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



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.


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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Spey Fishery Board

Please look out for tagged salmon

A project to track the movements of salmon caught and released from a netting station on the Caithness coast has been initiated by Marine Scotland Science. Reader will recall that in July 2015 the Scottish Government announced that that a moratorium on coastal netting of salmon was to be introduced, with effect from 2016. Initially it was reported that the moratorium would be reviewed after three years and the 2017 salmon conservation regulations states that “the prohibition on the retention of salmon caught in coastal waters remains in place due to the mixed stock nature of the fishery and limited data on the composition of the catch (this will reviewed in 2018)”.  Until now no new research had been commissioned to inform the review scheduled for 2018.

This new tracking project , the “Armadale Tracking Project”, has been initiated to provide some information on the extent of the mixed stock nature of this particular coastal netting station. Armadale, which lies almost midway along the north coast of Caithness, was a long established and prominent coastal netting station. Earlier work, using visual tags, at similar netting stations (more info here), has shown that salmon released at a variety of coastal netting stations were often subsequently recaptured over a wide geographical area.

Armadale netting station on the north Caithness coast (Courtesy of Google Earth)

For the duration of the Armadale project the netting station will be operated for scientific purposes with up to 750 salmon tagged and released. The tagging is due to start on the 26th June; a bit late for the Spey as a high proportion of our fish will already be in the river, but timing of these projects are often controlled by external factors and some information is better than none. The fish will be externally tagged with small acoustic tags which emit unique coded signals that can be picked up by receivers. We are assisting Marine Scotland by placing two receivers in the lower river for the duration of the project. These receivers should pick up the signal emitted by any salmon entering the Spey. Virtually all the significant salmon rivers in Scotland will have receivers close to their mouth so it should be possible to learn a great deal about the subsequent movement of salmon from this netting station.

The tags look like this:

Acoustic tag as used and mounted for the Armadale tracking project. 

We have been asked by Marine Scotland Science to publicise the following:

Armadale tracking project

Tags Wanted:Reward

Marine Scotland is tracking salmon from July 2017 and would like your help.

If you catch a salmon with a tag (as shown in the attached photograph) near the dorsal fin, then please remove it by cutting through the plastic cord to remove the acoustic tag (black cylinder). Please note that the colour of the cord may vary from yellow. 

Please send the acoustic tag, also with a note of day and location of capture, to:

Armadale Tracking, Freshwater Fisheries Laboratory, Faskally, Pitlochry, PH16 5LB

Please enclose your name, postal and email (if applicable) address and we will send you £20 in reward.

If you have any other information about the fish (eg a photo, length, sex) then please include it when you send in the tag. However, please do not delay the safe return of the fish to the water to obtain any such information.

With thanks

The Armadale Tracking Team”

In addition to data on the movements of salmon from Armadale other information such as migration speeds, survival,  straying into non-natal rivers and, potentially, exploitation rates may be obtained. This is an interesting project and we would ask ghillies and anglers to spread the word that there is a nationwide tagging programme underway. We would anticipate that a reasonable proportion of the tagged fish would run the Spey although this needs to be qualified with the comment above about the current timing of the Spey run and the timing of this project.

Tight lines

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