Spey Conservation Policy 2016

Scottish legislation requires that all salmon caught before the 1st April must be released.  In order to protect the integrity of the Spey stock and to maximise their spawning potential, the Spey Fishery Board’s policy is that all fish caught up to and including the 31st May should be released alive. A copy of the 2016 Spey Conservation policy can be downloaded here.

 

 

 

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Upper Fiddich redd count

More accurately this section should be described as the upper, middle reaches of the Fiddich; salmon go a lot further up than the stretch we counted today. Incidentally someone asked last night for the origin of the term “redd”. I was stumped but a quick internet search suggested that it was originally a verb meaning to “put in order; tidy” or “to clear” see http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/redd  (other web references are available). I can see the connection with a fish cleaning or preparing the gravel ready for the eggs, or as someone else suggested, a clean area of gravel! In Ayrshire spawning was referred to as “redding”, a more literal use of the term.

Today Steve and I were joined by Ian, who fortunately for him, lives almost on the banks of the Fiddich. We counted this stretch on the 2nd Dec last year but in 2015 the weather was befitting the first day of winter with lying snow and sleet falling; last year it was a beautiful autumn-like day.

The stretch counted starts where the Cabrach road crosses the Fiddich. This year there were 4 or 5 redds immediately below the bridge (always good vantage point), a good start.

Typical Fiddich salmon redd

Typical Fiddich salmon redd

Very few fish were seen, just the odd cock fish, the spawning was effectively over. As with all the middle and lower Spey tributaries differentiating between salmon and sea trout redds is tricky but we tried to be quite critical today.

This one was a unanimous salmon redd: all three judges agreeing

This one was a unanimous salmon redd: all three judges agreeing!

The 2015  count was impressive; 139 salmon redds with 49 counted as trout redds. This compares with 57 salmon and 4 trout redds in 2014. I suspect we were harder on the identification of the redds today but the total count was definitely three times higher than last year. The 2015 count also compares favourable with others in the longer dataset. The highest count was 480 in 1993 but that was a combined count including the downstream section as far as the Dullan mouth, I suspect that count would also have included both trout and salmon redds.

Habitat quality in this stretch of the Fiddich generally good, there is bankside grazing but not too intense with riparian trees almost throughout.

There was a cracking root ball on this alder, I wonder how much longer it will last?

There was a cracking root ball on this alder;  how much longer can it last?

A new channel where the Fiddich has meandered through the riparian wood.

In a few places the Fiddich had cut new channels, or more accurately reopened paleo-channels. In the photo above a relatively new channel was becoming established where the Fiddich has meandered into the alder wood.

There endeth my redd counting for 2015, the spate that is bound to follow this mild evening will flatten many of the redds making counting more difficult. Still it was good to be impressed by the number of redds in the Spey at last!

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Dulnain spawning walk

It was a bit dull and dreich today after so many beautiful days but with river levels still low we took the opportunity to walk a section in the middle reaches of the River Dulnain to assess the spawning activity. Joining us for the day were the Delfur ghillies and a film crew filming a documentary on the River Spey for japanese television.

We split into two groups so that we could cover more ground and hopefully locate spawning fish for the film crew.  It is always good when you come across a redd immediately on arrival at the river but that was the case in the lower section, and it set the tone for the rest of the morning. This particular area of the Dulnain has superb habitat, see here for an earlier blog, with a great variety of spawning, fry, parr and holding water. Nearly every area of good spawning habitat had been used with many easy to identify complete redds visible in the low and clear water.

We saw a lot of fish; large and small, with some great spawning activity.

A cock guarding the redd

A cock guarding the redd

Most of the fish were very clean with little or no fungus just the odd exception. Despite the high numbers of fish on the redds, and the number of complete redds, we found no otter kills. The few dead fish found were intact but covered in fungus.

Our Gopro video was deployed on one redd where five fish were present. However 2 hours of footage only produced a few short scenes with a number of different cock fish approaching the camera – this wildlife filming is harder than it looks!

