Smolts traps update 1st May

Yup, it’s Mayday bank holiday and we have the weather for the occasion – overcast, cold combined with snow showers, it must be great weather for something but certainly not for operating a smolt trap. Still mustn’t complain, at least we are out and about. Water temperatures are obviously below the seasonal norm and spring is on hold for the time being.

However, we are still catching quite a lot of fish in the Avon traps, 2-300 most days this week with a burst in the Tommore trap midweek with the increasing flows down the burn.

Starting with the Tommore trap the total salmon catch now stands at 375 although 25 of those had no fin clip and are likely to be mainly naturally spawned fish from the accessible part of the burn above the trap. The trout catch increased this week with 41 yesterday, the highest daily catch of trout so far. This morning the water was only 3.8oC and the catch was down after the high water yesterday. The spate overnight Wed/Thu was perfectly timed to allow the smolts out of all the burns in the catchment. Some graphs below showing salmon and trout catches related to water level and temperature

Tommore Burn water level (cm) as recorded at 9am daily and salmon smolt catch

Tommore Burn water level (cm) as recorded at 9am daily and salmon smolt catch

Tommore Burn water temp and salmon catch

Tommore Burn water temp and salmon catch

Tommore Burn water level (cm) and trout catch

Tommore Burn water level (cm) and trout catch. Quite a response to the increase in water levels this week with trout smolts as big as 240mm captured.

Tommore Burn trout catch related to burn water temp at 9am

Tommore Burn trout catch related to burn water temp at 9am

Here are the same graphs for the salmon catch in the Avon traps.

Avon salmon catch and river level as recorded at 9am (cm)

Avon salmon catch and river level as recorded at 9am (cm)

Avon traps salmon catch and 9am river temp

Avon traps salmon catch and 9am river temp. As discussed in the last update river temp does seem to be an important driver for migration in the Avon. The current cool temperatures appear to have slowed down the run.

In total we have captured 3736 salmon in the Avon traps and 306 trout. At this stage last year we had caught 7887 salmon and 339 trout. The salmon catch is well down so far but the trout catch in both years are similar. The major difference in 2015 has been the cooler overall spring temperatures. The restoration of milder weather will provide a good indication of the strength of the Avon smolt run this year.

We have marked and released back upstream 601 salmon and 57 trout. The recapture rates so far are 9.8% for the salmon and 5.2% for the trout, although we only had a 2% recapture rate today from the fish marked yesterday. The cooler weather may be slowing the downsteam movement. Of the 350 fin clipped salmon smolts released at the Tommore Burn trap we have recaptured 5.7% in the Avon traps. There is still time for more to appear in the lower traps.

The Tommore Burn trap in higher flow. The trap required to be cleaned several times and the plastic sheet cut back to allow a greater dewatering effect in the higher flows. Jimmy Woods put in a lot of work keeping it operational over the last two days.

The Tommore Burn trap in higher flows. The trap required to be cleaned several times yesterday and the plastic sheeting cut back to allow a greater dewatering effect in the higher flows. Jimmy Woods put in a lot of work keeping it operational over the last two days.

Three trout from the Tommore Burn trap yesterday. Two definite smolts and a presmolt at the top.

Three trout from the Tommore Burn trap yesterday. Two definite smolts and a presmolt at the top.

Steve spotted this strange mark on a salmon smolt in the Avon traps yesterday. On closer examination of the photo is looks like it has a misplaced vent.

Steve spotted this strange mark on a salmon smolt in the Avon traps yesterday. On closer examination of the photo is looks like it has a misplaced vent.

Close up shot shows that there is no vent in the normal position in front of the anal fin. An unusual deformity.

Close up shot appears to show that there is no vent in the normal position in front of the anal fin. An unusual deformity.

A very poor conditioned salmon from the Avon this morning. It is very unusual to see such an unhealthy specimen.

A very poor conditioned salmon from the Avon this morning with a more normal one above. It is highly unusual to see such an unhealthy specimen.

We also have a smolt trap in the Fiddich which is operated on our behalf by the Deveron Trust at the moment. The latest reports from the Fiddich are that the catch to date is well ahead of last year. So we have mixed reports and catches from the traps but it’s always dangerous to start jumping to conclusions until the runs are over.

Looking ahead the forecast is for milder temperatures next week which should get things moving.

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There are 3 comments for this article
  1. olivier Devictor at 1:12 pm

    James you are opening a can of worms as the debate on hatcheries is far from producing a consensus among scientists.
    May be you can read Malcolm 2 pages article in the June issue of Fly Fishing and Fly Tying mag …
    Below words from my head gillie :
    On the Spey The board closed the Tulchan hatchery a few years ago when they got their flawed results of the genetic project.
    The Sandbank hatchery is still running though in a lower capacity. I’m a believer in hatcheries run professionally when and where they are needed,Carron,Tyne,Delphi and of course the Ranga.
    The big flood last August killed a lot of juveniles throughout the catchment and will have a huge detrimental effect on our runs in the coming years in my opinion.

  2. Dr Malcolm Greenhalgh at 6:47 pm

    Great work. Well done. I presume that the hatchery on the Spey has been closed down?
    We have had great runs of salmon and sea trout smolts over the last two weeks on the Ribble and (sea trout) Hodder.

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