Fishing Lines: Act of Kindness rescues salmon stocks in the West Highlands

One of the finest birthday presents my wife ever bought me was three days' salmon fishing on the Tay. Unfortunately she booked it when there were no salmon in the river. After two days' fruitless casting, we went down to Pitlochry to check the fish counter, which records the number of salmon passing through. The answer? Just one.

"Never mind. Perhaps you'll catch that one," my wife said optimistically. "There's more chance of the world ending tomorrow," I replied.

Around the same time I would have discovered an important meeting I couldn't avoid if someone had offered me the chance to spend my birthday on the River Carron in Wester Ross. In 2001, the West Highlands river produced just six salmon.

Last year, though, the total rose to 262. This extraordinary revival is largely down to Inverness College. Among the heather and midges, it appears that they study useful things like fishery management rather than media studies, ethnic cooking or the characters in 'Coronation Street'. So when salmon numbers on the local river slumped, the fisheries research department came up with an answer.

The problem wasn't habitat, as it usually is. Like California in the 1700s, it was a great place to be but nobody knew about it. Stocks were so low that even if the young salmon all made it to sea, escaped the cormorants and seals for a couple of years and came home, there still weren't enough of them to set up a Friends Reunited site.

The college caught what salmon they could, set up a hatchery and gave them free food and lodging. Some went back as tiddlers, but most were reared to maturity.

Numbers improved a little in the next two years, but in 2004, when the restocking plan really kicked in, 141 salmon were caught. Bob Kindness, a lecturer in freshwater fisheries research and one of the prime movers in the scheme, said: "I would have been delighted to reach 100 in five years." Things kept getting better. Numbers rose to 166 the next year, 200 in 2006 and 262 last year. Following the axiom that a salmon is too valuable to be caught only once, every fish is returned.

"I don't know if we are at the top yet," said Kindness. "The recovery has been as dramatic as the initial decline. We can only put this down to the stocking programme. The results demonstrate a way forward for fisheries that have suffered in the same way as the Carron."

The fish are bigger, too. Five over 20lb were taken in 2005, a spectacular number for a river that traditionally yields salmon of only half that weight. The river record, a 27-pounder caught by Lady Evelyn Cobbold in 1924, was beaten by Kindness himself last year when he landed one of 32lb.

Kindness, who admits to fishing the river nearly every day, has caught more than 300 salmon there over the past three seasons. Sounds like most of his lecturing has been to spotted fish rather than spotty teenagers.

Amazingly, the Carron's fishing potential is still almost unknown. Only 170 day tickets (and those at very cheap prices) were sold last year. So if my wife decides to buy me a few days in Wester Ross later this year, I'm pretty certain that the diary's empty.

News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower