Today we made a start on the electrofishing surveys in the River Fiddich. It was a delayed start to the day so we only managed four sites but they were productive. We used the same timed survey approach that we use in the Spey mainstem and in the other larger tributaries. This technique hadn’t bene used in the Fiddich before so there was no direct baseline rather it was more for comparison with other timed surveys across the catchment.
The first site was below the old railway bridge crossing just upstream of the Fiddichside Inn. I had sussed this location a few weeks ago and had high expectations as the habitat looked ideal.
To get to the site we had to battle through 8′ high Himilayan balsam, the tallest I have ever seen. However it was worth it as was we caught 322 salmon fry and a few parr in the three minute survey. This was the highest count from any of our fry surveys over the last three years.
322 salmon fry and parr in these two buckets
There was a tremendous number of fish at this site, many of which were relatively large for fry in July. The thermal discharges from the many distilleries in the Fiddich is known to enhance the growth of fish in this tributary. At each of the four sites today there were a number of fish over 80mm (as well as larger more obvious parr). We took many scale samples as usual we will will know for certain once they are read if they were fry or small parr. The biomass of fish caught was high with damaged tail fins on many fish: a not unusual occurannce in sites with high fry densities.
Unfortunately due to my failure to activate the GoPro headcam the survey was not recorded on video. A pity as there was an impressive number of fish. Let’s just blame the jetlag!
The survey site in the lower River Fiddich
The next site up was at Mains of Newton Farm. Here we caught 263 salmon fry and a few parr (subject to scale reading), along with a few trout and eels. This is I think the second highest salmon fry count we have recorded during the salmon fry counts.
The survey site at Mains of Newton. Holding the site board is Kirsteen Macdonald our seasonal summer assistant. With 3 years previous experience with the Kyle of Sutherland fishery board Kirsteen was able to hit the ground running and has been a very able assistant. Kirsteen’s father is a ghilie on the Oykel so she is well versed in salmon matters.
The next site was opposite Kinninvie House. We couldn’t find a site with optimum habitat for fry but we still got 142 in the 3 minute survey. This site had the largest average salmon fry size of the day at 64mm, comparable with the very lower reaches of the Spey.
Kininnvie survey site; much of the site was a bit too deep to be considered optimum fry habitat but we still had a good catch.
The upper site today was downstream of Balvenie Distillery. The count was lower here; 75 fry were caught in 3 minutes, just above the average for all the sites done on the Spey mainstem this summer.
Balvenie Distillery survey site
Nice trout from Balvenie site
We will continue with the timed surveys on the Fiddich tomorrow. There appears to be no shortage of salmon fry in the lower Fiddich. I always reckon that whilst electrofishing in core habitat in a healthy salmon river you should catch a salmon fry/parr within 10 seconds of starting. That was certainly the case today.
Spey Fishery Board