A snapshot from the underwater video, one of several cock fish in the area.

A snapshot from the underwater video, one of several cock fish in that spot.

The river was low, and has been so for a number of weeks with just the occasional small rise in water levels. Consequently most of the redds were in low water sites – fast runs or in tails of pools with faster flows, although not all, some fish must have taken advantage of the short rises to spawn in what were now slower flows.

Thsi particular run contained 27 or 28 redds with a number of fish actively cutting redds.

This particular run contained 27 or 28 redds with a number of fish actively cutting redds. I have been involved in redd counts or watching spawning fish for over 15 years and this was one of the highest densities of salmon redds I have seen – very impressed. This was a classic low water spawning run; the tail of the big pool above contained no redds, the flow being too slow in the low water.

Salmon redds in the low water run.

Classic profile complete salmon redds at the top end of the low water run.

Well used spawning gravel

Well used spawning gravel

At lunchtime it was clear that we had seen more activity than Steve and the film crew so after lunch I took them back downstream where they deployed their underwater cameras in some areas of good activity; hopefully they were more successful than I was in filming spawning activity.

The Delfur guys headed further upstream after lunch but we met on the way home. Their report from the upper section was good with about 40 redds recorded and many fish seen. Amazingly they also reported seeing a farmed fish on the redds! The farmers tail, which was showing above the surface, attracted their attention and they were able to confirm it as a farmer on closer inspection.

Farmed fish tail fin closest to the camera with the wild male behind - not much gets past the Delfur ghillies!

Farmed fish tail fin closest to the camera with the wild male behind – not much gets past the Delfur ghillies, an incredible spot in those conditions! The farmer was 12lb+ and an unwelcome sight on the redds although it genes will be well diluted by the big stock of wild fish.

As always it was another great day out redd counting. I had walked this bit of the Dulnain before so the quality of the habitat was no surprise but I was impressed by the stock of spawning fish. It was good to be able to share such a day with the Delfur ghillies who I am pretty sure were equally impressed.

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Spey mainstem analysis: parr size distribution

The Spey mainstem is too big for quantitiative electrofishing surveys in the normal manner but last year we re-introduced some of the quadrat surveys with defined areas of the riverbed electrofished semi-quantitatively i.e. single run survey protocol.

This blog post reports on the results from two of the sites, one in Aberlour and the other upstream at Blacksboat.

Site S7 in Aberlour

Site S7 in Aberlour. The area fished is 22m long by 5m. In 2015 ranunculus had made a reappearance, providing cover for fish but making them difficult to extract; as a result we missed quite a few fish, although not enough to significantly alter the results.

 

Site S9, just upstream of Blasksboat. The dimensions of this site were similar to S7.

Site S9, just upstream of Blacksboat. The dimensions of this site were similar to S7, although just under 20m long. This was a new site a short distance downstream of the site surveyed in 2014 but will be a more suitable site going forward.

The river at the Aberlour site is very stable and there were no significant physical changes since last year other than the reappearance of ranunculus. The surveys were completed within a day of each other, in early Oct in 2014 and 2015.

In 2014 we caught 151 salmon fry and 70 salmon parr at the site in Aberlour whilst in exactly the same area yesterday we caught 110 fry and 28 parr.  This is a sigificant reduction in fish densities, certainly for parr especially when considering that the 2014 survey was after the damaging August 2014 Hurricane Bertha spate.

An analysis of the size distribution of the fish shows some interesting differences.

Aberlour site, S7 1st OPct 2014.

Aberlour site, S7 1st Oct 2014. Of the 70 salmon parr captured 63% were over 90mm and therefore likely to smolt in 2015, the remainder would probably spend another year in the river before smolting in 2016 (if they survive that long).

Aberlours site, S7, 2nd Oct 2015

Aberlour site, S7 2nd Oct 2015. 28 salmon parr but all well above the 90mm smolting threshold.

