Salmon Go to School Project 2017

The ‘Salmon Go To School’ project, led by the Spey Foundation and the Spey Fishery Board, gives pupils a fascinating insight into the ecology of salmon and other fish species.  It also explains the importance of fishing to the local community, through a range of hands-on practical projects.

The Primary schools which participated this year were Grantown, Newtonmore and Kingussie.  This year the pupils at each school received an illustrated talk by John Trodden, a retired Head Teacher of Millbank Primary School in Buckie and a member of the River Spey Anglers Association, who kindly volunteered to deliver the project.  He said, “I really enjoyed working with the pupils and found them to be very enthusiastic about looking after their fish. I thought they were very responsive and I was very impressed by their knowledge of the local area and wider afield. They also demonstrated good awareness of the importance of the River Spey to the local economy.”

The pupils took charge of a classroom hatchery with around 250 salmon eggs, assisted by Steve Burns, Assistant Biologist. Good husbandry is essential for the success of the project and in each school the pupils had to look after the eggs, ensuring that the water temperature remained cold. Each school successfully hatched their valuable offspring and studied their development from salmon egg to fry, when they were ready to be released back into their natural environment in the local burn.  Foundation staff will return in June to  the area where the salmon were released and to show the pupils how much they have grown through electrofishing.

Salmon in the Classroom at Grantown Primary

Grantown Primary Pupils with their salmon

Grantown Pupils releasing their salmon

Assistant Biologist, Steve Burns and John Trodden give Kingussie Pupils a lesson on the life-cycle of the salmon

Kingussie Primary pupils ready to release their fry

Salmon fry about to be released

John Trodden giving a lesson to the pupils at Newtonmore Primary school

Newtonmore Pupils about to release their fry …

….and away they go!

Grantown Primary School teacher, Patricia Brown said, “The children were very inspired by having a Salmon Hatchery in their classroom. They produced extra high quality work due to having direct hands-on experience looking after the fish. ”

One of the many Thank You letters received from the pupils

 

The project offers a great opportunity to teach the youngsters about what goes on in their rivers and also helps people understand the Spey Foundation and the Spey Fishery Board’s role in protecting and managing the resource of the River Spey. The Spey Fishery Board are very grateful to support for this project from Walkers Shortbread and to John Trodden and the River Spey Anglers Association.

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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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Ballintomb Burn – LIFE project success

In order to improve fish passage up the Ballintomb Burn the “Irish Ford” pipe bridge across the lower reaches was replaced with a proper bridge in 2004 as part of the LIFE project. The Ballintomb Burn is noted for its dark peaty water, in fact yesterday you couldn’t see the bottom if it was more than about 6″ deep.

I had never surveyed the Ballintomb Burn before but as we are currently trying to balance the electrofishing survey plan with the need to prepare for forthcoming meetings etc Polly, Kirsteen and myself nipped out to fit in two surveys in close proximity to the office yesterday afternoon.

The new bridge over the lower reaches of Ballintomb Burn, constructed as part of the CASS LIFE project

The new bridge over the lower reaches of Ballintomb Burn, constructed as part of the CASS LIFE project

The survey site in the Ballintomb Burn was described as “500m upstream of Irish Ford”; a vague description, but the site photos combined with the GPS allowed us to find the exact survey site with little difficulty. As in many burns with a high level of tree cover the rocks were very slippery with algae; along with the dark water it was tricky wading.

Site SLB12b in the Ballintomb Burn. This is qute a high gradient area with a high percentage of boulders.

Site SLB12b in the Ballintomb Burn. This is quite a high gradient area with a high percentage of boulders.

We caught quite a few fish including 10 salmon parr.

Kirsteen measuring the catch. I thought the water looked tea coloured, others suggested it was like Vodka and coke - it's a generational thing I suppose!

Kirsteen measuring the catch. I thought the water looked tea coloured, others suggested it was like Vodka and coke – it’s a generational thing I suppose!

There a decent history of surveys at this site, mainly due to the involvement of the LIFE project, and it is pleasing to see that quite an improvement in the fish stocks have been recorded.

Both salmon and trout densities have improved post bridge construction. The parr densities for both species recorded yeterday were the best to date. Fry numbers are generally low at this site, probably due to the gradient and rough substrate, although the trout obviously did well in 2002!

Both salmon and trout densities have improved post bridge construction. Yesterday’s parr densities for both species were the best to date. Fry numbers are generally low at this site, probably due to the gradient and rough substrate, although the trout obviously did well in 2002.

There is only a short length of the Ballintomb Burn available to migratory fish due to the presence of a large set of waterfalls. The gains from the investment made by the LIFE project were therefore relatively modest but by making it accessible to migratory fish returns will occur now and for evermore more.

Shepherd's Linn on the Ballintomb Burn

Shepherd’s Linn on the Ballintomb Burn. This photo was taken in the winter, note the clear water.

Spey Fishery Board