Many thanks to Coquet Vally Gas for facilitating this camera's location. The River Coquet runs through the county of Northumberland, England, discharging into the North Sea on the east coast of England at Amble. The small town of Rothbury is beautifully situated beneath the rugged Simonside Hills. The river dashes through a narrow gully called the Thrum, and then passes Brinkburn Priory, of which the fine Transitional Norman church was restored to use in 1858, while there are fragments of the monastic buildings. This was an Augustinian foundation of the time of Henry I. Paperhaugh Bridge was built by the Duke of Northumberland and then adopted by the County in 1888. The River has Brown Trout with the best fish to date coming to the bank after an epic struggle at a whopping 6lb. A seasonal runs of Salmon & Sea Trout with top weights of 22lb and 14lb respectively.
Colliedog Computers Townfoot, Rothbury, NE65 7SL
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added: 1st Dec 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
The role of the AST blog is to give comments on or flavour to AST's activities. I hope our readers will appreciate that its purpose is only to give brief descriptive overview of the stocking conference,...
which ended last Thursday, and that full details will emerge later.
The proceedings of the conference will of course be posted on the AST website in due course. In the meantime the job of this blog is to give our readers a flavour of what took place. I find it instructive that the event was oversubscribed. The fact that so many people wanted to attend the conference says something about how we should engage with people in the world of salmon management. It suggests, for example, that people with an interest in salmon who are very often not scientists, need to receive information in clear, plain English, and not in the sometimes obscure language of the scientist. Perhaps, more importantly, it suggests that by declaring that we are ready to listen to all points of view, to avoid being prescriptive or proscriptive, we can open up a good natured debate, however different views may be.
I think it is also important that there is clarity in distinguishing between the role of the scientist, whose job is to advise on the basis of available facts, and the manager, whose task is to make decisions taking into account all the aspects and needs of the fishery. The two roles are separate and distinct.
[b]IBIS - Integrated Aquatic Resources Management Between Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland[b/] - an EU initiative, provided the funding for this event and it was because IBIS covered all the conference costs that numbers were limited. While it was certainly a pity that we didn't bring in everyone who wanted to attend we did have an exceptionally knowledgeableand broadly based audience. In terms of who the conference attracted, it really could not have been better; 150 practitioners, anglers, scientists and managers gathered together to debate this contentious subject. Our congratulations and thanks go to our IBIS partners for excellent organisation and a successful conference.
[b]Stocking as an instrument of salmon fishery management[b/] has for many years been a matter of contention between those who advocate its use as an immediate reaction to counter perceived reduction in numbers of fish, to those who see its use as an action of last resort. The debate has become polarised. One of the objectives of the conference was to remove that polarity in views by dealing with the issue objectively.
The key questions that emerged from the debate were; [b]"What is the purpose of your stocking project? What outcomes do you want/expect, and how are you going to know whether you have achieved them?[b/]
Those questions were dealt with effectively over the course of the two days. While I have no doubt that there are some people who arrived at the conference as advocates of stocking as the first 'go-to' instrument of management, it is fair to claim that the debate gave recognition to all views on the basis that in each case the desired outcome of the stocking action was clearly stated. The antithesis was inferred - that without clarity of desired outcome there can be no place for stocking as a rational instrument of management.
[b]An excellent example is the SAC (Special Area of Conservation)[b/] catchment where natural biodiversity is the stated outcome. The conference agreed that in all SAC salmon rivers there should be a presumption against stocking. In other words, in those rivers, because the objective is natural biodiversity, there should be no human intervention that in any way interferes with the natural process of smolt recruitment.
On the other hand, where the manager's desired outcome is a profitable recreational fishery, and in circumstances where the capacity of that fishery to recruit sufficient naturally recruited smolts is impaired, it may be necessary to introduce stocking as a means of boosting numbers. Examples such as the Ranga in Iceland and the Lochy in Scotland were cited as rivers where for specific reasons - poor spawning and juvenile habitat on the Ranga and impacts of salmon farming on the Lochy - it is expedient and effective to boost salmon numbers artificially, despite the costs of so doing.