In 2014 the mean size of the fry was 54mm, whilst on practically the same day in 2015 it was 63mm.  The mean size of the 1+ parr in 2014 was 91mm whilst in 2015 it was 114mm ( note that the scales have still to be read for the 2015 samples but aging by size distribution won’t be far out). So there was a much lower density of parr at that site in 2015 but they are all above the smolting size threshold.

The large size of the fry has been a feature of the 2015 surveys even though the summer temperatures were never high and the mean water temperature must have been lower than in 2014. A factor contributing to the bigger fry is probably the lower parr densities. High parr densities would suppress the fry population through predation, harrassment and displacement from the best feeding lies.

The findings at the Blacksboat sites were similar regarding the average sizes of each age class and parr densities, although fry densities were higher here in 2015.

Blacksboat 2014

Blacksboat site 1st Oct 2014. Of the 29 parr captured 72% were above the 90mm threshold. (Not sure why the colour coding for age classes didn’t work for this graph when exported from the database)

Blacksboat 2015

Blacksboat site 2nd Oct 2015; all the salmon parr were above the 90mm smolting threshold.

The  salmon fry at the Blacksboat site were smaller in 2014 than in 2015 (53mm in 2014 and 57mm in 2015), with the 1+ parr 89m in 2014 compared to 103mm in 2015.

All of this highlights the dynamic situation that occurs within any territorial species when population densities or environmental conditions change. Parr densities are down in 2015 but those present are larger with a higher proportion likely to smolt in 2016; partially offsetting any loss in production, and possibly improving subsequent survival.

This could result in a situation whereby in 2016 there are few 2+ parr but a large class of 1+ parr from which the 2017 smolt run will be derived. We intend to maintain these selected semi quantitative mainstem surveys on an annual basis providng the opportunity to monitor these changes in the parr population structure over a longer period.

 

 

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Avon spawning recce

Steve and myself, accompanied by a local photographer interested in salmon, headed for the upper Avon (A’an) today to check on the spawning activity.  This was the same trip as we had made three years ago although on the 24th Oct, a week earlier.

The first port of call was the Burn of Loin a productive high altitude tributary of the A’an.

Typical habitat in the upper Loin

Typical habitat in the upper Loin. It is quite a mobile burn, a trait accentuated by the big spate last year although it didn’t look too dissimilar to what we had seen in 2012.

There were redds visible from the start on our walk with fish present on some. James deployed his Gopro underwater cameras at the first two locations where we found actively spawning fish; hopefully he will have got some good footage. In total we walked 2.8km counting 67 salmon redds and 21 which we thought we more likely made by sea trout; although we didn’t see any live sea trout today, almost all the fish which we could identify were grilse with the occasional larger salmon. In the middle reaches every bit of spawning gravel had been turned over.

Well used spawning gravels in the Loin.

In the middle reaches of the Loin almost every inch of suitable spawning gravels had been turned over, including this well ploughed patch.

A grilse on a Loin redd.

A grilse on a Loin redd.

This was the only positive sighting of a sea trout today; a dead one on the bank. Presumed to be an otter kill although each end appears to have been sucked rather than chewed?

This was the only positive sighting of a sea trout today; a dead one on the bank. Presumed to be an otter kill although each end appears to have been sucked rather than chewed?

Last year we noted that whilst the nearby Builg Burn held mainly spawning two sea winter salmon the Loin fish were mainly small grilse. It was the same this year. Still they were present in good numbers and we were more than satisfied that the egg deposition target would have been more than met in the Loin.

In addition to the redds count the bird count included one eagle, several dippers  and of all things a goosander!

Satisfied with the Loin we headed upstream to the upper A’an. I blogged about the 2012 trip to the same area see here so it was going to be interesting to see what was about this year. We got to the end of the road at 1220, grabbed a quick sandwich then headed upstream to take advantage of the good light. As in 2012 we found redds immediately next to the bothy, although if anything there seemed to be more fish and redds in that area this year.

