As Spring 2018 fast approaches, how will it shape up??
Well, without my crystal ball it’s extremely hard to predict with any degree of certainty……there’s just too many variables.   However, we can look at previous figures and trends to help us understand what MIGHT happen!
If I remove 2017 out the equation for now (will come back to that later), 2012 to 2016 shows an improving trend for MSW salmon, for both weight and numbers. This statistic seems to confirm we are in the early stages of salmon cycle, linked with improved early season fishing and the downturn in the Autumn timeframe.
Of course within these cycles and changes, nothing is ever certain nor 100% predictable and stable, but we can clearly see an positive movement over the last 5 years in the May-July period.
Number of salmon (May-July)
Number of salmon 15lbs and over from Beats 1-4 (May-Oct)
Even if we take a look back further the upward trend for MSW salmon is much more evident across the whole season. Its worth noting the sudden dips throughout this period but also the movement to higher peaks and higher troughs – showing a positive trend.
Total salmon number (May-Oct)
In 2017, the MSW salmon run failed to materialise.  It is fair to say this is a direct result of very poor smolt survival from the 2015 smolt run (e.g. Grilse numbers in 2016 were the lowest since 1998). These things happen!
Like I stated above, salmon runs are far from predictable on a yearly basis and thus, even in an upward trend there can always be isolated years where a combination of factors create a collapse in numbers, hence it is better to focus on trends rather than one-off years.
So, what does this mean for 2018?
Let’s focus on 2 areas which might aid the thinking process –
  1. The Trend – MSW salmon survival at sea seems to be fairing better than the Grilse so there’s no reason to think that this trend won’t continue.
  2. Smolt survival from 2016 – The 2017 Grilse returns, although not spectacular, we’re an massive improvement on the 2016 numbers, leading to the conclusion that the survival rate was much better for these smolts than the 2015 smolt run.   On this basis, the 2018 MSW salmon returns should be much improved also……. and will hopefully improve over the next 2-3 years.
So, if we extrapolate some figures, the graph may look something like this?
Looking further ahead, I would predict 2019 would see a further increase and then 2020 and 2021 could be back too much higher numbers. (peaks)  This of course is my own speculative view but it is based on factual historical data trends.
So, in amongst all the doom and gloom after such a bad season it’s good to reflect on what has gone before and relate it what may happen in the future.  Food for thought anyway!
……And remember it’s always harder to secure good fishing when the peaks are at their highest!!
With that in mind, I still have some excellent fishing available this spring/summer. See below.
Tightlines…
JV
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Availability :
Weeks Commencing :
May 14th and 21st
June 4th and 11th
July 9th, 16th and 23rd
Some other split weeks available also.
Email me : JVeitch34@gmail.com

A typical MSWsalmon from the Lochy – they don’t come much better in Scotland!!   I have availability when these big fish are running. See latest dates below : 
Weeks Commencing:

May 7th and 28th

June 4th, 11th, 18th, 25th

 

July 2nd, 9th and 30th

 

Email me @ John.Veitch@riverlochy.co.uk

There’s never been a better time to secure a prime week on the River Lochy.

Last season’s disappointment = next season’s opportunity.

If you wish to inquire please get in touch with me ASAP.

Thanks

John Veitch.

 

Availability

May :
Week comm 7th May – 4 rods/week

June :
Week comm 11th June – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 18th June – 4 rods/3days
Week comm 25th June – 4 rods/week or 3 days

July :
Week comm 2nd – 4rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 9th – 4/rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 23rd – 4 rods/week or 3 days

August :
Week comm 20th – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Week comm 27th – 4 rods/week or 3 days
Priority is always give for parties taking 4 rods for a full week or 3 days but other options are available.

 

Just about all of the fisheries management world is now agreed that we are currently entering a MSW salmon cycle and are fast coming out of a 1SW grilse cycle. If history repeats itself, it may last up to 60 years! We are at a pinch-point in that transition and all it takes in any given year is for a poor MSW salmon run (as happens frequently, even in normal times) and the whole season collapses, as the salmon component of any annual run in a river is always far less numerous than grilse. I suggest this is probably exactly what we saw in rivers such as the Awe and the Lochy in 2017.

We are still fortunate though that the Lochy, compared to most west coast rivers, supports a strong genetic strain of large MSW salmon. Their time to shine might well be about to happen! It can be certainly no coincidence that only last season (2016) we had the best MSW spring salmon run for decades but the poorest grilse run in recent memory…

The reason for this grilse to salmon shift appears to be a warming sea (especially in the western edge of the NE Atlantic) and the complex changes it is having on (parts) of the ocean. Some areas of the NE Atlantic are still fairly stable, probably due to lesser impacts from shifting warmer currents (there is a known ‘cold blob’ just west of Norway for instance) but in other areas the lack of ‘grilse sized’ food is catastrophic: West of UK and South of Iceland being 2 examples. This is probably the reason for the northern Scottish rivers holding up particularly well and the southern and western rivers on the point of collapse in some cases. In times of grilse abundance (1960’s to 1990’s) the much cooler ocean would have held food uniformly all over – nowadays the food supply (and temperature) is highly patchy.

