A salmon protection group is calling on Scotland’s fisheries to follow the River Tweed’s example and operate a ‘catch and release policy’ this spring.
The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), which represents Scotland’s 41 district salmon fishery boards, including the River Tweed Commission (RTC), is urging anglers not to kill any salmon by net or rod until at least mid-May.
The body, which has a statutory responsibility to protect and improve salmon and sea trout fisheries, fears some stocks this year may not be sustainable.
RTC clerk Nick Yonge said: “RTC fully endorses ASFB’s position,” adding RTC started its conservation scheme in 1998, banning the killing of any rod-caught spring salmon until the end of June and paying compensation to the river’s two net fisheries not to kill salmon until mid-June.
Mr Yonge said: “There simply are not sufficient breeding fish, from these early running stocks, to kill.
“The practice of ‘catch and release’ by anglers maintains employment and keeps the fishery open, while still conserving the fish.
“In some years, if it were not for the conservation scheme, our spring salmon stocks would not be self-sustaining.”
There were no plans to overturn the policy, although RTC keeps it under review in case stock levels change, he said.
Meanwhile, he disputed online agents FishTweed’s estimate that 14,000 salmon were caught last year, saying RTC’s official count is expected at the end of February.
In his end-of-year report on FishTweed’s website, Iain Wilson wrote: “This season was difficult to say the least, with some beats having reasonable catch returns with figures close to or above their five-year average, whereas other beats had very poor returns and struggled to get into three figures.
“The lower river fared best with the long, cold spring and low water/temperatures as this suited these beats and they did very well through the spring and into the summer.
“The middle river from Kelso to Melrose struggled pretty much all season, due to the cold spring and lack of water for most of the season.
“When the rain came at the end of October, the fish ran straight through these beats and headed up into the upper river.
“The upper river had a very good ‘back end’ with some of these beats having a record season, due to the fish arriving in good numbers following various rises in water levels throughout October and November.”
Last year’s rod and net salmon catch was 14,556.
Yesterday, First Minister Alex Salmond announced an independent review of wild fisheries management at the official opening of the 2014 salmon fishing season on the River Tay.