Dulnain salmon fry index surveys update

On the first of August we provided an interim report on the Dulnain salmon fry index surveys 2018 see https://www.speyfisheryboard.com/dulnain-salmon-fry-index-surveys-2018/. At the time there were two sites still to do. These were isolated sites, each requiring a long drive on estate roads. Today, thanks to Pitmain Estate, we were able to complete the last, and uppermost site. Site TSD88 is 44km up from the confluence with the Spey and lies at 620m or 2034ft. Up here the Dulnain is about 4m wide and is a very nice burn.

A shot of the Dulnain a short distance downstream from TSD88. Very nice habitat indeed, and no shortage a good spawning.

Site TSD88 in the upper River Dulnain. The survey started just upstream of the big boulder below the pickup

23 salmon fry were caught in three minutes at this site, no parr were found in the area though. The water levels were slightly elevated due to the steady drizzle.

Some of the catch from TSD88. Surprisingly for this altitude there were more salmon fry than trout, plus a few trout parr.

The complete set of results from the Dulnain salmon fry index surveys in 2018 are shown in the table below.

River Dulnain complete salmon fry index results 2018. The salmon fry counts were almost double the 2015 figures, the differential for the parr counts even higher. One feature from the salmon fry index surveys across all the tributaries this year is the upwards trend in the middle and upper sites, especially for parr.

These results seem at odds with the catch data, 2017 being relatively poor in that regard. However, we had a good chat with the Dunachton keeper today. He was enthusiastic about the number of salmon spawning in the vicinity of the Suspension Bridge site (TSD73) last autumn, relaying that some of his clients were tickled pink to see salmon coming alongside the Landrover wheels as they forded the Dulnain at the Suspension Bridge. We had received similar reports from other keepers about good numbers of spawning fish in other upland tributaries last year

The only period of the 2017 season when catches were good was during the early spring. Our monitoring results, and reports from those on the ground, point to the fact that there were more early running fish around last year than we may have thought. Thankfully there are two strong yearclasses of juvenile fish in the system at present as the catch of 2018 will be poor, even in comparison to 2017.

Authored by: Brian Shaw

There are 2 comments for this article
  1. John D Coutts at 9:25 pm

    Why do you persist in counting juveniles in tributaries. Your time and our money would be better employed in counting the smoults that actually make it down to the salt water.

    John Coutts.

    • Brian Shaw Author at 9:08 am

      Hi John, On the Spey we have a long record of smolt counting, either as they leave the tributaries e.g. in recent years the Dulnain in 2017/18, the Avon in 2014/15/16, the upper Fiddich annually since 2014 etc. In the early years of the new millennium smolt traps were also operated in the lower Spey on the Brae Water. In 2019 we will be involved with the AST in the Missing Salmon project when smolts will be tracked on their downstream journey, not only in the river but as they pass out of the Moray Firth.
      Counting juveniles in the tributaries is done for several reasons (watch out for briefing on this subject soon) but primarily to try and understand the factors affecting the salmon stocks in the river. Your point about counting smolts is well made but understanding the strength of the juvenile population before they reach that stage is also important. We know that the 2016 year class was weak, due to Storm Frank, as it is along the entire east coast, but the 2017 and 2018 cohorts are strong.
      If you are in the area you would be more than welcome to join us either at the smolt counting or the juvenile surveys, both preferably.
      Thanks for your interest.
      Brian

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