CAT Cubie, the former BBC weather girl, today had the honour of making the first cast as the traditional salmon fishing season was officially launched on the River Tay.
• TV personality Cat Cubie helps launch salmon fishing season on River Tay
• Bumper season hoped for as “sustained resurgence” recorded since 2008
And beat owners on one of Scotland’s leading salmon rivers are hoping for a bumper season, following the revelation that the average weight of the Spring run of of the King of Fish, caught in the river last year, was the highest for 25 years.
In 1922, Georgina Ballantine, the slightly-built daughter of a gillie on the River Tay, landed a monster salmon, weighing in at 64lb, on the Glendelvine stretch of the river - a record for both the largest salmon ever caught in the British Isles, as well as the heaviest freshwater fish landed by an angler in British waters. It is a record which has still to be broken.
William Jack, the chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, said there had been a “sustained resurgence” in the vital Spring run since 2008, helped by the board’s decision to introduce a mandatory catch and release policy, covering most of the season, in 2010.
The catch and release policy, which until then had operated on a voluntary basis, was introduced as a mandatory measure following a disappointing season in 2009 which saw overall catches decline by as much as 50 per cent on some stretches of the river.
Mr Jack said: “It is pleasing to note that numbers of large spring salmon, for which the Tay was always celebrated historically, seem to be recovering. 2012 saw the highest average weight of spring salmon in the Tay since 1987. The average weight is now over 12 lb, compared to 10 lb a few years ago.
“Starting five years ago we have seen a sustained resurgence with many more spring fish in the high teens and twenties of pounds and 2012 was the best yet.”
He continued: “It is probably no coincidence that the marked increase in weight coincides with the growth in catch and release – with anglers carefully releasing fish they catch back into the water – in recent years. Before the advent of catch and release all big spring fish caught by anglers were killed. Now they are able to continue their journeys upstream to spawn and help produce the next generation. It is vital that we retain our spring conservation measures so that this recovery continues.”
Scores of anglers braved the near freezing temperatures to gather on the banks of the Tay for the official opening ceremony close to the Hilton Dunkeld House. The ceremony, in which Ms Cubie made the first cast, was followed by the traditional blessing in which fishing boats were doused with a quaich of whisky.