Mandatory Catch and Release on 147 Scottish Rivers in 2018

For detailed analysis of the 2018 categories Click Here

The Tweed at Coldstream

Out of 196 rivers and systems where there are migratory fish only 26 meet the criteria for Category 1 i.e. have an 80% likelihood that stock levels are sustainable without the need for addtional conservation measures.

23 met the criteria for Category 2 but by far the majority, 147 or 75% of rivers and systems are Category 3 i.e. they have a less than 60% prospect that stocks are sustainable therefore they are now mandatory catch and release including some big names; Beauly, Brora, Annan, Don and Ythan to mention a few.

How are these categories assessed?

Basically researchers use catch returns, the 5 year average, for each water to assess how many eggs are likely to be produced by breeding fish, this is then comapered with the theoretical number of eggs that would be required to produce a natural sustainable stock level.

Where egg production is 80% or more than the Conservation Limit (CL) the fishery is Category 1, you can catch and keep a fish if allowed.

Where egg producton is 60 to 80% of the CL, Category 2, measures are required such as catch limits, e.g. all fish to be returned before 30th of June, all hens to be returned.

Where egg production is less tha 60% of the CL, Category 3, mandatory catch and release is the rule for 1 year, subject to annual review.

Clearly we have a catch 22 situation where catch returns are directly linked to fishing effort. For example bookings on the Tweed in 2018 are rumoured to be as much as 50% down on last year. If there are fewer rods out fishing less fish will be caught, reducing the number of fish used in the estimate of egg production. We could have a situation where there are sustainable numbers of fish but due to lack of effort they are not being caught and recorded. Future stocks are under estimated and a river could fall into Category 3 by default.

There are other factors off course that affect stocks, we all know about predation at sea and in fresh water, pollution, water abstraction even spates destroying redds.

There may be historic issues linked to under reporting to avoid having too high a 5 year average thus keeping the river board levy down a bit. Yes it does go on.

Researchers run a statistical tool, the Monte Carlo simulation, to mitigate these issues in the hope that estimates of egg production and therefore future stocks are realistic.

We live in interesting time, all Scottish nets are gone, the EA in England will have all nets off in England by 2019 which is good news for East Coast of Scotland rivers such as the Tweed. , where permissible some may keep a fish or two for the table.

I am sure anglers will do all they can to preserve their sport, anglers now return most of their fish.They and the authorities also need to keep an open mind on matters such as cyclical variations in stock volumes and changes in run patterns.

Historically spring, summer and late runs have varied according to cyclical variations in weather. Springers are not a special breed of fish, they are fish that chooe to run early. In the past spring runs have declined while back end runs have increased returning to spring runs some years down the line. What we need to be ready to do is adjust our fishing habits to the changing run patterns and stop moaning about "when I was a lad you could walk accross the backs of fish in the summer / autumn / spring". Take a chill pill and accept that we go salmon fishing when the salmon deign to come to us! We cannot manage nature, we need to adjust and adapt to change, that may even include changing season dates.

If we all pull together, anglers, angling bodies, conversationist, government we can get through this trouble. We need to eliminate the foolish thinking along the lines " fish come in June, they aren't here so someone has to do something about it." Maybe the springers came in January, maybe the summer fish will come in September.

Time will tell, if what we are doing now works the fish will come, rivers will improve. Is they don't and salmon leave our shores for millenia they tell me golf ain't bad if chasing rainbows is not your thing.

For an alphabetical breakdown of the 2018 Categories click this link for a PDF Salmon River Categories 2018.

For detailed analysis of the 2018 categories Click Here