Archive for April, 2012

A strange week at Finavon with three salmon caught

Friday, April 20th, 2012

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. They are not the views of any other organisation, nor are they designed to promote the interests of any individual or organisation other than Finavon Castle Water and factors affecting the fishery.  Tony Andrews

Mid April brought snow on the hills and heavy rain in the Vale of Strathmore. A cold east wind and fluctuating river levels have made it a difficult week for anglers, although a few loyal and intrepid Finavon fishermen have worked hard. I fished down Milton Beat and saw two spring fish in Volcano and Willows. Moray saw a fish in Frank’s Stream, but my impression is that the main spring run is waiting offshore for better conditions, which seems to be supported by the radio tagging project evidence of less than 20% of the salmon tagged entering the two Esks.

Spring Salmon Tyndals

FCW’s 4th salmon of 2012. One 9lb salmon was caught from the South bank of Tyndals, a rather unusual occurence which happens when a tired fisherman, after fishing through the main holding pools on Milton Beat, has a ‘last cast’ in Tyndals from the head of the pool by sliding down the bank beside the carpark! It works well sometimes, because it is possible to present the fly effectively to fish in the main lie, and that is precisely what happened on this occasion.

Silt: the cholesterol of salmon rivers: I continue to have a concern about the amount of silt in the river at higher levels, and also by the deep peaty colouration of the water. As a long-term observer of the South Esk I can say that it is not normal to have this level of siltation and peat in suspension at the end of winter. While in late spring and summer we expect to see organic material brought down by spates – indeed, the South Esk is notorious for that – we expect the spates of the early spring and late autumn to reflect the leaching of soils by rain and limited transpiration. These conditions of increased deposits of silt are not good for the river. They clog up the spawning gravels and cobbles and limit production of invertebrates, thus reducing food for juvenile salmon and sea trout. We must identify the cause of this threat to optimum habitats and take remedial action quickly.

Postscript written at 1900 on Saturday 21/4: Tony Duff had an 8lbs salmon from Lower Boat Pool in sa falling water at about 5pm and I followed his with a 10lbs fish from the same pool at about 1830. A number of fish have been showing throughout the day – not in big numbers but certainly enough to give encouragement. The river was clearing after a nice spring spate overnight on 20/4.

TA on 20/4/2012

Choppy seas and salmon from mixed stocks.

Friday, April 20th, 2012

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. They are not the views of any other organisation, nor are they designed to promote the interests of any individual or organisation other than Finavon Castle Water and factors affecting the fishery.  Tony Andrews

To today’s date the Montrose team of scientists have tagged 71 MSW salmon. As reported previously, 9 have entered the South Esk and 3 of these fish have dropped back below the most downstream of the receivers at Bridge of Dun. There has, rather surprisingly given the good water levels, been no new fish into the River, although considerable movement of fish within it.

Rough seas

Rough seas slow progress with radio tagging spring salmon

Conditions have been difficult over the last two weeks, with rough seas for much of the time making it impossible to work the nets and tag fish, so it is encouraging that tagging targets are being met and the planned number of 150 fish tagged by the end of May well within reach.

For those people who regard this project as a waste of time, and criticise the possible award of a licence to Usan Fisheries to continue netting into September, it is worth stating that the fish caught and tagged in May, of which there are likely to be about 80, would normally be killed and sent to market by Usan Fisheries. These MSW salmon caught in May are the most valuable fish of the season and represent a significant part of the Usan Fisheries income. I leave it to my readers to decide for themselves whether a licence to fish in September represents a sensible or fair way of compensating the Pullars for releasing those tagged salmon caught in May. It is important however to note that the licence has not been confirmed; the Minister’s decision merely flagged it as a possibility.

The other news is that 3 fish were recorded in the North Esk on the 20th April, of which one was radio-tagged on the 15th of March. In other words this salmon stayed at sea for the period 15/3 to 20/4 before choosing to enter its river. This is an interesting aspect of salmon behaviour which we may speculate could be accounted for by the long period of low water, or by the strong east winds and associated coastal turbulence. Whatever the reason, it is fascinating to learn that salmon will hang around off the coast for a period of weeks before migrating into the river. Of course, during that period these fish will have been vulnerable to predation.

To summarise, 16.9% (12) of the fish tagged to date (71) have been recorded in the North Esk (3) and South Esk (9). Because no fish have been recorded in rivers Dee or Tay, and because the technology appears to be working OK, we may assume that the other 83.1% of salmon tagged so far (59) are either still at sea or dead.

Rough seas in winter

Moreover, one thing we now know for certain, following the recordings from the North Esk, is that the Usan nets are a mixed stocks fishery, but we knew that from previous tagging. Nevertheless, it is useful to know that Usan nets are exploiting our scarce spring salmon on a mixed stocks basis.