There were four identifiable redds in this area with five fish in attendance, a good level of activity for such high altitude.

There were four identifiable redds in this area with five fish in attendance, a good level of activity for such high altitude.

In 2012 we found a "mega redd" where large rocks had bene dislodged. Well we found the same this year. These two excavations midstream involved moving rocks up to 8" diameter. It is almost unbelievable that salmon could move such material but what else would dig holes in the river bed at 2000ft?

In 2012 we found a “mega redd” where large rocks had been dislodged. Well we found the same this year. These two excavations midstream (white patches above centre) involved moving rocks up to 8″ diameter. It is almost unbelievable that salmon could move such material but what else would dig holes in the river bed at 2000ft?

This photo was taken in a side channel just below where the Allt Coire Ruairidh joins the Avon. There were two redds in this fine patch of spawning gravel with a cock grilse on guard; it was exactly the same in 2012, check out the link provided above.

This photo was taken in a side channel just below where the Allt Coire Ruairidh joins the A’an. There were two redds in this fine patch of spawning gravel with a cock grilse on guard; it was exactly the same in 2012, check out the link provided above.

The Allt Coire Ruairidh confluence. There were four redds in this frame, a nice wee cluster at over 2000ft altitude.

The Allt Coire Ruairidh confluence. There were four redds in this frame, two in the foreground and two behind the grassy island, a nice wee cluster at over 2000ft altitude.

30 salmon redds were recorded in 2.7km of river, a much lower density than in the Loin but the upper A’an is considerably higher and considerably less productive. In 2012 we counted 25 redds but saw less fish than today, albeit a week earlier. This part of the upper A’an is maybe on the very limit of salmon survival in terms of altitude and lack of productivity. Again we were happy with what we saw.

terrain blog 2

Contrary to the forecast the weather improved during the day with the clouds clearing to reveal a beautiful autumn afternoon light. The low sun really highlighting the fantastic glacial features of the terrain.

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Canoe sawbill counts

All hands were roped into completing one of our regular sawbill counts today. The Spey mainstem from Broomhill Bridge downstream is counted synchronously on four occasions throughout the year. Last year an October count was introduced to provide supporting data for our application for an earlier piscivorous bird scaring/control licence.  That application was successful and this year the licence period started three months earlier than in previous years extending from Oct to May.

Myself and Roger canoed the river from Craigellachie to Spey Bay this morning, and what a dreich morning it was. Not the best visibility at first but at least the wind was relatively light. Thankfully the river had risen about 6″ overnight saving us from what could have been a very bumpy ride. There was only one place where we had to disembark and walk the canoe over shallows. Another location with a mean reputation for capsizing was avoided by walking the canoe round, although with hindsight it didn’t look as bad as some of the other rough bits that we did sail through.

The main point of the day was not to have fun in a canoe but to count the fish eating birds. The count of herons (no licence applied for but counted for interest) was steady with 21 in total between Craigellachie and the sea, one of the highest counts for that section of river. The numbers of goosanders increased as we progressed downstream with a total of 247 counted (equivalent to 8.51/km river), the highest total ever recorded in that section. In addition we recorded 5 mergansers and 11 cormorants (all in the tidal zone). We also keep a record of goldeneye but none were seen today in that long stretch of river, although their numbers do tend to be higher in the spring. The counts for the remaining river sections take a little while to arrive in the office but it is possible that the Oct 2015 count will be one of the highest recorded on the river.

Ready to set off again after a pitstop at Fochabers bridge

Roger ready and raring to go after a pitstop at Fochabers bridge.

That number of goosanders on the river has the ability to consume vast numbers of salmon fry and parr on a daily basis (there is no other food source of such significance, salmon are the dominant and by far the most abundant species in the river) but at least the licence is in place to allow scaring and ultimately control although of a limited number. However it should always be borne in mind that the worst situation of all would be if there were no goosanders on the river; that really would be a disaster.

