Conservation Recommendation – “DEAD SALMON DON’T SPAWN”

Conservation Guidelines 2014 – The Forth District Salmon Fishery Board, in consultation with the River Forth Fisheries Trust have issued conservation guidelines for the forthcoming season on a river by river basis. It is expected that all anglers will follow these in order to protect and conserve stocks of migratory fish within the Forth District.  The guidelines are published here.

CONSERVATION OF SALMON AND SEA TROUT In 1994, when the Government first started collecting data on “Catch and Release” in the Scottish rod and line salmon fishery, about 5% of all salmon caught were returned to the water in order to complete their spawning migrations.  Over the last 15 years the practise has become more widespread and now over 60% of all salmon caught are returned alive Scotland-wide.  For the spring stock, which are considered to be particularly vulnerable, the returned rate is even higher at 80%.  In addition, nearly 60% of all sea trout are also returned annually.

So, what do we hope to achieve by “Catch and Release”?

In answer, catch and release measures are simply a precaution that attempts to ensure that we do not kill so many fish in the rod and line fishery that there are too few spawning adults left to stock the available habitat with juveniles of the next generation.

Scottish salmon stocks are under pressure and runs of fish in recent years have been variable.  In particular, the spring stock has shown a marked long term decline.  Many anglers will remember the 1960’s and 70’s when spring salmon were abundant and it is clear that the current stock of early running fish is a fraction of its former size and is thus particularly susceptible to over-exploitation.

Similarly, over the last few years the summer grilse run appears to have been poor with a decrease in both quality and quantity of fish running.  It is therefore imperative that we look after them.

Finally, East Coast sea trout catches, though variable, have been at historically low levels and so it is also important that as many of these fish as possible are returned to the river to spawn.

Why have these declines occurred and what can we do about it?

It is clear that the marine survival of salmon has decreased dramatically since its high point in the 1960’s and 70’s.  Though smolts are still going to sea, they are not returning home in the numbers that they did historically.  This decline has been linked at various times to factors such as human exploitation, predation, exploitation of prey species and climate change.  Whatever the cause, as fishery managers, we can only attempt to control what goes on in the fresh water side of the salmon’s life cycle.  We have to ensure that as many smolts as possible go to sea to give a chance for as many salmon, grilse and sea trout as possible to return as adults.

What are we doing about it?

The Trust has now produced a Fisheries Management Plan.  This outlines what we currently know about the state of fisheries within the District and identifies the generic factors that impact on those fisheries.  The Board are in the process of establishing Area Management Groups for each of the District’s 12 principle rivers and first task of each group will be to produce a sub-management plan for each river.  Those plans will identify projects for habitat improvement, barrier removal and stock restoration and the Board and Trust will assist in the management, co-ordination and facilitation of project delivery.

However, whilst improvements to habitat and water quality are self evidently vital in increasing the carrying capacity of the District’s rivers, we must look after the fish we have.

Against this backdrop the Forth District Salmon Fishery Board and River Forth Fisheries Trust are calling for anglers to show restraint throughout the season in terms of the number of fish they kill and believe that this is the best achieved by following the code of practise below.

Mandatory:

The items in this section are requirements under the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003:

·         It is illegal to sell rod caught salmon or sea trout in Scotland

·         No organic bait of any description may be used between the periods 1st February – 31st May, and 27th August – 31st October

·         Lures and baits are restricted to one single, double, or treble hooks between the periods 1st February – 31st May, and 27th August – 31st October

·         Prawns or shrimps or any part of these may not be used at any time

The following are Forth District Salmon Fishery Board’s and River Forth Fisheries Trust’s recommendations:

Salmon:

·         All salmon caught before 1st June should be released

·         Barbless hooks should be used before 1st June

·         All coloured fish should be released throughout the season

·         No angler should kill more than 1 salmon/grilse on any given day

·         Salmon of 15lbs or over should be returned

·         All hen salmon should be returned in September and October

·         Netting operations should be delayed until 1st June

Sea Trout:

·         We would prefer it if all sea trout were returned, but no angler should take more than 2 sea trout on any given day

·         All coloured sea trout to be returned

Anglers and Proprietors:

·         Permits to include Proprietor’s Code of Practice and to have a space to record fish taken or released

·         Records of all fish taken or released should be completed immediately and submission to the proprietor should be a condition of renewal of permit to fish

·         Permits to be carried when fishing