Global warming to blame as anglers delay salmon season

For more than 150 years, the start of Scotland's salmon fishing season on the river Tay has been celebrated in the middle of January.

But the apparent impact of climate change on spawning patterns has forced conservationists and anglers to postpone this year's official seasonal opening on sections of the waterway for two weeks.

For the first time in decades, salmon fishing in parts of Perthshire has had to be delayed because the fish, which begin breeding in earnest as soon as the first heavy frost of winter starts to bite, have been thrown into confusion by the mild weather.

"We've got a lot of fish in the river due to mild water temperatures but they have not had the big nudge from Mother Nature yet to get about their business," said John Monteith, head ghillie for the Newtyle beat of the river Tay.

"For the past four or five years, about 60 per cent of the fish caught on the opening day and subsequent weeks are fish that haven't spawned. It is clearly related to climate change and warmer water temperatures. We need a good hard frost to trigger the breeding season."

Mr Monteith is worried that starting the season too early could endanger fish stocks as the pattern of late spawning appears to have been repeated more than once over the past few years.

The last time fish spawned as late as this was in the early 1980s when considerable catches of spring salmon were recorded.

"There has definitely been a long-term change in the weather which has thrown the opening season out of sync," said Mr Monteith, who wants the Tay District Salmon Fishing Board (TDSFB) to bring the Tay into line with the Spey and Dee which traditionally start the season in February.

"To disturb fish when they're trying to reproduce is wrong," said Mr Monteith. "We need to protect spawning fish but if we allow fishing to start too early it is going to be detrimental to the long-term future of salmon fishing."

While other beats on the Tay are opening as usual, with a party at Kenmore on the upper Tay yesterday typical of the annual celebrations which surround the event, members of the TDSFB claim there is no reason to change the practice for the moment. "The Tay has some of the earliest runs of fish in Scotland," said David Summers, fisheries manager.

"Ever since the 1860s it has been felt appropriate to have a very early start to the Tay season."

According to the TDSFB salmon spawn at different times along the length of the river and in the greater part of the Tay spawning has usually finished by the end of November. It is only as fish progress farther down river that spawning appears to get later, often occurring around Christmas.

"As a board we have to consider the whole of the Tay catchment area, not just the experience of a particular stretch," said a spokesman. "However if it was felt there was an overwhelming case for change, we would look at the issue".

Anglers at Newtyle are being supported in their move by conservationists who point out that while January may be the traditional start of the Tay salmon season for anglers, the fish don't go by calendars but by the climate.

If anglers can't wait, it has been suggested that they might adopt a catch and release policy as practised on the river Dee.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific