Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Salmon Fishing Scotland Complete Tay Salmon Fishing Review 2016.

Salmon Fishing Scotland Complete Tay Salmon Fishing Review 2016.

Tay Salmon Fishing Review 2016.

The river Tay in Perthshire, Scotland has had a disappointing but interesting salmon fishing year by modern standards as the FishTay web site have reported only 4775 Salmon and Grilse being caught for the 2016 fishing season. There was effectively no autumn run. It must be said that salmon fishing catches are no longer easily achieved with this situation being mirrored right across the north Atlantic sea board due to problems at sea with a continued increase in Smolt mortality that is out of the rivers control. In terms of the salmon and grilse catch, the 2016 season total shows an 13% decrease on 2015 and a 24 % decrease on the 5-year average for FishTay beats. It should also be noted that there were no catches in the last 2 weeks of October this and last year due to the extension fishing being stopped in 2014 halfing the October catch effectively and making the 5-year average worse.

Catches reported per month through the season were as follows Jan 18, Feb 158, Mar 323, Apr 531, May 647, Jun 507, Jul 564, Aug 695, Sep 746 and October 586. The spring period from January to May continues to be a positive part of the season, and interestingly it outscored the autumn for the first time in decades. The catch was like 2015 and represents a 7 % increase on the 5-year average. This confirms the trend starting on the Tay 4 years ago with much better spring fishing. The early spring was steady with a better February and the late spring remained positive for the middle river confirming the spring proportion of the catch on the Tay is increasing year on year with this year’s catch being 35 % of the total. We are continuing to see the start of a change in the cycles as in the past and it would have been unthinkable in recent years that there would be more spring salmon caught than autumn fish.
Tay Salmon Catches % by Season 1952-2016.

Further evidence of this phenomenon was a strong June ending the 2016 spring run. The summer period including June to the end of August decreased by 16 % on a stronger 2015 which was disappointing. The run seemed only to last until mid-August. The autumn period was not good and fell back on 2015 with no real run to speak of, September to October showed a 26.8 % decrease on 2015 in reasonable conditions. The Grilse run was poor again pointing to an improving Spring. Another aspect of the catch was the continuation of larger multi sea winter salmon being caught throughout the Tay system in the 20 to 30 pounds’ class, which the river has been famous for over the years.

To provide some context it should be said the 2016 salmon rod catch was disappointing compared to 2015 apart from another strong spring however no run to speak of in the autumn from Mid-August sent alarm bells ringing with the spring outscoring the autumn. Hopefully there will be improvements to come in 2016 but the question should be asked why and has the autumn run disappeared for the foreseeable future due to cyclical change? The spring was again the big plus which is all ready creating massive interests in spring fishing for 2017 with much anticipation after this year’s autumn failing. The summer was reasonable with the end of the spring run and a steady July to mid-August but the autumn was more difficult throughout the river with a distinct absence of a run possibly due to the north Atlantic problems in the sea and this year we could not complain about a lack of water which is more worrying. Thankfully we have a hatchery at Almondbank to help, this maybe something to further develop for the future with all the weather extremes being thrown at us in recent years.

Tay Salmon Catches Season by Season 1952-2016.

The river has had a reasonable year with some positives but everyone expects a lot more so every effort must be made to take the river forward to the levels of the past and put the mighty Tay in its rightful position of being the premiere salmon fishing destination in the world. The river has had another good spring run and catch this season, which may just be down to the majority of anglers returning salmon over the past seasons. Thank you to all anglers who have this season returned their salmon and spring salmon to maintain our sport for the future, it is vitally important and is a great contribution by individuals who care for their sport and the river. Well done! It should be pointed out there are several beats that do not report catches on the FishTay website and the full rod catch for the River Tay in 2016 will be a bit higher than shown on the FishTay website.

2016 REPORT month by month by TDSFB director David Summers.

The 2016 Tay salmon season opened on Friday 15 January. Although there had been relentless rain throughout the winter and major flooding in early January, by great fortune the few days immediately before opening day saw a return to drier wintry weather.
This allowed the river to drop back and clear for a sunny opening day morning. Four springers were caught on the day. The largest landed was a 24 pounder at Findynate.
However, the Redford Trophy for the largest Tay fish of opening day was eventually awarded to Gail O’Dea for a 14 pounder from Taymount’s Linn Pool. After a circulating photograph revealed the 24 pounder appeared to have been hooked on the outside of the jaw. While a few more springers were caught on the second day of the season, catches seemed to dry up over the following week despite continued good water, which was a cause of some slight concern. However, with about a week of January to go, the rain returned once again and the river remained high and unsettled until about ten days into February. Very little could be caught therefore. Only 18 fish were reported on the Fishtay website in January compared to a five year average of 38. The hotspot during this period was the Linn Pool on Stobhall/Taymount.

While February started badly, the fishing picked up in the second week, when colder drier weather set in. From then on, the river was generally fishable. For some of the time the nights were frosty and snow fell inland. Given the loss of the first week or so, the fact that 159 fish were reported on Fishtay for the month against a five year average of 109 was a welcome relief from the initial concerns in January. The largest catches were made in the area from Stanley up to the Linn Pool.

