THE number of salmon caught by rod and line in the Ness System increased by eight per cent in 2013, despite low expectations caused by low river levels and poor fishing conditions.
Begins a spokesperson: “The Ness District Salmon Fishery Board reports a provisional total rod catch of 920 salmon compared to 847 in 2012.
“Anglers also reported seeing good numbers of ‘running’ fish, with a significant number hooked and lost.
“This, coupled with above average counts through the Dundreggan and Invergarry fish counters, suggests that this year’s run may have been better than reflected in the catches.”
Board chair, Michael Martin, said: “It’s encouraging to see even a slight improvement during such a difficult year. It is important, however, that the trend continues and we get back over the 1,000 fish mark that was regularly achieved over the last half century.
“We take particular encouragement from the best spring catch for 19 years – 261 fish compared to 174 in 2012 and well above the five year average of 177 fish. This is the fourth successive spring increase and suggests that although the spring component is still in long-term decline, it is showing signs of improvement.
“Grilse catches were slightly up, 387 compared to 367, although remaining below the peak in numbers recorded between 2004 and 2010. Summer and autumn salmon catches, however, remain in decline – 272 fish this year compared to 306 in 2012 and well below the five year average of 359.”
Voluntary conservation measures introduced by the Ness board, in partnership with proprietors and anglers across the Ness system, have resulted in a significant improvement in the overall release rates in recent years. The provisional 79 per cent total release rate recorded in 2013 is the highest on record, with the spring release rate now standing at a highly commendable 98 per cent.
Chris Conroy, the board’s director, said: “It is extremely encouraging that increasing numbers of our salmon anglers recognise the importance of catch and release as a conservation tool.
“Wild salmon face many challenges and enhancing our stocks remains a top priority of the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board. The simplest way to achieve this is to ensure the release of as many fish back into the system as possible so that they can go on to spawn successfully.
“In 1997, only four per cent of fish caught were released. By 2004 this increased to 28 per cent and it has risen virtually every year since.
“Reaching 72 per cent in 2011 was a breakthrough, rising to 75 per cent in 2012 and now 79 per cent for 2013. It would be tremendous if we could breach the 80 per cent barrier in the 2014 return.”
Mr Conroy added: “Our partnership with anglers is generating excellent results for the future of salmon fishing across the Ness system. It is important that efforts continue to maintain, if not further increase, the number of salmon released back into the Ness System.”
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