Fishing Lines: The small fry escaped - find the villains

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The Independent Online

The email arrived just a few days after suspected animal liberationists released more than 50,000 rainbow trout from cages at Bewl Water, near Wadhurst, Sussex. Why they picked me, I don't know. Champion of the downtrodden? Closet freedom fighter for caged fish? Wrong email address? Dunno. Anyway, here's what it said, though space limitations have forced me to cut it severely.

"Us, the Aminal Liberaton Movment, let them poor fish go, they were locked up and not aloud to swim as Wild creashures should, so we liberated them and watched them get their freedom it was gr8. They were being given food all e numbers and artificall colours, now they can eat healthy, and fishermen wont be able to catch them and they will have to eat healthy things like Qorn and Spinatch instead of these beatiful fish.

"When Aminals are mistreated, it has negitive affects for people, you know eating of animals and animal products have been linked to heart disease, stroke, various types of Cancers, and other degenerating diseases. Our aim is to liberate animals from places of abuse, Factory Farms, etc. and place them in good Homes where they live out their natural lives free from suffering.

"We want To inflict ecanomic domage to those who profit from the misery and exploytationism of animals, and reveal the horror and atrocities against aminals behind locked doors by direct actions and liberations. In this age of insanity we may be branded terrarists but one day we will be remembered as Selfless Warriors who dared to fight for what is right."

The trout were stock fish that would supply angling demand at the 770-acre reservoir, the largest inland lake in the South-east, for most of the year. The head ranger said that it was a determined assault on one of the year's coldest nights. It would probably have meant at least two people working for more than an hour to unlock and empty the 10 cages.

But the scheme may have failed to achieve its primary aim. Most fish were 6-10in, well below normal stock size. Word gets around quick. It's the lead story in Cormorant News. Every fish-eating bird that hasn't already made the journey to Sussex is planning to join the eat-all-you-can bonanza.

And trout are predatory, too. Even a two-pounder (the average size for stocking these days) will dine on a 6in trout. Much yummier than some spiky bug. But scarier predators lurk in Bewl's depths. The fishery has a healthy pike stock. Three over 40lb (about 4ft long) have been netted there. Expect several very large pike to appear over the next year.

These newly released trout have dined daily on free food. Suddenly, that has stopped. When trout-fishing opens on 21 March, anglers may catcha lot of very small, hungry trout - not quite what their rescuers were intending.

Perhaps the ALM are being blamed unfairly. But who else would have done it? A disgruntled angler? The last thing they want is masses of baby trout getting in the way. The result is that Bewl, one of the few reservoirs that rears its own trout, may be forced to buy them - from an intensive fish-rearing farm.

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