Image of a man fishing

What does the riverkeeper do?

Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in the UK and every day thousands of people like nothing better than to visit the riverbank and try to catch a wide variety of fish. It is the riverkeeper’s job to look after rivers and make sure that there are plenty of fish - mainly trout - to catch and good places to catch them. In Scotland these people are called ghillies.

Image of the river keeper with Felix and Milo

Best place for fishing

Rivers are, of course, often very long and a riverkeepers and ghillies cannot possibly look after the whole of one. Rather, they will look after a stretch of river where the best fishing is and where people pay to go fishing. This usually provides some of the riverkeeper’s income.

Image of swans in the river

Preserving a natural habitat

The rivers of the UK are some of the country' s most important natural habitats. A habitat is the environment in which animals live. One of the riverkeeper and ghillie’s roles is to make sure there is a natural balance of plants and animals. Riverkeepers and ghillies also look after lots of other wildlife, not just fish.

Click on the facts

 River facts

  • 1. There are 39 major rivers in England and 9 in Scotland but thousands of smaller rivers and streams that feed into these.
  • 2. The longest river in England is the Severn, which is about 220 miles long (although part of it is in Wales!) and in Scotland, the River Tay is 120 miles.
  • 3. Other well-known English rivers include the Trent, the Thames and the Mersey and in Scotland, the Clyde, Spey, Dee and Tweed.
  • 4. There are eight rivers in Wales more than 40 miles long
  • 5. Some of the salmon in the River Usk in Wales weigh up to 30 pounds (14 kg)
  • 6. Rivers start out as a series of small fast-flowing streams in hilly areas before slowing down and becoming broader as they flow across flatter land towards the sea
  • 7. Rivers are amazingly important to people – they provide drinking water, food, transport, energy, defence and fun, plus water and rich soil for farm crops
  • 8. Not all rivers flow into the sea – some small rivers flow into lakes and lochs.

 River fish facts

  • 1. There are two types of non-migratory trout found in UK rivers: brown trout (mainly) and rainbow trout (occasionally)
  • 2. Trout will eat almost any small creatures they can find – insects, snails, frogs, other fish and even small mammals!
  • 3. The largest brown trout ever caught weighed more than 30 pounds (14 kg)!
  • 4. Salmon are amazing fish because they swim far out to sea then return to the river they were born in to lay their eggs upstream
  • 5. A large salmon will lay more than 10,000 eggs!
  • 6. Many river fish have fantastic names, such as gudgeon, stickleback and bullhead
  • 7. River fish are always on the lookout for predators, for example otters, mink, kingfishers, herons, cormorants and larger fish!

 Riverkeeper jobs

  • 1. Looking after river banks to make sure they don’t collapse into the water
  • 2. Controlling predators such as mink and cormorants
  • 3. Cutting river weed to prevent floods and keep the river flowing as it should
  • 4. Looking after people who are fishing
  • 5. Making sure that regular water tests are carried out to check that the river is healthy
  • 6. Keeping the right population of fish in the river and checking trout and salmon breeding areas
  • 7. Encouraging insects, which act as food for fish (and other wildlife such as wagtails, swallows and bats)
  • 8. Trimming trees so that plenty of sunlight falls on the water
  • 9. Encouraging native wild plants, which act as habitats for many wild creatures along the river bank