Weather conditions in 2018 have been extreme, the long cold winter followed quickly by the current extended hot and dry conditions. These conditions are far from ideal for salmon angling and they are also challenging for the fish. Even at the beginning of June river temperatures of 23degrees C (73.4 degrees F) were recorded in some of the lower Spey mainstem loggers. River levels have dropped since then and peak air temperatures have increased, maximum river temperatures may be even higher now.
The run of salmon entering the river this year has been low so it is even more important that great care is taken when a fish is hooked. When river temperatures are as high as we are experiencing good catch and release practice is a necessity for salmon survival.
All anglers should be aware that it is vital to minimise stress to the fish, as they may otherwise suffer from delayed mortality after release. In particular, anglers should –
1. Minimise playing time of the fish
2. Avoid handling the fish if possible
3. Keep fish in the water at all times
Studies on salmon catch and release mortality have produced varying results but a consistent finding is that mortality rates increase when the river temperatures are above 18oC. During these conditions playing the fish quickly and returning with minimum stress, in particular keeping the fish in the water at all times, is essential. Caught fish should not be lifted out of the water for photos during these extreme conditions, good photos can be taken whilst they are in the water, if required.
River temperatures usually drop at night, in early June for example by 4 or 5oC. Given the current weather, angling is likely to be more productive early or late in the day when environmental conditions will be more favourable with lower river temperatures and higher oxygen levels.
There is a wealth of information on good catch and release practice available online including here