TAY CATCH AND RELEASE REGULATIONS + CODE
Numbers of salmon entering the Tay in most months of the year have tended to fall in recent decades. The decline was most marked among the really early fish, the “springers” which come in during the winter and early spring, but more recently - especially in 2017 and 2018- summer and autumn grilse have shown a sudden fall too. Studies in a number of rivers have shown that spring salmon are most vulnerable to angling exploitation because they are exposed to angling for many months as they pass upstream into higher tributaries. Significant rates of exploitation may occur, as high as 40% in some rivers.
It is essential therefore that exploitation of all salmon, not just spring salmon, must be reduced as much as possible. Consequently the Board strengthened its Conservation Code in 2019, a key request being more protection for autumn grilse as well as spring salmon.
STATUTORY CONSERVATION REGULATIONS WHICH CAME INTO FORCE IN 2015
The Scottish Government introduced regulations in January 2015, which require the mandatory release of all salmon caught in the Tay district from 15 January to 31 March. All salmon must, by law, be returned to the water, even if a fish has died. This applies for a period of five years, with an annual review. The Board's bailiff team will be enforcing this new legislation. Thereafter the Board's recommendations continue to have effect.
1 April to 31 May:
All salmon should be released alive.
Anglers should not fish with worms during this period anywhere in the district (this recommendation applies from 15 January).
From 1 June to end of Season:
All hen fish of any size and all cock fish over 10 pounds should be released.
All coloured and gravid fish to be released.
No more than the very occasional clean fish weighing, where possible, less than 10 pounds should be retained over the entire period.
Anglers should not use worms in September or October in any part of the district.
To download a pdf of the 2019 version of the Board's Code, please click here. This download is laid out to be printed on both sides of a single sheet of A4 and makes a handy leaflet. If you are not sure how to identify a hen salmon please download the following salmon identification poster
Anglers are requested not to fish with worms up to 31 May nor after 31 August anywhere in the district. As many fish are deeply hooked, the Board considers this method of fishing incompatible with the need for conservation.
However the Board recommends that between 1 June and 31 August any worming which is done should only be with with Circle hooks or Shelton release hooks which are designed to help prevent deep hooking. Contact the Board for details of suppliers.
ENSURING RELEASED FISH SURVIVE
The purpose of releasing salmon is to ensure that they survive to spawn. They will not do this if they sustain injury or damage which allows fungus to attack. The fungus Saprolegnia, is an ever present menance and can quickly overcome fish which are stressed or damaged. The mucus is the first line of defence and should not be damaged. The following simple steps must be followed:
Landing the fish:
Use a fine, knotless meshed landing net and ensure the fish remains in the water.
Do not beach the fish, as abrasion can lead to infection. Knotted nets, gaffs and tailers are now illegal in Scotland anyway.
Minimise handling the fish. Fish should never be "tailed".
Removing the hook:
Wet your hands. A dry, bare, warm hand can cause abrasion which later may lead to infection.
Remove the hook gently. If possible remove the hook using forceps or a hook disgorger, taking care not to squeeze the fish.
The use of barbless or micro barbed single hooks is strongly recommended, as they make removing the hook easier.
Take care with fresh, early fish as they are prone to damage and fungal infection.
Returning the fish:
If possible, try to slip the fish out of the net without touching it!
If you really must, then support the fish, in a current, facing upstream and allow time for the fish to recover and swim away on its own.
Do not weigh the fish but estimate the weight of the fish from its length. Record all fish caught and released.
Photographs by all means, but do not remove the fish from the net which should remain in the water. However tempting, PLEASE DON'T GRASP A FISH'S TAIL!! This can result in fungal infection.
The web is strewn with photos of salmon held like this. If you are to release fish, especially fresh run salmon, this is a recipie for trouble. The abrasion caused by fingers provides an inroad for fungus, especially around the tail. DONT DO IT!
REMOVE HOOKS FROM RAPALAS
Rapala and other multiple hook lures are popular on some beats on the Tay and in Loch Tay. As the number of treble hooks attached can lead to problems in hook removal it is recommended that such lures should be used with a maximum of one treble hook only.