Exceptional runs of fish in Ireland

Hydroform

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Hi all,

A buddy was telling me that the local river is having one of it's best runs of salmon in many years and that he hears good things from many rivers around the country.
Just wondering what people's thoughts are on this? Was the winter before last very mild providing especially high survival rates eggs to parr? We've had reasonable water levels apart from one prolonged dry spell this year? Something else? I've not had the chance to fish for salmon yet this year, just wondering.
Is Scotland seeing exceptional runs of fish?

Gary.
 

Hydroform

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Hi all,

A buddy was telling me that the local river is having one of it's best runs of salmon in many years and that he hears good things from many rivers around the country.
Just wondering what people's thoughts are on this? Was the winter before last very mild providing especially high survival rates eggs to parr? We've had reasonable water levels apart from one prolonged dry spell this year? Something else? I've not had the chance to fish for salmon yet this year, just wondering.
Is Scotland seeing exceptional runs of fish?

Gary.
Mild winter two years ago; you know what I mean anyway.
 

Aidan Rocks

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I just had this very chat 2 h ago after fishing the River Forth. It is stuffed with fish. Best grilse run in years and a few big lumps in with them. Let's hope it continues.
 

Dabbler.07

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Many rumours claiming it's the lack of trawlers at sea, because if Covid! How true that is I don't know. Maybe only speculative. Have not idea even what trawlers are supposed to be capturing our fish and from where!
 

Woodsy

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In my opinion the moy has been very poor. Great fishing before the end of june down river due to 2 months of drought. Then two weeks of good fish from the end of June due to rain and build the up of fish. But it's really condensed running times. I definitely havent seen massive numbers
 

Loxie

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I think it's a mistake to look for reasons, salmon runs fluctuate and always have done. In the age of the internet and instant gratification if there are few fish about everyone is complaining and coming up with, largely, ridiculous theories as to the causes. When runs are good everyone needs a reason. I would just enjoy it while it lasts! The Westcountry has been very poor, again.
 

Rainclouds

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With the exceptional condition of grilse this year, I think it's probable that there was far more food available during their return migration. This would tie in with reduced commercial fishing due to reduced exploitation of all species at sea this year due to covid. More food might mean more survival. The small thin grilse we have been used to seeing in previous years typically have large well developed tails suggesting the were at one stage well nourished fish. That along with their thin shape suggests feeding during migration is a very significant factor for survival.

Let's hope there will be a similar bonus for smolt migration this year.
 

Petekd

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The fish have been constantly running the Blackwater since the beginning of June, there have been days where I’ve seen 100s coming through. The fishing has been brilliant with superb quality of fresh fish being caught. 2 months to go and it’s just started dropping back a bit after a big flood, be interesting to see what’s still coming. We are still catching sea liced fish 2 months into the grilse run. It’s been tremendous 😁
 

Jockiescott

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This might turn out to be a dangerous year.

With a few fish there and lots of water, it might make poor to average anglers think they can fish! 😉
 

Rennie

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All I can say is, if indeed there are exeptional runs of fish in the rivers this year, I for one can't keep up with them 🏃‍♂️!
Pedro.
 

The flying Scotsman

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I was just going to put up a thread about this. There seems to be bumper runs going through most rivers all over the uk and Ireland this season. A load of summer salmon coming in with the grilse. Fresh fish in August. Something I’ve never in my 4 years experience seen. This cannot not be linked to covid. Surely this is solid evidence that the reduction of salmon is directly linked with how the sea is being fished?
The problem does seem to be out at sea now. A study by fisheries boffins showed the south Esk last year to be absolutely stuffed with par and smolts and came to the conclusion that even with reduced numbers of breeding salmon making it to the reds there were enough to successfully populate the river with par.
 

Aidan Rocks

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Not sure we can make any conclusions. Long may it continue. One swallow and a summer comes to mind. Let's see if we get a back end run?
 

MCXFisher

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I was just going to put up a thread about this. There seems to be bumper runs going through most rivers all over the uk and Ireland this season. A load of summer salmon coming in with the grilse. Fresh fish in August. Something I’ve never in my 4 years experience seen. This cannot not be linked to covid. Surely this is solid evidence that the reduction of salmon is directly linked with how the sea is being fished?
The problem does seem to be out at sea now. A study by fisheries boffins showed the south Esk last year to be absolutely stuffed with par and smolts and came to the conclusion that even with reduced numbers of breeding salmon making it to the reds there were enough to successfully populate the river with par.
This notion seems to come round regularly on the Forum, yet the proposition of massively increased losses at sea is not supported by evidence. I would offer some observations:
  • A major synoptic study funded by the US Department of Fisheries in the 1980s of all the research undertaken on Atlantic salmon return rates in all of the countries with population across the period 1950-1980 showed an average in the range 4-6% smolt to adult survival. That is not much different from the sort of figures recorded on the North Esk more recently.
  • The claim of historic return rates of 25-30% have no foundation in evidence. There is one study in one river that once came up with 30%, but viewed against all the other studies showing markedly lower figures it has to be viewed as a statistical outlier. Unfortunately these high figures have been banded around without caution: on one occasion in a speech by HRH The Price of Wales who bemoaned the decline in return rates from "a third" to "a tenth of that figure".
  • If you run a mathematical model of the salmon's life cycle and put in a smolt to adult survival rate of 20-30% you very quickly collide with nonsense. Given egg to smolt losses around 97% and smolt migration losses of 30%, a smolt to adult return rate of around 4% gives you a stable population.
  • Undoubtedly there are years in which sea survival varies, but in the UK at least that has little or nothing to do with offshore commercial fishing. Out in the open ocean salmon are as rare as unicorns against the volume of water and therefore not worth targeting commercially unless you are Faroese or a Greenland Inuit, in locations where salmon are unusually concentrated (both of which are closed to external fishing). The biggest factor at sea is the location and availability of food species, which move about in response to planktonic shifts.
  • If you look at the long run figures for the rod catches on the Findhorn - a good case study owing to its pristine catchment untouched by human factors - you will observe 2 facts. First, there are very large natural year-to-year variations, which are driven by 2 factors: the weather and its effect on runs and fishing conditions; and the volume of grilse. And second, the 5 and 10 year moving average of rod catches have been on an upward trend for 70 years, with the only perturbation being the switch to fly only in the late 1990s. As an example of the extremity of year-to-year variation I offer the 20 years of data from the party of which I am lucky to be a member: worst year 4 salmon (2003 drought and heat); best year 44 (2004, perfect everything); 2nd best year 27 in 2017 despite losing 2 1/2 days' fishing to spates.
  • What we appear to be experiencing this year is a very good year with a large grilse contingent in many places, driven by natural variations. Those variations probably have more to do with the timing of the hatching of the eggs (driven by water temperature) and the coincidence of the emergence of invertebrate food (driven by sunlight) leading to reduced egg to smolt mortality, than with at sea survival. After all, 1 percentage point change in egg to smolt survival on average sends 50 more smolts to sea per spawning hen.