Sand-eel numbers have spiralled downwards due in part to the explosion in numbers and the unprecedented geographic spread of mackerel and other pelagic fish as waters have warmed. Grilse require abundant sand-seels to grow strong enough to survive their first winter at sea. A post-smolt salmon is a relatively rare creature in the vast ocean and the competition from any super-abundance of any marine species such as mackerel will completely swamp the vulnerable post smolt’s ability to compete for the same food source.

Conversely, MSW salmon travel further north for food where the problem is less pronounced. MSW salmon may also benefit if they can survive the first winter at sea and grow big enough to predate on the mackerel themselves. Possibly why, in amongst the current declines of most salmon rivers, some MSW salmon are returning at huge sizes (you grow fat quickly if you become big enough to eat mackerel!)

Anyway, all of the above is having an equal impact of sand-eel eating seabirds such as kittiwakes (doing very badly) but is favouring deep diving fish eaters such as gannets (doing very well). I cannot recommend highly enough the following programme which explains all of these oceanic changes on seabirds (and salmon) far better than I can. The mechanisms at play for both species are exactly the same.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b072wwv9

Jon Gibb, Hatchery Manager.

 

Jon Gibb.     The rationale behind the agreed 3-year stocking plan

It may be helpful to recap the advantages of various stocking strategies and why (even when marine survival rates are at all-time lows) it is still worth removing a small amount of the overall spawning adults from the river to maximise the future benefit the progeny of those fish bring to the population.

The table below uses accepted wild salmon survival rates (Mills and Shelton, AST, 1986) at all life cycle stages, compared to the survival rates of reared hatchery smolts. Clearly it makes sense to take a small proportion of your spawning fish and utilise them in this way as the eggs generate proportionally far more returning adults. However, any such activity must be done within the bounds of what is an acceptable risk to genetic variation (this is why we stock only 50,000 smolts as opposed to a million!)

In terms of which life stage to stock at, it makes the most sense to stock smolts…. if you can afford to do so. In our case it makes perfect sense to do so as, due to funding, it costs the RLA a fraction of the normal price of running a smolt hatchery (normal cost for 50,000 smolts = £100,000pa @£2 per smolt)

This next table shows a comparison of 2 different stocking strategies – smolt stocking and fry stocking.  It demonstrates why the most productive strategy is smolt stocking, even when marine survival rates have collapsed (as they almost certainly did these last 2 years). It is also why the 3-year hatchery plan (agreed in February 2017) is to stock both smolts and fry if enough broodstock can be obtained.

Fundamentally though, until marine survival rates of both stocked/wild smolts return to their recent range (circa 4% for wild, 1.5% for stocked) then the hatchery will not be likely to be benefiting fishermen in the short-term, but the long-term benefits of extra egg deposition remains. Importantly, it takes a very small shift upwards in survival rates to have a very large impact on returning numbers (including those to the rod). Meantime, using the hatchery, we can create significantly more eggs deposits than if we had left the fish in the river, and hope for a turnaround very soon in marine survival.

 

Sea Lice from local fish farms 50,000 fin clipped smolt release in Lochy – even balance on all 4 private beats and river mouth.

Treated against lice when necessary based on late winter lice figures

Ongoing liaison with fish farm industry, Highland Council and Marine Scotland about the relocation of the inshore fish farms to deep-water locations (short term) or to land-based or closed containment units (eventual goal).

Declining 1sw grilse numbers Undertake an annual 16 site electro-fishing survey to identify areas of poor recruitment

50,000 – 100,000 fed fry released in areas identified by the electro-fishing survey

200,000 from 2019 onwards due to additional captive broodstock maturing in hatchery

Improved access to some smaller tributaries including working with LFT to install new fish passes on barriers on the Inverlochy and Distillery burns

Roy/Spean below min spawning target 25,000 fin clipped pre-smolts released in October 2017

From April 2018 onwards release of 25,000 fin clipped full smolts

Ongoing talks with Braeroy re bankside fencing

Predation in river Responsible person to deliver a predation control plan including goosanders, gulls and trout

eg. YEAR-ROUND goosander target = 1 birds per 24 acres (research by Dr PF Elson)

Mucomir Counter below min spawning target New smolt trapping, captive broodstock and eyed ova stocking programme agreed with SSE and Lochiel estates. Starts in April 2018

Ongoing negotiation with SSE in to improve downstream and upstream fish passage at Mucomir including the design of a new operating regime using the new turbines and floodgate control


 

 

 

 

 

 

50,000 Spring stocked fin clipped smolts main stem River Lochy April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

25,000 Late autumn parr stocked into Roy Catchment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of our young helpers!

A short report this week.

A big well done to Colin Nice and David Lake for catching the only 2 fish of the week from the main beats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, well done to Andy Burton on his 2 fish from the Spean. He’s still on course to land a salmon every month this season!!

Forecast still looks unsettled so water levels will remain high.