River Spey tribulations
Just found this forum, & no surprise to find Malcolm has found it before me. Malcolm does a lot of his fishing on the syndicated Spey beat I chair, & observations elsewhere that he must be a top Spey rod are pretty well founded!
He is also very responsible re Catch & Release. Restraint generally is our most topical issue over here at the present time. I say this as a member of the Spey Fishery Board & just appointed as the Chairman of its Research Committee. Salmon better not become extinct on Spey in the next 3 years! The long term average rod catch is still just under 10,000 salmon a year.
Largely private fishing may have stopped Spey runs from being overexploited historically, but there is no denying that the springer element is significantly reduced at present. It may be just a cyclical phenomenon, but river managers must do what they can & not rely on runs reverting. The overall problem of lower nos returning to rivers is felt to be most to do with global warming & a colder N Atlantic, but the evidence for it at present is purely circumstantial.
Meanwhile river managers attempt to optimise smolt output. Fortunately there are only small areas of the Spey catchment, which are not naturally turning out decent nos of juveniles. We have two small hatcheries to supplement the deficient areas.
Our current problem lies with getting rods to do their bit & practice restraint voluntarily. Although many UK rivers need 100% catch & release for springers, & the Environment Agency in England & Wales has mandated this, in Scotland the new Executive in Edinburgh is reported to have itchy fingers, but the handful of rivers including Spey, whose spring runs are reduced but not endangered, feel that 100% C & R is unnecessary. It may be that the most appropriate policy for these is that currently employed by the Tweed, where the first springer must be returned, but the second, fourth etc per rod week may be killed.
Responsible rods like Malcolm & myself return every springer we catch, but there are a lot of selfish rods out there with dinosaur attitudes (some proprietors too), who still want to kill everything & bring the heavy hand of Edinburgh ever closer with each swing of the priest.
American practice is at least 10 years in front of us on ths issue; we have a lot to learn from you guys.