A fishery officer from the UK’s Environment Agency has said that salmon fishing in the region will face lean years in the future unless something is done to improve the fish’s survival rate at sea.
The salmon catch in 2013 was less than half of the previous five-year average, while the sea trout catch was just over half. The salmon season runs from February 2 until October 31 and the sea trout season from April 1 to September 30.
Fisheries specialist Andy Gowans, who is based in Penrith, said:
“We have major concerns about salmon and sea trout numbers, particularly salmon. The picture is fairly bleak and numbers are well down, particularly on the Solway rivers.
Given how widespread the problem is, it can only be a marine survival issue which is driving the whole thing. There are things we can do on the river like improving the habitat and removing barriers and if the anglers can be sensible about the numbers of fish they kill.”
Twenty years ago about 25 to 30 per cent of the smolts going out to sea came back but it was now about five per cent at best.
Mr Gowans said:
“We can impose catch and release but it’s a fairly lengthy process and we have to bring in by-laws which can take 12 to 18 months. On the Border Esk any changes would have to go to both the Westminster and Scottish parliaments to be ratified. If we can do it through the co-operation of anglers, it’s better for everyone.”
Iain Blackett, chairman of the Border Esk & Liddel angling club, said 2013 and 2014 had been challenging. On the club beats last year they caught 55 salmon, three fewer than in 2013, but in 2012 when there was a good run of fish they caught 207. They were now returning 75 per cent of the salmon, up from 40 per cent when they first started the club in 2011.
Mr Blackett, who has fished the river for 50 years, said:
“Various organisations, like the Salmon and Trout Association (STA), of which our club is a member, and the Atlantic Salmon Association are very concerned.”
He said he could remember the glory days but they would never return. He did not know the cause but there was a lot of predation at sea and in rivers. He added that the club was also about supporting the community, such as B&Bs and hotels used by visiting anglers.
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