SFB September Briefing & Pacific Salmon Update

The latest Spey Fishery Board Briefing for September 2017 has now been published and also includes an update on the Pacific Pink Salmon. The Briefing is available to download and read here.  In this month’s issue you will read about the following topics:

  • Pink Salmon Update
  • Juvenile Monitoring 2017
  • Spring Catch Results
  • Fochabers Burn

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Look out for Pacific Pink Salmon

A Pacific Pink Salmon was caught in the mouth of the Spey at the beginning of the week and another has since been caught in the Spey, which was returned before the identity had been confirmed from a photograph. The Speymouth fish was retained and has been frozen pending examination.

The following advice note has been issued and The Spey Fishery Board recommends that if any angler does catch one of these fish it should be killed and retained for examination.

 

Pacific Pink Salmon

Advice Note: July 2017

 

Background

In recent weeks, anglers in Scotland (particularly on the Rivers Ness, Dee and Helmsdale, but also here on the Spey) have reported several captures of fresh run non-native Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). Some captures have also been reported in some salmon net fisheries in Scotland and both rod and net fisheries in England and Ireland. These fish are not native to Scotland and are likely to have ‘strayed’ from some of the rivers in northern Norway or Russia. These fish were originally introduced to some Russian rivers in the 1960s, have slowly spread westwards and have now colonised some northern Norwegian rivers. These fish spawn at a different time from Atlantic salmon, have a 2-year lifecycle and generally spawn in summer (and often in main river channels, in the lower reaches of rivers, and sometimes in upstream tributaries). Due to their 2 – year lifecycle, the progeny will be derived from distinct ‘odd’ or ‘even’ years, with the Russian/Norwegian fish being odd-year stocks. It is therefore possible, and likely, that they will occur again in 2019. Whilst it is theoretically possible that these non-native species could establish themselves in Scottish rivers, the higher water temperatures make this unlikely. Whilst the risks are not known, in terms of their interaction with Atlantic salmon and other native Scottish fish, they are unlikely to have a positive impact.

Identification

Pacific pink salmon, when fresh from the sea, are steel blue to blue-green on their backs, silver on the flanks and white on their bellies. There are large black spots on the backs, upper flanks, adipose fins and tail – some of the spots on the tail can be as large as the fish’s eyes. They are very uniform in size, reaching only 40 to 60cms in length.

‘Fresh run’ pink salmon

Note shape of tail, spots on tail and dark mouth. Images courtesy of Peter Quail, Helmsdale DSFB

Breeding males are immediately identifiable because of their humps and they will almost certainly be running milt at this time of year. Their black tongues and heavily spotted tails are also very obvious. Females will show heavily spotted tails and be pinkish-brown on the flanks.

Male Pink salmon in breeding colouration – note the shape of body and heavily spotted tail

Image courtesy of Nigel Fell

 

What should you do if you capture a Pacific salmon?

As above, Pacific pink salmon are usually clearly identifiable from their Atlantic counterparts – particularly when mature and in spawning condition. If you are confident that you have captured a pacific pink salmon, it should be humanely despatched and retained. It would be helpful if captures could be reported to the Spey Fishery Board using the contact details for further information below. If it is practical to do so, please pass the fish to the biologists at the Spey Fishery Board for further inspection and analysis.

 

For further information please contact:

Brian Shaw, Biologist, Spey Fishery Board

Tel: 01340-810841 or 07502-302723

E-mail: b.shaw@speyfisheryboard.com

 

Roger Knight, Director, Spey Fishery Board

Tel: 01340-810841 or 07919-284482

E-mail: director@speyfisheryboard.com

 

Sally Gross, Administrator, Spey Fishery Board

Tel: 01340-810841

E-mail: admin@speyfisheryboard.com

 

 

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Pacific salmon caught in River Spey

It was interesting to read reports on social media about an unusual salmon caught in the lower River Spey last week. The fish was caught by Raymond Duncan, a member of Speymouth Angling Association and neighbour of ex Spey ghillie Jock Royan, who posted the pictures. Appropriately enough the fish took a Kinermony Killer fly. Jock has kindly given permission for the photos to be used here.

An unusual catch on the Spey, a pacific salmon, thought to be a Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha).

An unusual catch on the Spey, a pacific salmon species, thought to be a Pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). The fish weighed 2.5lb, typical of this small species of salmon. The distinctive spots on the tail aid identification. This looks to be a female as the males develop a distinctive hump on the back at spawning time. It is spawning season now for pink salmon and judging by the colouration it looks to be quite mature.

The distinctive spotty tail

The distinctive spotty tail

It also had an impressive mouth full of teeth compared to our native atlantic salmon

It also had an impressive mouth full of teeth compared to our native atlantic salmon.

Recently the Environment Agency reported three similar fish had been caught in the Northumberland area in early August. Pink salmon do turn up occasionally in UK waters but there seems to be something of a minor influx at present. The Spey Fishery Board recommends that if any angler does catch one of these fish it should be killed and retained for examination. The Speymouth fish was retained and has been frozen pending examination. It will be interesting to read the age from the scales and do a full autopsy to see what information we can gleen.

Whilst it is unlikely that they are present in sufficient numbers to establish a breeding population in the UK they have apparently colonised some Norwegian rivers after being introduced in Northern Russia. Yet another potential invasive to keep an eye out for!

 

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