Problems at sea hit 2014 salmon season

Despite the poor autumn run of salmon, Tweed Commision chairman Douglas Dobie has urged fishermen to “have a little faith”.

The River Tweed contributes £18 million to the Borders economy, including 480 full-time job equivalents associated with the river, so any dip in lucrative salmon catches, such as there was last year, is cause for concern.

Salmon catches in 2014 were more than 50 per cent less than the previous year (9,971, against 20,316 in 2013), 77 per cent of which were caught by rod and line (75 per cent in 2013). And from September salmon catches were unusually low in all parts of the river.

Speaking at the commissioners’ AGM, Mr Dobie said: “It is easy to be gloomy given the low rod catch of salmon in 2014, particularly in the back end, and there are serious issues chiefly associated with marine survival, which are of great concern to fishery managers throughout the range of Atlantic Salmon. But there is also much to be positive about.

“Our fisheries’ resource properly protected, monitored and understood secures the future and will always provide the platform to bounce back from a period of relative famine.

“The dry summer allowed the Tweed Foundation to undertake a full monitoring programme throughout the catchment and reports from that data collection indicated that salmon fry numbers had held up well and showed no sign of long-term decline.

“Likewise, our two working fish counters on Tweed, even in 2014, showed no long-term downward trend in returning adult salmon.

“Concentrating entirely on salmon, however, hides the full picture.

“The relative health of our streams is amply demonstrated by significant catches of truly wild brown trout in many parts of the catchment.

“We also continue to undervalue the contribution that the sea trout catch makes, which is buoyant and significantly adds to the quality of the angling experience enjoyed over a large part of the Tweed, particularly in the summer months.

“So we should take heart and have a little faith.

“There are problems at sea, but they have not suddenly appeared and these sorts of events will have happened many times in the past.

“Salmon and sea trout have evolved to cope with setbacks at any stage of their complicated and risk-filled life cycle and so they will have, hopefully, adjusted to ensure a bountiful future.”

The 2013/4 winter was the mildest on record and the season started with high water.

After a hot, dry summer, river levels were very low, resulting in very few fish showing in the system even in the deep pools in the lower reaches. By the autumn there were fewer fish backed up in the lower river.

The conundrum for river experts is why the fish counters on the River Whiteadder and Gala Water showed more or less normal runs of fish.

Good brown trout and grayling catches were reported on many parts of the river and sea-trout catches were also good (4,029).