Auchnahannet Burn surveys 2014

Almost finished our electrofishing for 2014, just a few odds and ends to tidy up including two monitoring sites in the Auchnahannet Burn today. This burn was the subject of a habitat restoration project by the Spey Catchment Initiative over 2012/13 with fencing to exclude stock access and tree planting. We have monitored these sites over the last three years – there has been quite a transformation in the quality of the instream and bankside habitat.

The Auchnahannet Burn upper site in 2012. This site is located immediatly upstream of the Dulnain / Carrbridge road

The Auchnahannet Burn upper site in 2012. This site is located immediatly upstream of the Dulnain / Carrbridge road

Roughly the same view today, the burn is a lot narrower and deeper,. Trout habitat you may say but you'd be wrong, there was a great population of salmon.

Roughly the same view today, the burn is a lot narrower and deeper. Trout habitat some may say but they’d be wrong in this case – there was a great population of salmon. There is a lot less sand in the stream bed now. The water was deceptive in its depth, it was almost to the top of our waders in the foreground.

The view downstream from below the road bridge. This shot was taken in winter but the bare banks and erosion have gone.

The pre-fencing view downstream from the road bridge. This shot was taken in winter but the bare banks and erosion have gone.

The downsteam view today, what a transformation.

The downsteam view today, what a transformation.

The results from the surveys in the upper site are shown in the table below.

An impressive increase in the salmon population in particular at this site

An impressive increase in the salmon population in particular at this site, same for the trout parr. Note that the figures are expressed as fish per 100m2 wetted stream bed area.

Some of the mixed salmon and trout catch during processing (note: they some are still under the effects of the anaesthetic).

Some of the mixed salmon and trout catch during processing (note: some are still under the effects of the anaesthetic).

I didn't think the lower fish looked quite right, it is potentially a trout/salmon hybrid. Upper one is a cracking fat salmon parr.

I didn’t think the lower fish looked quite right, too many parr marks for a trout, potentially a trout/salmon hybrid. Upper one is a cracking fat salmon parr.

One problem at the site were the long streamers of fibrous algae which made catching the fish difficult. We only fished each site once but I reckon our efficiency was lower than usual.

The long strands of algae made fish capture and net movement difficult, consequently we left a lot more fish behind than normal.

The long strands of algae made fish capture and net movement difficult, consequently we left a lot more fish behind than normal.

The lower site produced less good results than we recorded last year when a tremendous density of parr were found. Not sure why the parr numbers were lower today but we caught a lot of salmon fry.

The results from the lower site. Less parr thanlast year for some reason but no shortage of salmon fry.

The results from the lower site. Less parr than last year for some reason but no shortage of salmon fry.

Must remember to survey these sites immediately after a spate next year, there might be less algae about then.

Kirsteen and Polly processing the catch on a fresh autumn day.

Kirsteen and Polly processing the catch on a fresh autumn day.

Spey Fishery Board

Week Commencing 15th September 2014

Well another week finished, the season is dragging itself to a close. The weather forecast for the coming week is for a settled week with some rain on Thursday night, which might liven the river up towards the weekend. The tides are building all week but weather there are any more fish is questionable. Surely this season should quieten anyone calling for a season extension, the last thing I need is to have to write more weekly reports!

Catches: I am sure there were some. The Gordon Castle Beats made it into double figures. Delfur managed about half a dozen. Rory was kind enough to send me this picture of a hen fish Tom Mellon landed; when it first came in I thought someone had caught a carp!

Tom Mellor's salmon Delfur

Tom Mellor’s salmon Delfur

At Rothes, Eric Wardle’s party finished in the mid teens with almost as many lost. Eric said they fished hard and it was nice to see the pools full of fish including a few decent sized ones.

The beat above finished with 5, Charles Harman sent me a couple of pictures. Kitty Campbell landed her first salmon but he was not around to get a photograph.

Charles Harman's salmon.

Charles Harman’s salmon.

Keith and Dan better together!

Dan Russel with Keith McLaren

Up stream things were pretty quiet but most beats managed a couple of fish.

