Under The Surface

An interview with Jack Perks

An interview with Jack Perks

Immy O'Keeffe, Development Manager
01 April 2021

Wildlife camera operator, Jack Perks is no stranger to life under the water and has become a regular feature filming above and below our waterways.

Recently appointed as a vice president of Salmon & Trout Conservation we caught up with Jack on all things fish – from his favourite stretch of river to the challenges facing our watery environments. Here’s what Jack had to say…

Grayling, swimming in the rivers current minnows  near by, River Frome , Dorset, September

Tell us about what you do?

I'm a professional wildlife camera operator and photographer. My focus is freshwater species especially fish. I occasionally write, teach and appear on the other side of the camera too!

What motivates your interest in river conservation? 

Being by a river brings me immense joy. From summer days watching demoiselles fluttering up a chalk stream to crunching over frost covered leaves watching spawning salmon in Scotland, I have been fortunate to spend a great deal of time by British waterways. My time in these watery places has given me fascinating insight into the species that inhabit them and the hidden gems of the underwater world which many people simply don’t get the opportunity to see. Access to this hidden world triggers a need in me to share and uncover what I find, alongside my experiences, so other people get to enjoy them too.

Jack Perks photo: a banded Demosielle
Jack Perks photo: a banded Demosielle

Why fish? 

It’s partly practical, birds have been done to death (!) and there is next to nothing documented on UK fish, and coupled with my love of fishing - anything from gudgeon on a canal to brown trout in the Peak District.  These days I am often found knee deep in a river amongst wild fish and surrounded by other water dependant wildlife – all of which never ceases to amaze me.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to be a wildlife camera operator?

It’s probably a bit cliche but I've always had an interest in nature, mostly reptiles and as a child kept all sorts of exotic species.

My interest in wild fish started at age eleven when I picked up a cheap fishing kit from Woolworths and was hooked – no pun intended. I went on to gain a degree at Falmouth University in Marine and Natural History Photography and spent three fantastic years living in Cornwall and indulging in a bit of bass fishing and cliffside walking. I then had to forge a career and moved back to my native Nottingham where I started filming the local rivers. It was here that I attracted the BBC’s interest and went on to film for their Springwatch series as well as presenting on The One Show and Countryfile.

Jack Perks photo: Atlantic salmon on the River Tamar
Jack Perks photo: Atlantic salmon on the River Tamar

Do you have a favourite stretch of river? 

It’s definitely hard to pick one, there are so many to choose from and they all offer such different experiences. The Derbyshire Wye, Tamar and Spey are high up my list but if I had to choose one it would be the lower Test. Not as clear as its upstream counterpart, the lower Test is teeming with salmon and good numbers of coarse fish which you don't often find further up chalk streams. On the lower stretches of the Test you can also find marine species like flounder, bass, mullet and even sea lamprey. I've enjoyed many lovely summer days on the River Test.

What area of our work most interests you and where do you think we have the biggest challenge? 

I am particularly interested in species diversity, coupled with the challenge of conserving species habitat for healthy populations of wild fish. We need our rivers to support varied depths, currents, slacks and most importantly places for fish to hide away from floods and over predation.

It is widely acknowledged that water quality is one of the biggest problems facing fish in UK rivers today and certainly were I see the biggest challenge. For far too long we’ve watched rivers suffer the impacts and aftermath of pollution and without more control this harm poses a serious threat to our wild waters and the species that inhabit them.