Talking about salmon it would be a close run thing between whether we saw more goosanders or adult jumping; indeed on several occasions fish almost jumped into the canoe. Not quite in the same league as some of these american videos showing the introduced Asian carp jumping in front of speeding boats but not far off!

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Tommore Burn project: stocking monitoring

Readers of the blog and followers of the Spey will be aware that the Tommore Burn has been stocked with 0+ salmon for a number of years and since 2013 all stocked fish have been fin-clipped. We surveyed two of the regular monitoring sites in July one very still and midge infested evening along with some of the Spey ghilies. The remaining two sites we left until the last day of the 2015 electrofishing programme, mainly so that we would be able to assess how well the 2015 stocked fish had done.

The four electrofishing sites cover the lower, middle and upper reaches of the burn, straddling a range of habitat zones from mixed broadleaf to moorland fringe in the upper site.

The results from the 2015 monitoring with 2014 for comparision, are shown below.

Tommore burn electrofishing results 2015 and 2014.

Tommore burn electrofishing results 2015 and 2014. There were no salmon fry in 2014 as all the monitoring was done prior to that years stocking. It can been seen that good densities of salmon fry had been established in both sites in 2015. Overall the mean salmon parr densities were similar in both years, 12.0/100m2 in 2014 compared to 12.9/10m2 in 2015. We have no  late season surveys from 2014 with which to compare the 2015 results. Trout fry and parr densities were also higher in 2015 than in 2014.

The lower Tommore Burn stocking monitoring site.

The lower Tommore Burn stocking monitoring site.

Although we are only dealing with two sites and small numbers of fish it was interesting to note that the mean size of the stocked fry in the lower site was 55.4mm whereas it was 58.5mm in the upper site.

Teo fin-clipped salmon fryb from the upper site. These fry were sampled one month after stocking. Whilst they are lean the tail fins are very healthy looking

Two fin-clipped salmon fry from the upper site. These fry were sampled one month after stocking. Whilst they are lean the tail fins looked perfect.

We are building up a good set of data from the Tommore Burn now; electrofishing and smolt trapping, both of which we will continue in future years.

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Week Commencing 14th September 2015

Another predominately dry week, it is strange it has taken till almost the end of the season for us to have an almost settled fortnight. There is some rain forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning hopefully it will give the fish a bit of a shake up before the season ends. Tides, there will be no new water till Wednesday then the tides will begin to build again.

Catches: The Gordon Castle Beats slowed slightly this week, but let’s not get too excited they still caught close to fifty fish.

Delfur, Mark tells me that the fish are not keen on taking but hopefully the forecast freshet might persuade them to show a little more interest this coming week. Even so around 20 fish were landed including a couple of first fish. As usual Mark and Grant have generously sent me some pictures to brighten up my report.

Rosie Atkinson 1st fish.Delfur

Rosie Atkinson 1st fish.Delfur

Lara Macpherson Delfur

Lara Macpherson Delfur

Charles Macpherson Delfur

Charles Macpherson Delfur

Grant Morrison Delfur

Grant Morrison’s 21lber  Delfur

Eric Wardle’s party had a good week at Rothes with everyone eventually landing something, the total was close to thirty. Eric had the biggest of the week from Creaky. Margaret Gregg was delighted to land her first Spey Salmon. Thanks to Robbie Stronach for the photographs.

Eric Wardle 20lb Creaky Rothes

Eric Wardle 20lb Creaky Rothes

Mary Gregg Jamieson Rothes.

Mary Gregg Jamieson Rothes.

It is nice to get some information and a few pictures from Arndilly. Many thanks to Charles Harman for sending me his pictures. I understand they finished the week with around twenty, including some fresh ones.