Spey Fishery Board

Craigellachie salmon fry survey

Due to the wet August weather a few of the mainstem salmon fry index sites were still outstanding. Dropping river levels recently provided an opportunity to complete all outstanding surveys as well as allowing us to repeat some surveys to assess the impact of the mega August spate and the mainstem mitigation stocking.

As usual we videod the surveys. The 3 minute survey at the Craigellachie site just upstream of the Telford Bridge can be viewed here. At the site we caught 100 wild salmon fry and 6 parr, better than the average from that site over the last three years. We also caught 12 fin-clipped (stocked fry) from the mitigation stocking carried out in some beats in the lower river following the August spate.

Watch the video and you will see that we caught fry on almost all the sweeps of the electrofisher -encouraging results after the spate.

Spey Fishery Board

River Tromie: bottom to top

Over the last week we have taken advantage of the dry weather to electrofish the River Tromie from bottom to top. The Tromie joins the Spey a short distance downstream from Kingussie on the east side of the river. An interesting river, it has a hydro dam in the upper reaches which abstracts a lot of water but also provides flow regulation; to the extent that the Tromie didn’t suffer from the massive spate that most other Spey tributaries experienced on the 11th Aug. The reservoir was low before the spate to it was able to hold back a lot of water with only a minor spill event.

In order to try and get a good understanding of the fish population we completed a number of timed surveys on the mainstem as well as some quantitative mainstem and tributary surveys.

The river downstream of the the hydro dam to the confluence with the Spey is 16.5km in length with a drop in altitude from 425m to 220m; a gradient of 1.24%. Nine timed surveys were completed in this stretch. Salmon fry were found at all sites although generally in low to moderate numbers. The mean salmon fry count per minute in those nine sites was 6.4 (compared to 18+ on the Spey mainstem sites this year) with the range from 14 to 2 per minute. This fits with previous surveys on the Tromie where low fry densities were the norm. Parr counts averaged 3 per minute, similar to the Spey mainstem.

A jumbo parr from the lowest Tromie timed site at InverTromie Farm. A more normal sized parr is provided for comparison

A jumbo parr from the lowest Tromie timed site at InverTromie Farm. A more normal sized parr is provided for comparison

Timed site TT16 upsteream of Lyneberack Lodge. In this area the river was wide and shallow and it will be an important smolt production area. But even here there was a lack of good spawning gravels

Timed site TT16 upsteream of Lynaberack Lodge. In this area the river was wide and shallow and it will be an important smolt production area. But even here there was a lack of good spawning gravels

Density site T18, the river was more bouldery here; good parr habitat

Density site T18, the river was more bouldery here providing good parr habitat

The results from the five density surveys completed downstream of the dam were interesting. Here the mean salmon parr density /100m was 15.9 compared to 9.5 salmon fry. It is unusual for the parr density t be higher than fry although one of the sites was a short distance downstream of the dam where there were very few fry.

Possible hybrid salmon:trout fry from the site below the hydro dam. The upper fry was one of only a few true salmon fry found at the site althoughparr were abundant. The parr density at this site was the highest recorded in twelve surveys over fifeteen years at this site, but the fry density was the lowest.

Possible hybrid salmon:trout fry from the site below the hydro dam. A chunky fish with a trout like wrist it had characteristics of both species. The upper fry was one of only a few true salmon fry found at the site although parr were abundant. The parr density at this site was the highest recorded in twelve surveys over fifeteen years at this site, but the fry density was the lowest.

The fry at the timed site 250m downstream of the dam were the largest perhaps benefitting from some additional feeding from the loch water?

This kinky parr was found at site T18 downstream of Glentromie Lodge. It probably sustained some physical damage in its early dys

This kinky parr was found at site T18 downstream of Glentromie Lodge. It probably sustained some physical damage in its early days

Our conclusion was that the parr population below the dam was pretty good it could be even better if the availabilty of spawning gravels were not a limting factor. One of the major side effects of dams and impoundments is their impact of sediment transport downstream. Sediment can only move in one direction so there has to be a supply from upstream to maintain the ecosystem for gravel spawning fish like salmonids. Both the Tromie Dam and Allt Bhran intake effectivly throttle the supply of sediment to the lower river where there is a lack of the smaller substrate sizes.

