Catch and Release

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The key aim of  releasing salmon is to ensure that they survive to spawn. Numerous angling and radio tracking studies have demonstrated high survival rates and successful spawning for salmon released after capture (up to 100% in certain conditions). However, if a fish is poorly handled or kept out of the water for a prolonged period, its chance of survival is reduced. To give your fish the best chance of fully recovering from its capture and going on to spawn successfully, please follow these simple but important steps:

Landing the fish

  • Use a soft, knotless, meshed landing net and ensure that the fish remains in the water.
  • Do not beach the fish, as abrasion can lead to infection.
  • Minimise handling the fish. Fish should never be “tailed”.
  • If the fish is landed in a boat, ensure that it is laid on a flat, wet surface such as an unhooking mat. Ideally unhook the fish in the net rather than bringing into the boat.

Please note that Section 3 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003, as amended by the Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007, prohibits the use of knotted nets, gaffs and tailers.

Removing the hook

  • The use of barbless or micro barbed single hooks is recommended, as they make removing the hook much easier.
  • Wet your hands. A dry, bare, warm hand can cause abrasion which increases the risk of infection.
  • Remove the hook gently. If possible remove the hook using forceps or a hook disgorger, taking care not to squeeze the fish.
  • If the fish is deep hooked or bleeding, snip the line as close to the hook as possible. This will cause less harm to the fish than removing it.
  • Even if a fish is bleeding heavily, it can have a good chance of survival. Don’t kill a fish just because it is bleeding.

Returning the fish

Carefully releasing a 'spring' salmon (Chris Conroy)

Carefully releasing a ‘spring’ salmon (Chris Conroy)

  • If possible, try to slip the fish out of the net without touching it, let it swim away on its own.
  • If you really must, then support the fish, in the current, facing upstream and when sufficiently recovered, allow it to swim away. Recover may take some time so please be patient.
  • Do not weigh the fish unless you are using a weigh net but estimate the weight of the fish from its length.
  • By all means photograph the fish, but please keep it in or just above the water.
  • However tempting PLEASE DO NOT LIFT A FISH UP BY ITS TAIL as this can result in internal damage and fungal infection.
  • Record all fish caught and released.

Further advice relating to catch and release can be found on the Association of Salmon Fishery Board’s website.  Remember, the Ness DSFB needs vital help and support from all proprietors, ghillies and anglers to attain the twin objectives of sustaining and enhancing the system’s fish stocks and maintaining a viable, thriving fishery.

This policy not only covers salmon but also those who fish for them. The NDSFB wants you, the angler, to return every year and anglers fishing the Ness system should always consider their own and other’s safety. The Ness Board commends the use of lifejackets whether fishing from a boat or wading.

Achievements to date

The conservation measures introduced by the Ness District Salmon Fishery Board in partnership with anglers have resulted in a significant improvement in the overall release rates. In 2012 anglers released a respectable 75% of the total catch. This equates to the release of approximately 1,592,500 eggs back into the system and has the potential to safeguard the return of up to 1,593 adult salmon over the coming years.

Proportion of salmon and grilse released on the Ness System (1994-2012)

Total Release Rates

‘Spring’ salmon release rates have shown the greatest improvement, rising from 0% in 1994 to a very respectable 97% in 2012 (equating to the release of approximately 592,500 eggs back into the system with potential to safeguard the return of up to 593 adult salmon of ‘spring’ origin over the coming years).

Proportion of ‘spring’ salmon released on the Ness System (1994-2012)

Spring Release Rates

There is still room for improvement in MSW salmon release rates (88% in 2012) by releasing a greater proportion of summer and autumn salmon.  The grilse release rate stood at 58% in 2012. As both MSW salmon and grilse share the same genetics, the best way to protect the overall salmon population is to practice catch and release for all components.

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