There is some cause for celebration on our salmon rivers as the number of Category 1 fisheries increase
The Re-categorisation of our salmon waters for 2019 has been released by the Scottish Government and for once this year salmon fishing has had good news.
Just to recap on the categories, they are basically Category 1, 2 or 3, decided on the basis of:
Category 1; Where egg production is 80% or more of than the Conservation Limit (CL) (see footnote 1) you can catch and keep a fish if allowed. (Aberdeenshire Dee District Salmon Board policy remains 100% C & R even through it is Category 1 river.)
Category 2; Where egg production is 60 to 80% of the CL measures are required to limit numbers of fish taken e.g. all fish to be returned before 30th of June and / or all hens to be returned and the 1 fish per day or per week rule are some measures taken.
Category 3, Where egg production is less than 60% of the CL mandatory catch and release is the rule for 1 year, subject to annual review.
The 2019 Categories show that there are:
Category 1; 47 rivers, regions or lochs
Category 2; 36 rivers, regions or lochs
Category 3; 140 rivers, regions or lochs
For full details of the 2019 Salon River Categories :
For detailed analysis of the 2019 salmon river categories Click Here
On looking at the figures it is clear that more fisheries and / or more rivers and lochs in systems are listed than in 2018. Where data is not available a fishery it is not listed but is deemed to be Cat 3, no data is held for 8 Districts at present. As a result, the Cat 3 numbers are not dissimilar to the 2018 numbers even after, surprisingly, 15 of the 2018 Cat 3 fisheries were regraded to Cat 1 including Alness, Beauly, Moriston and Ness.
In addition to the Cat 3 to 1 upgrades 22 were upgraded from Cat 3 to Cat 2 including the Ayr, Earn and Endrick. Cat 2 to 1 improvements totalled 8 including the Deveron and South Esk. It is notable that many of the improvements were with West Coast rivers.
In total 45 fisheries improved while 22 were relegated, the trend is up. For details of the fisheries promoted and relegated Click Here
Does this mean a sudden improvement in fishery prospects? No, the data used has inherent flaws, being based on (a) historic and current numbers of fish going through fish counters extrapolated to estimate fish numbers in all fisheries i.e. rivers without fish counters (b) five year averages of fish caught by anglers (and nets). From these numbers researches can estimate egg production.
The flaws have been acknowledged noting, for example, that fishing effort (or lack of) and the certainty that during spates many fish do not use the fish counter route therefore are not counted, grossly affects the Conservation Limit probabilities. Researchers then use the Monte Carlo simulation to modify the statistics.
The changes are more likely linked to improvements in the statistical modelling taking factors into account more accurately using better catch return figures and data from sampling which, in time, will provide more realistic projections (rather than indicating a miraculous rise in fish numbers).
At last government is recognising other factors such as abstraction, predation, fish farming, pollution and they are now investigating levels of mortality at sea (and the reasons behind it). Just in the last few days measures to monitor and control pollution and sea lice infestations on fish farms have been announced hopefully giving SEPA some teeth. As for netting, they are gone in Scotland and the government has paid out £567,722.43 to 17 recipient netting businesses in compensation. They will be gone in England next year to the benefit of the Tweed and many other East Coast fisheries that suffered from this mixed fishery netting.
These re-categorisations put another 34 fisheries into the realms of you being able knock a fish on the head. Now lads and lasses, being greedy in the past has contributed to what is concerning us all at this time. Let’s not fall back into old ways, we have become attuned to the need to conserve our precious stocks, be happy, take a fish in a season, it is natures reward, but think not off your bloody freezer. It’s for peas, fish fingers and ice lollies, not wild salmon or sea trout or brown trout. If there wasn’t more to fishing than just catching and killing fish I doubt I would be an angler.
Take pleasure from your time by the water, its not about stroking your ego by catching the most, the biggest, the best. Just take your rod for a walk and at the end of the day if you have caught and released a fish, savour the memory. If we anglers keep up the good work, if we deal with “fish mongers” among our fraternity (we know there are sneaks who kill and hide their fish) we will be doing our bit. We can, justifiably, expect government to no longer emulate Nelson turning a blind eye to sea lice infestations, abstraction, predation, pollution, we too are a vested interest with a voice and will be heard if we keep our house in order.
Footnote 1, The Conservation Status of stocks based on the probability that egg production over a 5 year period will meet the Conservation Level
If you are a glutton for punishment and want to browse the full government report go to:2019 Salmon Fishery Categories