Suzy Harvey Arndilly

Suzy Harvey Arndilly

Charles Harman Arndilly

Charles Harman’s fish Arndilly

Charlie Harman Arndilly

Another from Charlie Harman Arndilly

Craigellachie continued with about a fish a day.

Wester Elchies had eight taking the season total to around 240 well over twice last years total.

Carron finished with half a dozen.

Grantown had at least seventeen salmon landed, including two estimated at 16lbs. I am grateful to Jimmy Mitchel for this picture of Cosimo Imperiale and his fish from from Tarric Mor.

Cosimo Imperiale Tarric Mor Grantown

Cosimo Imperiale Tarric Mor Grantown

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Up in the hills again

We had a great morning up in the hills today finishing off the upper Dulnain electrofishing surveys. Once again we were lucky with the weather although there was cloud on the high tops which spoilt the view of the Cairngorms on the way back. The route out took us alongside the Gynack Burn. When you see the extent of the active erosion in the upper reaches it is easy to understand why there are often problems with gravel deposition at the road and railway bridges in Kingussie – the bedload coming down the Gynack in high spates must be enormous.

An example of the many eroding banks of the Gynack

An example of one of the many eroding banks of the Gynack.

The wetted width of the Gynack is only about 6-7m at low flows but the bed width must be over 30m.

The wetted width of the Gynack is only about 6-7m at low flows but the bed width is up to 30m. This is an extremely active system, it must be a very hostile environment for fish life during big spates.

The hill road reaches 2400′ in altitude and near the top we had a really good view of an eagle.

Golden eagles are so impressive when you see them close up. The other wildlife certainly showed it plenty respect as there were packs of grouse flying in every direction. As the eagle approached us a white hare broke cover just beside us. The eagle stooped but failed to pick it up - a great sight though. A little further along the road two more eagles appeared both harrie by ravens. It's always a gret day when you see an eagle, even better three.

Golden eagles are impressive birds when you see them close up. The other wildlife certainly showed it plenty respect as there were packs of grouse flying in every direction. As the eagle approached a white hare broke cover just beside us. The eagle stooped but failed to pick it up – a great sight though. A little further along the road two more eagles appeared both harried by ravens. It’s always a great day when you see an eagle – even better three.

The survey sites in the upper Dulnain lie at 2030′ altitude making these some of the highest spawning salmon in Scotland. Up here the Dulnain is only about 4-5m wide and lacks the stream power seen in the Dulnain below. Consequently there are a range of sediment sizes including some nice spawning gravel.

The upper Dulnain - a nice wee burn at this point.

The upper Dulnain – a nice wee burn at this point. The conductivity was 38microsiemens/cm, quite high for the Dulnain suggesting that there may be some more favourable geology in the upper reaches. We noted heptagenid mayfly and blue-winged olive nymphs in the net signs that acidification is not an issue. Likewise the presence of a dipper at the site was a positive sign. 

Salmon parr from upper Dulnain timed site. This one was 112mm so probaly a two year old. We also had parr of 80mm and 123mm, likely to be one and three year old respectively. No fry however but our previous records for this are show that spawnign salmon are not present this high up every year.

Salmon parr from upper Dulnain timed site. This one was 112mm so probably a two year old. There were also parr of 80mm and 123mm, likely to be one and three year old respectively. No fry however but our previous records for this area show that spawning salmon are not present this high up every year.

In the three minute timed survey we captured four salmon parr a few trout fry and 15 trout parr including one of almost 10″.  All in all we were quite happy with the fish life we found.

The Dulnain is known to colour readily with peat stain during high flows and when you see the amount of exposed peat on the high ground it is easy to see why.

Exposed peat in the upper Dulnain catchment.

Exposed peat in the upper Dulnain catchment. There is debate about whether this level of exposed peat is a consequence of climate or land use. But for sure it is probably not a new issue, the Dulnain has long been known as a source of much of the peat stain which is a feature of the Spey in a wet summer.