Upstream of the Tromie Dam there are no sediment supply issues; the complete opposite infact, there is a super abundance of sediment. The Allt Gharbh Ghaig (pron. “Garry Gig”) is a highly mobile river with an incredibly steep catchment, much of which is bare rock or rock and scree. It is known to be highly responsive to heavy rainfall or even snow melt.

Uppee survey site in the Allt Gharbh Ghaig. The river channel itself is only about 10m wide but the river bed is about 80m. This must be an incredibly hostile environment for juvenile salmon. In the Spey catchment only the Feshie can compare in terms of river mobility.

Upper survey site in the Allt Gharbh Ghaig. The river channel itself is only about 10m wide but the river bed is about 80m. This must be an incredibly hostile environment for juvenile salmon. In the Spey catchment only the Feshie can compare in terms of river mobility.

There is little point doing any density sites in a mobile river like this; any site will never be stable enough for repeat survey comparsions to be made so we completed four timed sites. Salmon fry were found only in the lower site (1 per minute) and parr only in the lower and uppermost sites.

The lower timed survey site in the Allt Gharbh Ghaig. We found three salmon fry, four salmon parr and a few trout at this site.

The lower timed survey site in the Allt Gharbh Ghaig. We found three salmon fry, four salmon parr and a few trout at this site.

The only three salmon parr from the upper site. They were all large, probably 2+ years old at least.

The only three salmon parr from the upper site. They were all large, probably 2+ years old at least.

Spawning gravel injection site on the bamnks of the Gharbh Ghaig. None of this gravel can progress downstream of the dam but perhaps it should be helped on its way?

Spawning gravel injection site on the banks of the Gharbh Ghaig. None of this gravel can progress downstream of the dam but perhaps it should be helped on its way?

The other branch of the upper Tromie catchment flows through two natural lochs and is much more stable.

The Dubh Bhrodainn downstream of Loch Bhrodhainn. The picture shows the Allt Bhrodhainn confluence where the recent spate had dumped a load of gravel in the larger river.

The Dubh Bhrodainn downstream of Loch Bhrodhainn. The picture shows the Allt Bhrodhainn confluence where the recent spate had dumped a load of gravel into the larger river channel.

Our survey site just downstream of the footbridge produced quite a few salmon and trout fry and parr.

Upstream of Loch Bhrodhainn the Allt Loch an Duin provides pretty good instream habitat for juvenile salmon. We completed one density survey in a site which had only been surveyed once before; in 1999. The results were similar; less salmon parr but there were salmon fry present this year where there had been none in 1999. There were a lot more trout fry and parr this year.

The Allt Loch an Duin site between the Loch an Duin and Bhrodhainn.

The Allt Loch an Duin site between the Loch an Duin and Bhrodhainn.

The upper site was just below Loch an Duin. For the first time ever we found neither salmon fry nor parr at this site, although they were never abundant. The site itself is only 100m or so downstream of the loch and is on the very margins of salmon habitat in this part of the catchment.

Loch an Duin looking south. Just beyond the far end runs the Edendon Water, a tributary of the River Garry in the Tay catchment.

Loch an Duin looking south. Just beyond the far end runs the Edendon Water, a heavily abstracted tributary of the River Garry in the Tay catchment.

Although salmon were absent from the very upper site it was good to see that they were present in several sites upstream of the hydro dam. The smolt production above the dam will not be high, the river connecting the two lochs is much more significant in that respect that the Allt Gharbh Ghaig, but it seems to be found a sustainable level. Smolt production in the Allt Gharbh Ghaig itself will be ultra low, perhaps only a couple hundred, but this is salmon habitat at its most volatile and hostile.

To conclude this description of the Tromie I’l, relay a good story from Bob Laughton. He told about when he took a couple previous Delfur ghillies up this part of the catchment to do some salmon redd counting in the autumn. There could hardly be a greater contrast between the lush surroundings of Delfur and the wild hills of the Gaick Estate so it should be no surprise when the ghillies declared that it was a waste of time redd counting in this desolate place. Much to Bob’s delight, and I’m am sure the ghillies also, just where they stopped the pickup there were a pair of spawning salmon in the stream below – they are still there.