I remain firmly of the view that we should focus on the in-river part of the salmon's lifecycle, where we can influence events and achieve the highest mathematical gearing in driving populations.
 

Aidan Rocks

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You are correct they should be as rare as unicorns. Unfortunately I trust nets men less than bankers. I fear sometimes they go hunting unicorns when they are not being watched. Ie most off the time. So I am not saying there is a link but I will keep an open mind! Good to see them after 9 years of pointing fingers. I wonder how many more smolts got away this year as we were not netting sand eels. If so perhaps next year will be good for grisle. But that is chasing swallows.
 

mows

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There has been very good spring algae blooms the last 2 years, may well have something to do with it.
 

MCXFisher

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Without doubt Covid with the trawlers not fishing has had an impact, less fish caught means more in the rivers, it’s that simple, be interesting to see what happens next year.
I really wish it was that simple, but it isn’t. Coincidence does not prove cause, even if next year is good as well.
On that basis how would you explain 2010 and 2011?
If you look at the rod catch figures for the Findhorn (and indeed the Deveron as well) it is impossible to detect when the netting ended. Any effect was just dwarfed and swallowed up by year to year variation. Therefore it would be correspondingly even more difficult to identify any effect of stopping offshore netting.
The only simple thing is that good years seem to come out of nowhere without any warning. They always take us by surprise.
 

charlieH

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  • If you look at the long run figures for the rod catches on the Findhorn - a good case study owing to its pristine catchment untouched by human factors - you will observe 2 facts. First, there are very large natural year-to-year variations, which are driven by 2 factors: the weather and its effect on runs and fishing conditions; and the volume of grilse. And second, the 5 and 10 year moving average of rod catches have been on an upward trend for 70 years, with the only perturbation being the switch to fly only in the late 1990s. As an example of the extremity of year-to-year variation I offer the 20 years of data from the party of which I am lucky to be a member: worst year 4 salmon (2003 drought and heat); best year 44 (2004, perfect everything); 2nd best year 27 in 2017 despite losing 2 1/2 days' fishing to spates.
Michael, I realise that having fished the Findhorm regularly you have a natural interest in it, but, as I'm sure I've pointed out before, their catch figures make no allowance for rod effort. And as I recall, the Findhorn's own annual report from a year or two ago acknowledged that there has been a significant increase in this over the years. Without taking this into account, I think the bald figures may cast a somewhat rosy light on the reality.

Surely it would be better to look at rivers where rod effort is either quantifiable, or (preferably) more or less stable. On this point, the two rivers that most obviously come to mind are the Naver and the Helmsdale. The Naver has had some change in its rodding policy (allowing two adult males per beat, where previously the second rods were limited to women or minors), but essentially it has been fished by the same number of rods for very many years. The Helmsdale has always (or, at least, for over 100 years) allowed two full rods per beat (or, to be strictly accurate, pair of beats), so aside from what happens on the Association water, and perhaps some erosion of 'Gentlemen's hours', I think it's safe to say that fishing effort has remained fairly stable - or, at least, hasn't seen the general inflation in rod numbers that has occurred on most beats and rivers over the past 70 years. And aside from a certain amount of forestry in both catchments, the anthropogenic influences from expanding populations etc. on these rivers are minimal - I don't think you can really consider Kinbrace to be a major centre of population! Incidentally, I would suggest that the Helmsdale's impoundments mean that, while certainly not immune from the vagaries of weather, it is less susceptible to the effect of drought than other rivers of similar size (including Naver and Findhorn), although taking a long term view should mean that this is more or less evened out. All in all, I'd suggest that these two rivers make for more reliable witnesses than the Findhorn.

A quick look at the graphs of catches in the FMS annual review appears to show a rise in catches on the Helmsdale from the 1950s to 1970s, but a gentle decline since then. Without analysing it properly I don't find it easy to detect any trend in the Naver's catches over the same period, though the last 12 years or so appear to have been quite good.
 
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Aidan Rocks

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Unless the fish farm fish escaped as smolts, I would suggest almost none. You can tell a farmed fish a mile away (or should be able too).
 
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