In addition to mandatory catch and release for all salmon (any size) and sea trout (over 40 cm) in those rivers set out here, anglers can play an important part in the protection of future stocks by returning salmon in rivers where insufficient salmon are surviving to spawn. The practice of catch and release has been increasing in recent years and in 2015, anglers returned 37% of the salmon they caught – a huge jump from the 12% release average in 2005.
In particular, stocks of spring fish (multi-sea-winter salmon) are at an all-time low across the North Atlantic. By voluntarily returning spring fish and grilse to all rivers, anglers are helping to protect future salmon stocks by allowing additional numbers of salmon to spawn.
The angling method used can have a significant bearing on the survival rate of released salmon. Anglers intent on releasing fish, or anglers fishing waters where a catch and release rule is in force, should carefully consider the angling method used. Salmon caught by fly fishing using single barbless hooks, have a greater chance of survival than fish caught on barbed hooks, Ireland hooks or lures with double or treble hooks.
Barbless hooks do less damage, are easier to remove and reduce handling time which can be in important factor influencing survival. Barbed hooks can have the barb pinched with a pliers to allow salmon to be released more easily. Where it is not possible to use barbless hooks, hooks used should preferably be single. The fishing tackle used should be strong enough to enable the fish to be brought in quickly. taking account of the prevailing conditions and the possible size of the fish that might be caught.
Playing the Fish
Playing a fish in the following way will help its chances of survival:
- Avoid exhausting the fish
- In a river, move the salmon out of the fast current into quieter water
- Once the fish is subdued bring it quickly to the bank or boat
Landing the Fish
Research has shown that exposing a salmon to air for even a short period, for example to take a photograph, can significantly reduce its chances of survival.
- Keep the salmon in the water at all times.
- Use a large diatmeter landing net with soft knotless mesh
- Avoid beaching the fish
- No gaffs or tailers
- Always handle the salmon with wet hands
Removing the Hook
- Wet your hands and keep the fish in the water Handling of the fish should be minimized
- When necessary the fish should be supported from beneath and the hook gently removed either by hand or by means of long-nosed forceps
- If a hook is deeply embedded and cannot be removed, the leader should be cut close to the hook, as fish released with the hook attached will generally survive
- Take extra care with fresh fish, as they are more prone to scale loss, injury and subsequent fungal infection
- Care must be taken not to squeeze the fish or hold it by the gills
Releasing and Reviving the Fish
- After removing the hook or cutting the leader, the fish should be supported in the water facing into the current and given sufficient time to recover
- Hold the fish gently until it is capable of swimming away strongly
- Avoid weighing the fish
- The weight can be estimated from its length using the conversion chart
- A tape measure or a wading stick can be used to take the approximate length while keeping the fish in the water
- Unless compelled by statutory regulations or local rules, fish that have suffered serious damage (bleeding heavily, hooked in the gills or eyes) should be retained
Survival Chances of Released Salmon
- Research has shown that the survival rate of salmon caught and released can he close to 100% when the above guidelines are followed
- Survival rate is greater at water temperatures below 20 C.
- Very good survival to spawning of released rod-caught spring Salmon, which have subsequently spent up to nine months in the river before spawning, has been recorded in Scotland
- Spawning sucess and viability of eggs are unaffected in salmon caught and released in late autumn
Stocks of spring salmon are at an all time low across their North Atlantic range. conservation is more important now than ever. Catch and Release can ensure that more salmon survive to spawn.