Fishing conditions were generally reasonable throughout March. For most of time, the river ran between about three and five feet with only a few quick lifts, one at the start, one in the middle and one near end of month. Temperatures were generally fairly average, although some days were cool. 322 salmon were reported on Fishtay compared to a five year average of 343, but that average reflects some good Marches in the last few years. The best of the catches were spread from Stanley up to the Islamouth area, with Islamouth gaining the highest score. Middle Tay beats also started to pick up and some fish were caught on Loch Tay too.

April commenced with a rise in level, but the remainder of the month was mainly dry and the Tay fell from about five feet to less than one foot by the end. It also turned cool, with some snow even down to low levels at the end of the month. The total catch is again likely to have been very good, with 531 salmon reported on Fishtay against an average of 428. The catches were now better spread, with the middle river, the Tummel and Loch Tay all getting their share. However, the conditions favoured low water beats like Murthly 2 and Islamouth. The latter did very well with water on the low side for attracting fish into the Isla.

May saw a rise at the start of the month but the river then fell away until the 22nd when there was another rise. Thereafter it turned dry again. May proved to be another good month with 647 salmon reported on the Fishtay website against an average of 597. The focus for catches was mainly in the middle Tay area, the Tummel and the Isla, although the top beat was Islamouth with 98. That was the beat’s best May for at least five years.

Like May, June was mainly a low water month. In the first half, the Tay was generally well under a foot on the Ballathie gauge. On the 16th, the Tay rose to about two feet and the second half saw levels slightly higher but still only at around one foot on average. These water levels helped some beats and hindered others, as might be expected. Islamouth was, once again, the main beneficiary recording an excellent 109. Overall, it was another good month with the main concentration of catches occurring from Stobhall/Taymount upstream, including the middle Tay area. The Isla also continued to see sport but, by then, the Tummel and Loch Tay had cooled off. Although the 506 fish reported on Fishtay was slightly less than the five year average of 526, it should be noted that, in the period 2011 – 15, four of the Junes were among the best since official records started in 1952.

July was a wetter month than June, though by no means a “wet” month. At the start, levels were slightly higher than they had been in June but, with several small to moderate rises over the month, the base level rose by about a foot by the month’s end. 565 fish were reported on Fishtay compared to a recent average of 530, although it should be remembered that recently Julys have been poorer compared to what they were a decade and more ago.

While August commenced with quite low water, there were several modest rises early on and the base level rose to around three feet, peaking on the 12th. Thereafter, it was generally dry, often warm, and the level had fallen well back by the end of the month, although some small daily fluctuations did not always help the fishing. August saw a marked change in the catches however. Only 693 fish were reported on Fishtay compared to a recent average of 954. This was the start of a trend that set in for the autumn and seemed in part to have been due to a poorer grilse run.

September started off with quite low water but a good spate on 10th saw the river rise up to 6 feet, the first of four similar rises through the month. It was hoped initially that, with water, good runs of fresh fish would appear. However, that didn’t really happen. Almost all beats, but not all, struggled compared to what they would expect. 742 fish were reported on the Fishtay website against a five year average of 1341. September was the most disappointing month of the year.

The final fortnight or so of the Tay salmon season was set up with a spate of nearly 6 feet on 29 September. Thereafter, levels fell away gradually, and the river stood at just over a foot on 13 October. On the 14th, rain returned and, on the last day, the river ran five feet up, but fortunately not coloured enough to wipe out fishing. While the Tay closed on the 15th, further rain saw the Earn peak on the 18th, but thereafter there was no appreciable rain there and the Earn closed on 31 October with quite low water. While the Eden saw a small rise on the 24th, it was a similar situation there too. Overall, October proved another disappointing month but not as bad in proportion as September. 578 fish were reported on the Fishtay website against a five year average of 1361. However, that 1361 includes several years of a trial season extension. 679 were reported in 2015 when there was no extension.

What bald figures cannot convey is that, in the autumn, the great majority of the fish caught were to some extent coloured and more of them appear to have been MSW than might be typical. After August, there was an unusual lack of fresh run fish. Indeed, such were the catches of coloured fish in some beats late on, that summer catches perhaps did not do justice to the numbers of fish that must have entered the river at that time. The lack of fresh autumn fish was obviously a great disappointment after good spring catches and good spring fish counts, but it transpires the Tay was not alone. This appears to have been a widespread problem.

Catch and release – spring salmon
In 2015 and 2016, the Board continued to recommend a policy of 100% catch-and-release of salmon up to the end of May. At the time of writing, the latest figures available are only for the 2015 season. These show an increase in compliance from 90% to nearly 97% from 2014 to 2015. This increase must reflect the introduction in 2015 of national mandatory catch and release to 31 March.

Although very few spring salmon were killed in the Tay district in 2015, more were still killed compared to any other district in Scotland, but once again, this will partly reflect the fact that the Tay produced the highest catch of spring salmon in Scotland in 2015.

Catch and release – summer
In addition to continuing the spring salmon policy, in 2015 and 2016, the Board continued the policy that, after May, all female fish should be released and no more than one male fish should be kept per day, which should be clean and, where possible, weigh less than 10 pounds (i.e. clean male grilse). While 2016 data are not yet available, 2015 data show that the catch and release rate, post- spring, generally continues to edge upwards shown in graph below. It should be noted that the apparent reduction in October 2015, reflects the fact the previous four years included trial season extension fish. However, once the 2016 figures are available, it may be that the percentage released in the autumn will be even higher owing to the relative lack of fresh run fish in autumn 2016.

Salmon Fishing Scotland - By Robert White

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