Catching a sea trout was something of a rarity just one generation ago. Yet, Fyn’s streams, rivers and shallow coasts could be described as nature’s blueprint for the habitat of the sea trout. Nevertheless, you could traverse the coastline time after time without the hint of a living fish.
One of the main reasons for this is that there were obstacles in the path of the sea trout when they tried to migrate up streams and rivers to spawn.
Dams at old watermills, hydroelectric power stations and old irrigation systems posed insurmountable obstacles to fish.
Thus, hundreds of kilometres of good spawning grounds near the sources of the waterways were off limits to the sea trout. Most streams and rivers had not one but many barriers impassable to sea trout.
As if that were not enough, numerous rivers and streams had been straightened into dead straight channels, deepened or even culverted. Gone were the aquatic plants, the boulders and the gravel that are essential for spawning trout.
The water was no longer clean, either. Factories discharged their non-purified waste water directly into the rivers. Urban sewage followed the same pathway, and in the countryside, repeated discharging of slurry into the little streams was the order of the day.
Water quality became increasingly poor, and year by year, sea trout stocks diminished. In the 1960s and 1970s, sea trout were close to being extinct in Fyn’s rivers.
But then, in the 1980s, the tide turned. Environmental awareness was very much in vogue, and the municipalities got to grips with building waste-water treatment plants. Now sewage went through mechanical, biological and chemical purification processes.
The water in the stream became distinctly cleaner, but the barriers still kept the sea trout out, and fishing for sea trout along the coasts remained nothing to write home about.
Something had to be done. Someone had to do something about the situation. That task fell to what used to be known as Fyn County, which in 1990 launched Fyn’s Sea Trout Eldorado, later renamed Sea Trout Fyn.
The aim was to get nature restoration, fishing for sea trout and tourism to add up to a greater whole. The idea was this: if the sea trout could be given a helping hand up the narrow streams and the rivers, the effect would spread like ripples.
The sea trout project was designed to get saltwater fishing for sea trout up and running for the benefit of anglers, tourists and local communities alike.
Today, ten municipalities on Fyn, Langeland and Ærø support Sea Trout Fyn and invest DKK 4 million a year in the project.
The money goes mainly towards restoration of rivers and streams: allowing straightened streams to meander again, removing barriers, releasing culverted streams, and spreading shingle and gravel beds for spawning.
Sea trout smolts are stocked each year, too, to supplement the numbers of sea trout parr migrating from the rivers as a result of spawning sea trout.
Finally, Sea Trout Fyn works with owners of self-catering accommodation, hotels, campsites, tackle shops, fishing guides and others to market Fyn’s excellent sea trout fishing.
During the first 25 years, Sea Trout Fyn has undertaken almost 300 projects in the rivers and streams of Fyn. For example, more than 200 obstructions to upstream migrations have been removed, opening up more than 500 kilometres of rivers!
The 55,000+ overnight stays accounted for by sea trout anglers each year are vital to the local economy. It has been calculated that the municipalities’ annual DKK 4 million investment in Sea Trout Fyn produces an increase in turnover in excess of DKK 55 million each year, and the sea trout project has generated some 40 full-time jobs.
A large part of the honour for the excellent sea trout fishing you can enjoy on Fyn today also goes to Vandpleje Fyn, which comprises 28 Fyn-based fishing clubs with more than 3,000 members.
Each year, local anglers put in many hours of voluntary work, moving tonnes of boulders and gravel along that last little bit up along the small creeks and spreading this in just the right way to create spawning grounds for the sea trout.
Club members also electro-fish in the late autumn to catch breeding fish to ensure there will be sea trout parr to release into streams and rivers.
The breeding programme is conducted by Fyns Laksefisk, with its modern, land-based hatchery that uses recirculated water, recycled over and over again. The hatchery supplies approximately 350,000 sea trout smolts for release each year. Using breeding fish from Fyn’s streams ensures that the original fish stocks are preserved.
The hatchery is part of the Elsesminde Odense Production High School, where many young people get off to a good start for an education or a job.
Sea Trout Fyn has long since proved that economic growth and sustainability can go hand in hand. It is clear that these efforts have borne fruit when you talk to some of the old, seasoned sea trout anglers on the coasts of Fyn. They have seen a lot of miserable times since they started fishing the coasts in the 1960s and 1970s. But pessimism can be difficult to maintain, they say with a twinkle in their eye, because they are forced to admit that there have never before been so many sea trout to fish for along the coasts.
However, there are still some 1,200 obstacles in the streams of Fyn, Ærø and Langeland. This adds up to a major challenge – one that Sea Trout Fyn will be working to deal with in partnership with anglers, central government and the municipalities.
Imagine what that will mean for tomorrow’s sea trout fishing!