Always at this time of year we try and complete the salmon fry index survey on the mainstem of the Spey. Holidays over we made a start today. Obviously the river is low (although for how much longer?) and conditions were ideal for the task. In 2012 a new system was introduced along with the new electrofishing equipment which has a built in timer to provide consistency. Today we completed 9 sites, from Rothes downstream except for Orton which will be done soon hopefully. The first site was at Rothes and Aitkenway, the usual site upstream of the Creichie Pool. This site was teeming with parr and although we caught 36 during the 3 minute survey we could have caught 50+. Many parr managed to avoid the banner net, although it was in need of a tweek to secure the top drawstring. However the result was good for parr but there were less fry with only 28 caught. The habitat in some of our sites is more suited to parr than fry and this was one. By way of comparison the most parr we got in any site last year was 30 from a site at Castle Grant 3.
Moving downstream the next site was also on Rothes, in the run upstream of the Geantree Pool. With the very low river we were fishing a bit further out into the middle of the channel than normal. The habitat at this site was much better for fry with 132 caught in 3 minutes along with 21 parr. This compares with 23 fry and 4 parr at the same site last year. A very good result as the highest fry count from any site last year was 110.
After these sites we fished 2 sites below Fochabers. The site upstream of the Essil Pool was the only site today where the salmon fry numbers were lower than 2012 with 68 compared to 74 last year, however parr numbers were much higher. Three sites above Fochabers in Brae 5, 4 & 2 were next. Here the results were also good with 173 fry from the Beat 4 site, a new high count for the revised monitoring system; however that wasn’t to last long.
To end this first day of the mainstem monitoring we did two sites at Delfur. The first was a regular site above Big Haddie Pool although it isn’t ideal habitat for fry surveying. Despite that we got 62 fry and 8 parr.
To investigate good fry habitat in that area of Delfur we did another site in the riffle below the tail of Big Haddie. This was ideal fry habitat; shallow, and fast flowing. From the first sweep it was clear that the catch was going to be good. During the 3 minute survey we had 270 fry and no parr, by far the best result from a Spey mainstem site. I had reckoned that we needed to catch 300 fry in 3 minutes to be equivalent to the best result we got during my 7 years in Ayrshire. I thought we would achieve than number somewhere like the Fiddich but to get so close in the mainstem of the Spey was impressive.
All of the photos above were taken using the new Gopro head cam. We intend to video each of the mainstem sites, and others, to give blog readers the opportunity to view the surveys for themselves. The mainstem salmon fry surveys are ideal as they are a bit more fast moving then the density sites we normally do in the tributaries. The videos from today have been downloaded to the laptop but there is a lot of work involved in uploading to Youtube – a job for the first wet day. The videos look very clear at high resolution on the laptop and hopefully they will remain as viewable when uploaded to the web.
The mean salmon fry number from todays site were 93.8 compared to 41 at the same sites in 2012, whilst for parr the figures were 12.1 today and 2 in 2012. These figures confirm what many gillies on the river have observed this spring – high numbers of small fish around their feet. The fry numbers are all the more encouraging considering the apparent low number of spawning fish in the lower river last winter.
More surveys will be completed over the next few days but on the first wet day we will upload some of the survey videos.