Tracking within the catchment: Of course, other important information will come from the movements of tagged fish within the South Esk catchment, this being the primary purpose of the research project. It is worth repeating that the aim of the project is to identify the specific spawning locations of the spring components of the South Esk stock of wild Atlantic salmon. With this data should come a better understanding of which tributaries have the geological, topographical and chemical characteristics to support spring salmon. We can then assess the condition of these sections of the river system with a view to improving the habitats on a remedial basis.  Typically these so called “spring fish” will be multi sea-winter salmon, mostly from 2SW and 3SW groups. It is extremely unlikely, during the period of tagging (16/2 to 31/5), that any grilse (1SW salmon) will be caught, although in the second half of May there is a possibility of early running grilse, usually male fish from the same genetic group as some of the earlier running females, being caught in the nets, but they will probably not be radio-tagged

While I am not seeking to be controversial, I hope that detractors of this project might desist from complaining, and start paying attention to the facts that are starting to emerge – even at this early stage. While we clearly need a much bigger sample than the 12 fish we have so far recorded, it is fair to claim that the delays of salmon entering the rivers provides useful information about their migratory behaviour. We need all the data we can get if we are to conserve the valuable spring components of the South Esk’s stock.

TA on 20/4/2012


Tagging Report, 2 fish caught, two lost, and one dead.

Friday, April 13th, 2012

These bulletin blogs represent news about Finavon and the South Esk, and my views as a riparian owner. They are not the views of any other organisation, nor are they designed to promote the interests of any individual or organisation other than Finavon Castle Water and factors affecting the fishery.  Tony Andrews

I think there are quite a few people who may be disappointed with this week’s report from the Montrose team of scientists on the movements of our tagged salmon. You may recall that last week, with the wind in the East, no fish were caught in the Usan nets. The week just gone (ended Friday 13th April) has seen more fish tagged to a total of 59 radio-tagged fish to date.

Despite the little freshet in the South Esk last week, there have been no more movements of tagged salmon recorded by the strategically placed receivers on the South Esk. We still await reports from the North Esk, Tay and Dee, but it does look as if last week’s higher water levels failed to encourage new fish into the river – at least not the 47 that were tagged up to the beginning of the week.

While members of the Marine Scotland science team worked long hours to select the best fish for radio tagging, the fish themselves were simply not responding, rather against our expectations. On Monday I will be in touch with the team again to see if there are any late reports of more salmon tagged or movements of the 50 tagged fish that have yet to ‘appear’ on the receivers.

I suppose the moral is that these wild fish will do as they please, We should remember that these salmon are wild animals, recently returned from one of the most astonishing migrations of any living thing. They are hardly going to respond to our attempts to measure and record their movements. Eventually we will continue building the picture of where these MSW spring salmon go to lay their eggs, and we could be surprised. I won’t say that I am disappointed by the dirth of recorded movement, but I will say that of the 59 so far tagged we only have 9 recorded, and three of these fish appear to have returned to the sea after a brief foray up the South Esk.

Salmon 12lbs

This 12lbs hen salmon was caught by Derek Strachan in Tyndals on the 12th of April 2012. The fish had been in the river for some time and there were signs of healed lesions and possible recovery from saprolegnia. Assuming that it succeeds in spawning this fish should deposit in the order of 6,000 eggs.

Fish have been seen at Finavon during the week, a couple lost (one in Melgund Pool on Castle Beat and the other in Volcano on Milton Beat) and salmon of 12lbs and 9lbs caught and returned, both from Tyndals Pool (Milton Beat). Interestingly these were both fish that had been in the river for some weeks and both were marked by lesions and fungus that had started to heal. They were caught on a small fly quite well down in Tyndals, which is surprising given the relatively low level of the river. As Derek, who caught both fish said, there are bound to be fish in other pools keeping a low profile in these summer low levels. I also note that Cortachy and Downie Park have caught 4 salmon this week, but that Inshewan has not scored, although fish there have been hooked and lost. From further down river Doug Scott reports fish running through the Brechin Angling Club water and Charles Gow, the factor at Kinnaird said that he thought there were plenty of fish in the river.

Late this afternoon (14/4) Moray found a large dead salmon beside the river at Nine Maidens (Castle Beat). It was such a fine fish, although covered with saprolegnia fungus, that Moray asked me to see it. We measured its length (37″) and its girth (19″). This cock salmon was bright silver but without sea lice, and in first class condition. Moray and I agreed that it weighed at least 20lbs. We checked its stomach for any sign of a radio tag, but there was none. We also took some scales to send to Gordon Smith at the Montrose office of Marine Scotland Science.

TA on 14/4/2012

Pullar nets in Lunan Bay
Usan nets in Lunan Bay with Boddin Point in the background

Update on 16/4/2012. By Friday evening (14/4) about 65 salmon had been fitted with radio tags (exact number to be confirmed later this week), but, as before, there are no reports of fish being picked up by receivers on Dee, North Esk or Tay. There was some movement of fish within the South Esk, but this was minimal and probably not significant. Some people may be thinking that we are not learning much from this exercise, but I think that may be a bit pessimistic on the grounds that current conditions are not very helpful, with an east wind blowing onshore, cold and low water, and salmon probably moving offshore to await more favourable conditions.

I also find it highly significant that not one salmon out of approaching 70 tagged fish has been recorded in any of the neighbouring rivers. With the target of 150 salmon radio tagged by the end of May we are approaching the halfway point with seven weeks to go. A sample of 150 tagged fish is quite significant and has the potential to tell us a lot about the geographical dispersal of our spring salmon within the South Esk catchment.