The Wear runs through a district in which there are many collieries and other works. It is much polluted, and, as the industrial enterprises employ thousands of people, it is difficult to cope with the trouble. Still, Colonel T. C. M'Kenzie, Chairman of the Fishery Board, thinks that there is no falling-off, but rather an improvement, in the stock of fish, which are mainly bull-trout and brown trout. Fresh blood is not infrequently introduced. Salmon have become comparatively rare.
The Tees is improving. Last season, as regards both net-fishing at the mouth and rod-fishing in the upper reaches, was the best that can be remembered. The salmon, which are of good size, are going up the river earlier every year. Last season the first fresh-run fish, weighing 19½ lbs., was caught in March. Many salmon were taken in April and May, and there was excellent sport in autumn. Mr. T. M. Barron, Secretary to the Fishery Board, says that the earlier running of the fish is probably attributable to the removal, a few years ago, of Dinsdale Dam. Trout fishing also has much improved. Every year several thousand yearling fish have been turned down. Durham County Council and the Fishery Board are sedulous in preventing pollution, and the riparian owners have helped effectively by forbidding the taking of small trout. Good baskets have become common on the Tees and its tributaries.
The Yorkshire Esk, though small, is a prolific salmon river. It is in a splendid state. Mr. William Brown, Whitby, Clerk to the Board of Conservators, informs me that before the Salmon Fishing Act of 1861 hecks attached to the mill weir at Ruswarp, at the head of the tidal water, caught great quantities of fish, and that those which got over the dam were the subjects of wholesale poaching in the upper water. "It is questionable," Mr. Brown writes, "whether any mature fish ever returned to the sea. Whether the Esk at any earlier time had harboured salmon (solar) cannot now be definitely stated; but before the Act only sea-trout and bull-trout (eriox) were to be seen. The Esk Fishery Association, an angling club, formed soon after that time, introduced salmon by means of ova obtained from the Tees and elsewhere. In 1875 the Esk Board of Conservators, then just formed, began to exercise the powers provided by the various Salmon Acts. From time to time fresh strains of blood have been brought from the Tweed, the Tay, the Thurso, and the Eden. The Esk is a notable example of what can be done by artificial stocking of a river."
The Thames is of particular interest. In 1898 a few gentlemen assembled at Willis's Rooms formed themselves into an Association, having for its object the restoration of the salmon to the river. Thereupon it was roundly affirmed by many commentators that the Thames never had been and never could be a natural salmon river. Now there is much room for hope. The action of the Association led to searching of authoritative records, and the Thames was definitely restored to the list of salmon rivers. Its history has been traced to well within living memory. Mr. W. B. Boulton, Secretary of the Association, sends a very interesting statement.
"The Calendar of State Papers," he writes, " contains summaries of enactments dealing with the preservation of the fish in the Thames since the time of King John. An Act of his reign imposed penalties for using the young salmon smolt for manure-a measure which seems eloquent as to the abundance of the fish in those early times. It is significant that among the first things the Barons made King John relinquish were his salmon traps at the Tower. An Act of Richard II. provided a close time for the fish, by declaring 'that young salmons shall not be taken nor destroyed by nets, nor by other engines at mill-dams, from the midst of April till the nativity of St. John the Baptist.' The Abbot of St. Peter's, Westminster, claimed, and for centuries received, tithe of all salmon caught within the jurisdiction of the Lord Mayor-that is, anywhere in the river between the Yantlett Creek and the City Stone at Staines. There were Acts dealing with Thames salmon in the reigns of Edward IV., Henry VIII., Elizabeth, Queen Anne, George I., and George II.
" An entry in the churchwarden's book of Wandsworth, under date 1580, is to the effect that 'in this somer the fysshers of Wandesworthe tooke between Monday and Saturday seven score of salmons in the same fishings to the great honour of God.' In the next century Izaak Walton mentions the Thames salmon as the best in the kingdom, and speaks of the great plenty of samlets near Windsor. He records his opinion that the salmon would return in much greater numbers from the sea but for the neglect of the wise old statutes against erecting traps in the river.
" In the sale of riverside lands salmon pools were reserved as valuable properties so late as the end of the eighteenth century; and there was a recognised fishery at Temple, of which the records and some of the implements were to be seen in recent years. The news-sheets record exceptional catches at intervals through two centuries. In 1754 it is mentioned that the take of fish at London Bridge was so great that the price fell to 6d. a pound. Twelve years later we read that 'there was never known a greater plenty of salmon in the river,' and that one hundred and thirty Thames fish were sent to Billingsgate Market in one day.
" Finally, there is ' an account of all the salmon caught at Boulter's Lock and contiguous parts of the Thames from 1794 to 1821' set out in Mr. Venable's Records of Buckinghamshire. That was a memorandum made by a man who fished the reach for the purpose of profit. His chronicle is that of a declining industry, it is true; but so late as 1801 he took sixty-six salmon, weighing nearly 1200 lbs. His last catch, of two fish, was in 1821. By that time the salmon had become scarce. One, caught near Windsor, was sold to the King for a guinea a pound. Yarrell records the last Thames salmon that came under his notice as having been taken in 1883.