There has been much
talk recently about the imminent demise
of the Atlantic salmon and there is no doubt
that catches have been much lower in the
past few years. The runs spring salmon and
multi-sea-winter fish have been much reduced.
Even more disturbing has been the almost
complete absence of grilse on the Tay in
recent seasons and last year's disasterous
grilse run throughout the UK and Ireland.
While it is every angler's dream to catch
a large adult spring salmon it is the grilse,
which form the backbone of the summer fishing.
Since most visitors come to Tayside during
the summer, it is the grilse with which
they are most familiar. A recent study by
Scottish Enterprise Tayside concluded that
angling generates 400,000 bed nights and
contributes £12m annually to the local
Why should the grilse run suddenly reappear?
Since runs of smolts (young fish migrating
to sea) have been good in past years the
most likely explanation is that the fault
lies at sea. It is possible that global
warming has reduced feeding in the North
Atlantic. A more likely answer is that an
entire year class from this river and others
has been swept up in the high seas and coastal
nets around Great Britain and Ireland. Nets
on the river and estuary were bought out
and removed by the Tay Foundation years
ago. Considering the high value of these
fish to the land based economies (Angling
in Scotland generates over £50m a
year) the removal of the high seas and coastal
nets is long overdue, but why have the salmon
angler's cries for help been studiously
ignored by government. With the advent of
a Scottish Parliament hopes were raised,
but why do they continue to be blind to
what is happening to Scotland's national
fish when it is invaluable to the rural
economy and herritage.
Local initiatives have been put in place.
As a conservation measure the Tay District
Salmon Fisheries Board brought in a statutory
ban on fishing shrimp and prawn in 1999.
Together with the Tay Ghillies Association
they also introduced a voluntary catch and
release scheme and this year a trial tagging
system to protect released fish has also
been introduced. The catch and release scheme
has been very well received and most beats
now return over half the fish caught. Both
the Scottish Office and the Tay District
Salmon Fisheries Board have long been active
in restocking programs and this year the
project has been augmented by the collection
of spring brood stock so as to enhance early
runs. A brand new hatchery is also being
developed by Dr David Summers. The involvement
of WWF Scotland with projects such the "Wild
Rivers Initiative" and "Angling for change"
has greatly increased public awareness.
The vast army of ghillies, fisheries managers
and landowners who carefully tend the river
on a daily basis should also not be forgotten.
The return of the grilse run does not mean
that all the problems have gone away, but
it certainly is a bright spot in an otherwise
bleak picture. All anglers and riparian
owners should continue to support the conservation
initiatives. If you are a visitor to Tayside
come and try your luck, the grilse fishing
is the best it has been for years, but please
remember to put the fish back for future
generations to enjoy.
Paul Fishlock 6th August
The main grilse run appears to have started
around the second week of July. Many were
running hard. The Tay
Ghillies Fun Day was a good opportunity
for Ghillies to meet and exchange notes.
All agreed that this was a superb run. Large
numbers have been reported in the Tummel,
Lyon, Isla and Ericht. The run also appears
to contain a good number of summer salmon.
Some lower beats still have good numbers
of fish present and a careful eye is being
kept on the Perth Town Water. Huge numbers
of fish can accumulate here in low water