PIRBRIGHT Parish Council is celebrating a successful operation to rescue more than 200 fish from the shrinking pond on the village green.

The drought had left only 18 inches of water at its deepest, prompting the council to engage contractors to remove and ultimately rehome most of the struggling fish.

“I’ve never known anything like it,” said council clerk Helen Myers. “I am told that the pond all but dried up in 1976, but since then it has never been this low.

“We had a meeting of the council as we really wanted to do something about it. As well as the welfare of the fish, with the pond being such an attraction for the public to come and visit, it wouldn’t be acceptable to have the fish dying in front of their eyes.

“The public love to come and feed the ducks, moorhens, coots and geese, and we have some quite unusual Egyptian geese who are resident to Pirbright.”

Contractors DC Freshwater Fish removed 222 fish of varying sizes, mostly different species of carp, plus three catfish, a couple of rudd and quite a few goldfish that had not changed colour to a more camouflaged brown.

They will be given various health checks before being kept in quarantine for some six weeks, then rehomed to stock ponds and lakes, and moved on to angling clubs. They are too big for domestic ponds.

“The fish won’t come back to us,” Helen added. “They have bred in the pond so some of the smaller ones will still be there to start the cycle again as the pond recovers, although we have been told that won’t be until after the autumn and winter rains.

“We don’t need to restock it, because we also have people putting fish in there from, say, filling in a domestic pond if there are children around, or even fairground wins.”

The catfish that were caught were not as big as the three that were taken out in 2017 – because they were eating ducklings.

“They’re fairly small compared to the beasts that were removed before, again as a result of someone discarding them in the pond,” said Helen.

Pirbright’s catch of the day

68 carp (mirror, common and ghost from 2-7lb)

56 carp (mirror and common from 1-6 inches)

89 goldfish

2 rudd

3 wels catfish

4 green grass carp