Spey Fishery Board

Week commencing 8th September 2014

Another week passed, not long to go now. Autumn can be a beautiful time of the year.

Sunset

Sunset

The river started around the two foot six mark and fell away all week finishing around six inches. The forecast is for some more settled weather with perhaps some heavy rain before the weekend but as usual it is hard to predict what Friday might bring. Temperatures remain quite high for September. The tides have peaked last week and there will be no new water till after the weekend.

Catches: The Gordon Castle beats again landed over fifty salmon for the week a mixture of older coloured fish with some sea liced fish as well. Delfur started the week with a rush but things slowed as the week progressed; they finished around the mid twenties. As usual Mark and the boys have been generous with their photographs’.

Charles MacPherson Delfur

Charles MacPherson Delfur

Charles again

Charles again

And again

And again

Another of the ten Charles caught Monday & Tuesday.

Another of the ten Charles caught Monday & Tuesday.

Lee Landale's first fish

Lee Landale’s first fish

George Bullard Twa Stanes Delfur

George Bullard Twa Stanes Delfur

Further upstream there are still fish to be caught. Craigellachie had a handful. Wester Elchies again lightly fished but still managed seven. Both Carron and Laggan were around the double figure mark. Team Boathwick landing the majority at Carron. I have a few interesting pictures from Ian and Neil. The red marks on the first fish are caused by Caligus Elongatus, which are the other smaller sea lice. The theory is that there was a large infestation of Caligus, possibly brought in by mackerel. The time of the year is right so it seems a plausible explanation. Other rivers are seeing fish with similar marks.

Red spots caused by Caligus Elongatus obviously!

Red spots caused by Caligus Elongatus obviously!

Perhaps not of Spey Origin

Perhaps not of Spey Origin

Ugly Beast

Ugly Beast!

Sandy Smith tells me that Buckie angler George Alexander had a fish estimated at twenty pounds from the Pouch but unfortunately the photographs were not too clear.

Grantown struggled a bit with the low water but still managed a handful of fish the best being a fish of around fourteen pounds from the Lurg.

Spey Fishery Board

Week Commencing 1st September 2014

The river started around two feet on Monday and fell away all week till Friday night’s rain pushed it up again on Saturday. The water temperature fell back as the week progressed. This weekend’s rain has again lifted the river and for about the fourth Monday in a row the river will start on the high side. There is little turbidity as a lot of the rise is Avon water. The SEPA gauge, on the Avon is reading about 18” low following gravel shift during the last big spates. (This also applies to other websites who take their information from SEPA.) The forecast for next week is for some warm settled weather as the high pressure dominates. The tides are still building for the early part of the week. Can I take this opportunity to remind everyone to return as many fish as possible, large cock fish do not make good smokers as they have lost most of their fat. The hen fish are full of eggs and need to be handled carefully and returned as soon as possible.

Catches: The Gordon Castle beats finished the week with over fifty fish landed, Ian Tennant tells me there were plenty of fresh ones. Delfur had just short of forty, a mixture of some old and some new, it is nice to see fresh fish being landed this close to the season’s end.

Nice bright autumn fish Delfur

Nice bright autumn fish Delfur

Another bright September fish Delfur

Another bright September fish Delfur

Close up.

Close up.

Both Craigellachie and Wester Elchies managed half a dozen. The Hosker Party at Carron landed eight, the ladies catching three quarters of the catch, Mrs Maureen Chesmore the girls done good!

Ruth Hosker Carron

Ruth Hosker Carron

 

Rebecca Chesmore Carron

Rebecca Chesmore Carron

Rebecca again Carron

Rebecca again Carron

 

Ian Borthwick with another of Ruth's fish

Ian Borthwick with another of Ruth’s fish

Again Grantown reached double figures of salmon with perhaps a few more yet to be reported, The pick of the week was a 15 pound fish landed from Clach an Uaran, on a fly.

