Scottish anglers ‘optimistic but realistic’ as 2019 season opens

Salmon runs across much of Scotland have plummeted in recent years. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell
Salmon runs across much of Scotland have plummeted in recent years. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell
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Pipers are today leading a procession to the banks of the River Tay in Perthshire as the fishing season is officially opened with a traditional ceremony and malt whisky toast.

Anglers say they are “optimistic but realistic” for the season, following a testing year in 2018.

“The start of a new salmon season is always a time of optimism. But this year that optimism is tempered with realism,” said Iain McLaren, chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDSFB).

“The 2018 season was particularly challenging, with disappointing runs and, with the almost unbroken three-month summer heatwave, very difficult fishing conditions.”

Salmon runs across much of Scotland have plummeted in recent years. The most recent official figures show rod catches in 2017 were 49,444 – a drop of 20 per cent on the previous five-year average and the fourth-lowest on record.

Of the total annual wild salmon catch, nine out of ten were returned to the water alive to help protect stocks. Mr McLaren said declining catches have been reported in most areas.

He added: “It is little comfort but most of Scotland’s rivers, including the other members of the Big Four – Tweed, Spey and Dee – are experiencing similar downturns.”

Dr David Summers, TDSFB director, said: “There can be little doubt that problems at sea during the long migrations that our salmon undertake are the root cause of declining runs and catches.

“The board and our anglers, who continue to be highly responsible in conservation matters, are doing all we can to maintain and enhance stocks in freshwater.

“Obviously, we all hope that conditions at sea will improve and that this year we will see a return to a more normal pattern of weather and rainfall.”

The procession to the Tay is being led by Perth and District Junior Pipe Band, followed by a blessing of the boat and river by Perth and Kinross Depute Provost Willie Wilson.

Perthshire adventurer Polly Murray, who in 2000 became the first Scottish woman to climb Everest, is formally opening the river and making the first cast of the season.

Contestants will also be vying for the Redford Trophy, awarded for the biggest spring salmon caught today.

Perth angler Philip Black hooked last year’s biggest fish – a 28lb spring salmon landed at the River Teith last March.