With All of the Other Issues Facing Our Troubled Native Salmon We Now Face a Threat to Our Precious Salmon from Pink Salmon
A native of the Pacific Ocean the Pink was introduced in the 1960s to Russian waters to boost stocks of exploitable species. Since then the pink has extended it’s range now common in northern rivers in Norway, in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany and as far out as Iceland. It is also appearing in UK and Irish rivers.
When the word about pinks first spread many anglers joked that they would at least give us some extra sport, however things in nature (and law) are never straight forward.
Pinks have a life cycle of 2 years. They spawn mostly in the lower part of a river in August and September with smolts scooting out to sea very early in their life cycle. After 12 to 18 months at sea they return to spawn. At maturity they range between 40 and 60cms dependent on the feeding at sea. It seems that the original stocking in Kola was on an odd year so we can expect to see more pinks running in 2019, 21, 23 etc. 2017 saw the highest number of pinks reported in Scotland with 139 fish recorded. How many pinks lived to spawn is unknown, research is ongoing.
Figure 1. A mature pink salmon image courtesy of the US Wildlife Service
In Scotland it is illegal to fish for pink salmon and you can be prosecuted if you are found to be fishing for them or have a pink in your possession. Fisheries Management Scotland do however advise that a special defence of having taken due diligence is acceptable and will get you off the hook.
It is understood the regulations are being reviewed at present, I do hope so because it may put folk off from reporting catches. Having to prove you were fishing with due diligence is quite idiotic as is being asked to kill and keeping a fish knowing that it is illegal to be in possession of that fish.
Maybe some genius fly dresser can come up with a new salmon fly, “The Due Diligence”. Let’s say bright day glow orange with a long tail emblazoned with a formal notice, “For the purpose of demonstrating due diligence all pink salmon are hereby warned that they will be assisting in the commission of a crime by taking this fly with intent.” I suggest it should be a very, very long Sunray Shadow style fly. A “It Wisni Me Officer” might be an insurance policy if “Due Diligence” fails.
That silliness aside, be vigilant. If these fish get a foothold they will prey upon native fish fry and will undoubtedly compete for food. Our
Salmo salar is very precious. All of our efforts, in home waters and abroad as well as on the high seas, will be to no avail if this invasive species is left unchecked.
On catching a pink you are advised to knock it on the head right away. Record where, when, how you caught the fish, sex it, measure and weigh it and take scale samples and fin clippings e.g. the adipose fin and / or parts of other fins and a piece of flesh from the back of the fish of at least 2cm by 2cm. Pop the samples in a bag and keep it in the freezer until collected by someone from your local fishery board. You are also required to notify your catch to the local fisheries board immediately. If possible, freeze the whole fish.
In England 7 fish were recorded in 2017 mostly in the North East of England. The Environment Agency (EA) ask that you call 0800 80 70 60 to report the catch whether found dead or caught providing the information as detailed above. Surprisingly if you are unable to make the call the EA advise that the fish is returned to the water unharmed.
It is hoped that our waters are just too warm to suit the pink salmon but just in case the new regulations under review are looking at giving river boards the legal right to take “managed and targeted efforts to capture these fish”. The pink spawns in shallow runs and riffles month before our Atlantic salmon so netting would not cause a great deal of disruption.
Decriminalising catching pinks while going about your normal fishing activity and being in possession of a fish you are obliged to kill and keep for sampling purposes would also be sensible.
When fresh, pinks are steel blue having large black spots along their bodies and over their tails. Their heads a very pointed, more like a mackeral, their tails are longer and have a pronounced fork. When ready to spawn they develop a pronounced hump back and have distinct black mouths. They are pug ugly and only look good in tins.
Pinks are popular with North West Pacific coast anglers:
Pinks are popular with grannies:
Pink salmon are not welcome in out waters.