The Sankey Canal: A Forgotten Fishing Gem in Dire Need of Revival

The Sankey Canal, a bustling hub of activity for anglers during the 80s and 90s, is now sadly a picture of neglect. One of the oldest canals in the UK no longer lives up to its past reputation. So, what led to this unfortunate decline, and does anyone even fish there now?

Fond Memories of the Canal in its Heyday

If we rewind to the mid-90s, when I was a mere 11 years old, I would spend countless joy-filled hours fishing at the “tip road” stretch near Sankey Bridges. This spot was ideal because it allowed us to park our car just behind our fishing point, saving my dad the arduous walk with all our gear.

During our visits, we always saw other cars parked nearby—fathers and sons like us investing their time in the serene pleasure of fishing. My dad cherished these moments, not least for exchanging stories with fellow fishing enthusiasts. The thrill of the catch was ever-present, with the sizeable tench being a favourite.

In those days, the stretch from Fiddler’s Ferry to Bewsey Locks, right through Sankey Valley, was under the watchful care of the Lymm Anglers. Beryl, the local bailiff who was always on her bike, would charge us a mere £2.50 for a day ticket – a real steal in retrospect.

Below are 2 images from near whats called “Ditchy’s Bridge” which was a popular fishing spot. You will see just how far the reeds on the far bank stick out which takes up a lot of the canal, and the top of the water is filled with a lot of weed, which makes fishing there pretty much impossible.

The Beginning of the End

The decline apparently started when the local council asked Lymm Anglers to address some structural issues with the canal (I am unsure about this, so please correct me if I am wrong). Opting not to shoulder the repair costs, Lymm relinquished its fishing rights over the canal. Soon after, a long metal fence was erected from the end of the tip road to the Sloop Pub to prevent potential accidents and ensuing complications.

Dallam Anglers then assumed control of the canal. But without any maintenance work, the condition of the canal began to deteriorate. Information about whether they still own the fishing right of the canal is hard to come by. If anyone has any insight, do share.

Is there Life Still Left in the Canal?

Various factors over time, including oxygen deficiencies, overgrown weeds, and the general poor upkeep, have negatively affected the fish population in the Sankey Valley and Fiddlers Ferry with various fish deaths happening over the years. Today, sightings of anyone fishing there are rare, and a decent catch is even rarer.

Fiddlers Ferry Marina – A Glimmer of Hope?

In the marina during the summer, I’ve noticed a considerable amount of small fish and fry. In the past, I recall seeing large bream and plenty of pike, although they’ve been conspicuously absent this year. However, just by pure chance after writing this article, I went down to take some pictures of the canal, and to my shock, there was a lad fishing! I quickly chatted with him and asked if he had caught much. He said the fishing wasn’t great, but he had caught some small roach and perch. I will be giving it a go myself soon, and I will report back if I catch anything.

Carter House Stretch in Widnes – A Sorry State

The situation at the Carter House stretch in Widnes is more dire. This stretch of the canal is no longer fit for fishing and has nearly dried up in some places. The scene is disheartening for anglers and detrimental to the local wildlife. Despite having over five years to identify an alternative water source for the canal following the closure of Fiddlers Ferry, the canal’s water provider, the council did nothing. With broken locks at Spike Island, any water added to the canal would seep out into the River Mersey, adding to the woes.

The Rising Popularity of Commercial Fisheries

Over the last two decades, commercial fisheries have seen a surge in popularity. They provide a safe and convenient alternative to canal fishing with amenities like toilets, bait, and even a café. It feels less secure to fish in remote stretches of the Sankey Canal as you just hear too many horror stories about idiots causing issues.

What about The Canal and River Trust?

Unfortunately, the Sankey Canal isn’t part of the Canal and River Trust (CRT), so they can’t provide any help. Whether there’s a possibility to include it under the CRT’s umbrella, I can’t say.

The Future of the Canal?

The Sankey Canal needs attention and care. But what are your thoughts on this? What do you think should be the canal’s future?

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