Provisional catch data compiled for the 2011 Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB) and Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) Annual Review – published today – confirms that rod catches of salmon in 2010 are likely to be the highest since consistent records began in 1952. For the first time the rod catch will comfortably exceed 100,000, of which more than two thirds were released back into the water to spawn. The total compares to 72,595 in 2009 and a ten year average (2000-2009) of 76,431. The previous record of 96,488 was set in 1988.

Alan Williams (ASFB Chairman) and Andrew Wallace (the newly appointed RAFTS chairman) agreed: “The 2010 season will almost certainly be the highest rod catch ever recorded in Scotland. The Tweed had an astonishing rod catch of over 23,000 and records were broken on many east and north coast rivers. This was despite another poor year for spring salmon. However from July onwards last year, most of Scotland experienced robust runs of grilse and summer salmon. The main exception was the southern part of the West Highlands, which has the greatest density of salmon farms. With another moderate start to the spring season this year we believe that efforts must continue to ensure that exploitation by both rods and nets of these early running fish is kept to a minimum”.

Mr Wallace and Mr Williams further commented: “We need to be cautious about what catches are telling us about fish stocks. Angler effort and angling conditions all play their part in distorting catch data. On top of this it is essential, when drawing comparisons with the past, that we compare like with like. In the late 1960s before salmon got anywhere near the Scottish rod fishery, about half a million fish were caught in Scottish nets. There was also a catch of over 3000 tonnes at Greenland and the Faroes. In 2010 the Scottish declared catch by nets will have been between 15,000 and 20,000 – all killed. The clear message here is that despite strong grilse and summer salmon runs in many parts of Scotland in 2010, salmon are still nowhere near as abundant as they were 50 years ago”.

They added: “Marine survival of salmon remains the most significant driver of abundance and against such a background the challenge for managers, simply put, is to ensure as much of our salmon producing habitat is accessible to fish, that water quality and quantity and aquatic habitat are of the highest quality and that exploitation in all its forms (rods/nets/predators) is kept as low as possible. When marine conditions favour salmon, as they clearly did for some stocks in 2009/10, then our fisheries will reap the reward. But given the dynamic, complex and extremely unpredictable nature of our marine environment, particularly in these days of shifts in climate, a cautious approach – even against a background of record catches – is the only sensible position to adopt.”

The ASFB and RAFTS Annual Review also highlights many of the key threats to salmon and sea trout and details much of the latest research and practical projects being undertaken by Scotland’s network of fisheries trusts in mitigation.

The great majority of salmon caught by anglers in Scotland are released back into the water. The 2009 catch & release figures (published by Scottish Government in Sept 2010) for the Scottish rod catch was 67 %. The release rate for spring fish (the most fragile component of stocks) was 82 %.

Read full 2011 ASFB and RAFT Annual Review

The ASFB and RAFTS Annual Review is sponsored by legal firm Gillespie MacAndrew and property consultants and land agents Strutt and Parker. Printed copies are available from ASFB/RAFTS, Capital Business Centre, 24 Canning Street, Edinburgh EH3 8EG.