On the road down this little chap sat beside the pickup for a minute or two – it probably reckoned it was safe from eagles if it stayed close by us!

A young white hare in summer coat.

A young white hare in summer coat.

 

 

 

 

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Spey mainstem salmon fry surveys 2015

It may have been a summer of excellent conditions for angling but the up and down water levels have played havoc with the electrofishing programme, especially in the mainstem. However, with only three sites remaining to do the results are almost complete. It should be noted that the surveys were completed over an extended period this year compared to normal with the median survey date 16 days later than in 2014.

The mainstem salmon fry index surveys comprise 3 minute electrofishing sites, generally in shallow run/riffle with cobble substrate. However, due to habitat distribution and a mix of historic and new locations, the sites cover a range of habitat types. We do this type of survey to try and understand the distribution, and success or otherwise, of salmon spawning along the full length of the Spey mainstem.

Spey mainstem salmon fry index survey 2015

Spey mainstem salmon fry index survey 2015. The table is ordered from the bottom of the river to the top with the site code based on 500m sections from the sea. For example Site S264R1, Truim is 132km from the sea.

Th mean number of salmon fry/minute in 2015 was 18.8, exactly the same as recorded in 2014 (it is unlikley that the three remaining sites will alter the average significantly). Considering the low catch of salmon, and the apparent low number of adult fish in the river last year this is a satisfactory result for fry.

After four years of consistent surveying some patterns are emerging;

  • From Craigellachie downstream the results are generally above average with all sites in the moderate to excellent categories this year.
  • From Craigellachie to Phones the results are generally lower, no doubt a result of the higher gradient here and the restricted availability of spawning gravel.
  • The Ballindalloch to Castle Grant area generally supports above average counts although Tulchan D is the only site to be in the excellent category every year.
  • The two sites in the Grantown Angling Association water were good this year – better than normal
  • Above Grantown the gradient flattens out and suitable survey sites are less frequent.  In suitable sites fry counts are often good e.g. Abernethy AA and Dalraddy. The production of juvenile salmon in this area should not be underestimated, on warm, still, days in the summer many parr can be seen rising in the wide, shallow glides prevelent in this area, and it is not as bereft of spawning gravels as it may appear at first glance.
  • We introduced a new site this year in the upper river to replace the Truim site which was difficult to access and contained barely enough suitable habitat for 3 minutes surveying. The new site was 2km further downstream with good habitat and is likely to support higher fry counts on average than the site it replaced. Note the lower Badenoch AA site will not be surveyd this year due to access restrictions associated with bridge repairs.
  • The two sites closest to Spey Dam produced lower counts than usual this year.
  • Above Spey Dam we found fry at 70% of the sites, a big improvement on the last two years. The fry counts here were all in the very low or low categories so whilst some fish must have made it up to spawn last year the counts suggest the spawning stock above the dam was small.

Water levels were on average higher this year than in the two previous years but the relatively stable results support our previous conclusion that this survey technique is not as sensitive to water levels as it may appear (H&S being an equally important consideration for mainstem surveys).

Whilst some of the survey dates were later than normal we have surveyed some sites later in the past but never have we found mainstem sites where the average size of the fry was over 7omm in August. At the Boat o’Brig site the largest salmon fry were 86mm; a size and date combination with the potential to produce one year old smolts next year.

Why such large fry you may ask as it has certainly not been a year with high water temperatures which would promote growth? The relatively low numbers of parr recorded this year is likely to be a contributing factor, as could the medium water levels with high wetted areas of habitat available. The presence of high densities of larger parr is likely to depress the feeding activity, and therefore growth of, the smaller fry but in years when the parr counts are lower the absence of “despotic behaviour” by the parr could allow more of the new season fry to survive and thrive.

Again we can say that salmon fry were present at every site below Spey Dam. Above Spey Dam the juvenile salmon population continues to be too low and we can only conclude the adult spawning stock in that part of the river is not in a healthy state.

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