A team of 36 volunteers has given up more than 800 hours to help survey fish populations in West Cumbria's rivers.

West Cumbria's Rivers Trust's annual fish survey gathered records at 157 sites across the River Derwent catchment area.

Nearly 7,000 salmon and trout recorded and measured.

With drought conditions reducing water levels, the team was able to survey sites on major rivers which were not previously accessible.

In total, 49 per cent of the salmon observed were recorded at 27 sites on the main rivers.

Ruth Mackay, project officer at West Cumbria Rivers Trust, said: “Being able to survey main river sites was fantastic. It was in these habitats that we found the highest numbers of salmon fry – salmon less than a year old – which is an encouraging sign that despite the general decline in adult salmon returning from the sea to spawn, those that do make it back are reproducing well.”

Of the salmon observed in major rivers, 65 per cent were in the River Derwent, with most of these downstream of Bassenthwaite Lake and the rest between Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwentwater.

Good numbers were also seen in the River Cocker, with fewer in the rivers Greta and Marron.

But while the drought helped the trust’s research effort, it provided a stark reminder that rivers need to be resilient to changing weather conditions.

The team saw many areas that were dried up or reduced to a trickle, and fish in some areas under stress, needing rescue, or having died.

Vikki Salas, assistant director at the trust, said: “Many of our rivers have been changed and modified over the years and during drought conditions these are some of the first watercourses to dry up, leading to loss of wildlife and a lack of water supplies for livestock and other animals.

"At the other extreme, during storms, these modified watercourses speed up the flow of water and gravel into communities, contributing to flooding.

"Restoring and maintaining natural watercourses helps provide resilience to the changing climate and resulting weather conditions.”

West Cumbria Rivers Trust would like to thank the volunteers who helped conduct the surveys, and the 100 landowners and tenants who permitted access to their land to enable the surveys to happen.

Funding for the project was provided by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of the Tides Foundation, the Rivers Corridor Group, the Derwent Owners' Association, Cockermouth Anglers, Bowland Game Fishing and Lord and Lady Egremont.

The charity’s 2019 fish survey season starts soon and volunteers will be needed throughout July, August and September.

Anyone interested should email ruth@westcumbriariverstrust.org