work on the Carron has been driven in recent years by Communities Along the Carron (CATCA) and the recently-disbanded River Carron Fisheries Management Group.

If anyone observes someone fishing on the river between now and March 14, they are asked. not to approach them but call the police on 101. Alternatively, the district warranted bailiff, who has the power of arrest, can be called on 07887835549.

Carron is a river on the rise

- The River Carron has given its name to towns, schools, a type of cannon, a line of bathtubs, two warships and an island in the southern hemisphere. And its story is older than any of the settlements that have sprung up alongside it down the centuries.

- The river is thought by some to be the ‘Itys’ described by the Roman historian Ptolemy in Geographia, his extensive 2nd century compilation of geographical knowledge.

- The Roman legions who built extensive fortifications in what is now Camelon and Bonnybridge are most likely to have sailed up the river from the Forth during their attempted conquest of central Scotland.

- The Carron played a vital role in Falkirk district’s rapid expansion in the first decades of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century. It provided water for the famous Carron Ironworks foundry, and the coal used to fire its furnaces was dug from local pits known as the Carron Colliaries.

- By the mid-20th century, the number of local industries discharging waste into the river had left it devoid of wildlife