Spey Fishery Board

Salmon return to the Glenbeg Burn

In April 2013 I reported on the blog that with the assistance of BEAR Scotland and the SFB team baffles had been fitted in the culvert where the Glenbeg Burn flows under the A95 just to the south of Grantown. The aim was to improve fish access and the proof of the pudding would be the appearance of naturally spawned salmon fry in the burn upstream of the culvert.

Today was the first decent weather on a weekday for at least two weeks. With dropping river levels we took advantage to complete six electrofishing surveys; two in the Dellifure Burn, three in the Glenbeg Burn and one in the Kylintra Burn in Grantown. It was a very interesting and satisfying day although this post concerns the Glenbeg Burn only.

The three survey sites in the Glenbeg Burn were all upstream of the A95 culvert. The uppermost was on the woodland/moor fringe. The habitat here is excellent for salmon fry; shallow and riffly but there were only trout fry and parr present although in good numbers.

The middle site was more typical of the Glenbeg Burn; a deep entrenched channel with pebbly substrate. Previously only trout had been found at this site but amongst the 70 or so trout fry were 6 salmon fry. A nice find and irrefutable evidence that at least two salmon had made it past the baffles last autumn.

One of the naturally spawned salmon fry found in the middle Glenbeg Burn site

One of the naturally spawned salmon fry found in the middle Glenbeg Burn site

The middle site in the Glenbeg Burn. At least one pair of salmon must have made it this far upstream last spawning season

The middle site in the Glenbeg Burn. At least one pair of salmon must have made it this far upstream last spawning season

The lower site was a short distance upsteam of the culvert and here again we found salmon fry with a few parr. Scale samples will confirm the age of these parr but some may have been derived from the last stocking in 2012. We found no fry at this site last year but it is not inconceivable that some parr migrated upstream through the baffles.

The steel baffles in the Glenbeg Burn culvert. They have slowed and deepened the flow greatly.

The steel baffles in the Glenbeg Burn culvert. They have slowed and deepened the flow greatly.

The Glenbeg Burn has been stocked intermittently over a number of years and whilst it is known that they historically spawned well up the burn this is the first time that we have found salmon fry upsteam of the culvert when no stocking had occurred. At the stocking sub-committee it was agreed that it should be stocked again unless there were salmon fry present. However, the evidence from our extensive experience of stocking and monitoring in the Spey burns suggests that encouraging naturally spawning fish is likely to result in a more sustainable population, although of course the spawning fish that produced these fry could have themselves been stocked.

Spey Fishery Board

Spring salmon protection consultation

The Scottish Government today announced that they intend to run a consultaiton on enhanced conservation measures for the early spring salmon. The wording in the statement from the Scottish Government is:

Minister announces consultation to protect early-running spring salmon

Options designed to take proactive action to protect the early-running spring salmon that are at particularly low levels across Scotland, will shortly be consulted on by the Scottish Government.

Early today, in response to a written PQ from Rob Gibson MSP, Minister for the Environment and Climate Change, Paul Wheelhouse, announced that he intended to consult on statutory conservation measures, to be effective for commencement in 2015 requiring mandatory catch and release until 1 April, together with a delay in the start of the net fishing season.

The conservation measure would be for an initial 5 year period at which point it would be reviewed.
Mr Wheelhouse said:
‘The Scottish Government places a high value on conservation of our wild Scottish salmon and other wild fish stocks. While I recognise the tremendous contribution that catch and release and the voluntary cessation of netting have had in previous seasons, I think more can be done to provide certainty about the protection of spring stocks. I will therefore consult on statutory measures to replace and enhance the voluntary practices from previous years across Scotland, for a defined period.
“I am very conscious that the Independent Review of Wild Fisheries will report in October 2014. And I will need time to consider the recommendations made, and to consult further on firm policy propositions in due course. However, I have taken the view that the protection of the spring stocks cannot wait for that work to be completed, and I want to make clear our future intentions as regards this specific issue of concern.
“Today’s announcement underlines the commitment of the Scottish Government to managing and protecting Scotland’s fisheries in general, and in this instance, salmon in particular.”

No doubt further details of this consultation will soon be made available.

Spey Fishery Board