The conference achieved a consensus that, provided the manager is clear about why he is taking action and what outcome he wants, stocking does have a place in a toolkit of intervention instruments available to him. Underpinning and informing the moment of decision is the absolute necessity of the fishery manager to understand his stock, in terms of structure, quality (of the individual fish) and numbers. The example of the Moy catchment in Ireland, that supports populations of salmon with different run timings and destinations within the catchment, made the point that stock structures can be complex and require sensitive treatment. The underpinning aspect of stock definition is of course genetics, and that there is some way to go before genetic differentiation between populations within a river's stock will be extensively available.
If there was a simple message for the fishery manager, dealing with a complex issue, it was "If you think you have a problem with your river's salmon stock, pause and think hard before you take action". The 'thinking' requires knowledge of the stock, an understanding of the perceived problem, evaluation of available options and a clear statement of desired outcomes. That considered approach should encourage managers to make the right decision.
I feel the conference did much to clear the air. It certainly seemed to erode a few prejudices! Speaking for myself, it also cleared my head on a few issues!
AST 1 December 2013
added: 6th Nov 2013
posted by: Bob Smith
Well that is the 2013 season done and dusted.
Before looking at the final few days let us congratulate the trophy winners for the Federation members. The best brown trout, a fish of four pounds twelve...
ounces was caught by Keith Young of Rothbury. The winner of the new J. Hardy Memorial Trophy for the largest Sea Trout goes to Matthew Bradbeer from Bury St. Edmunds with a fish that weighed exactly ten pounds. The Salmon Centenary Cup goes to Chris Makepiece who landed a fish of sixteen pounds four ounces.
It was good to see so many rods out on the Coquet for the last few days. I saw a guy play and land a coloured fish which was about ten pounds in the Rothbury area. Colin , one of the bailiffs, landed a massive coloured cock fish in the Felton area on the fly.This salmon was estimated to be between twenty tree and twenty five pounds. Another visitor from Scotlandwas spinning in the Pauperhaugh area and he landed a salmon which weighed twenty one and a half pounds. All these fish were recorded from the Federation waters.
Yesterday I bumped into Jim who fishes a private stretch, mid river beat, and he landed a fairly clean fish on the fly during the final Tuesday. He measured the fish which was exactly twenty four inches long. I know other anglers fishing syndicated stretches had good days two, some catching a handful of fish in a day.
The vast majority of fish caught during the last week were coloured, but again I must say that anglers for the most part were returning these fish which was great to see.
Looking at the season overall, it was good to see the improvements done to help the migratory fish journey up stream and not be bottle up by blocked fish passes. To be fair fishing was very slow for the vast majority of the season. The only real good fishing was in the final two or three weeks when the rain actually arrived. Before the rain, there were fish in the system but they were not moving far and proved very difficult to take.Once the level rose and the fish began to move everyone seemed to have a very good chance of catching. Reasonable numbers of fish came to the net.fish were travelling quickly with sea licked sea trout being caught upstream from Pauperhaugh bridge.
Let us , as always, look forward to 2014 with optimism and hope for a better season with more periods of rain to get our rods bend more often
added: 28th Oct 2013
posted by: Bob Smith
This last week has had the Coquet up as much as four feet. When the level has dropped the fishing has been very good, with fish coming to nets the full length of the system. The majority of the salmon...
and sea trout have been taken upstream from Pauperhaugh. Almost every salmon is coloured, but they are giving a decent account of themselves. Sea trout are there in good numbers. The heaviest sea trout of the season on Federation beats was landed in the Felton area and it weighed ten pounds. A terrific sea trout of five pounds was caught near Pauperhaugh and it still had sea lice on it!
Private syndicated beats have recorded some excellent days too.
I was guiding on the Caistron beat on Saturday and a guy from Harrogate caught his first ever salmon. It was his first effort with a double handed rod and to say he was buzzing is a bit of an understatement. It was a coloured cock fish around eight pounds. It was quickly returned to the river and went on its business with no trouble. Interesting to say the fish took a size ten fly tyed on a single hook. The Caistron beat has had twenty seven fish for the week ranging from four pound sea trout to twenty one pound salmon.
Not long left to get out there and cast a line for a Coquet fish and the river is in good fettle! So off you go and tight lines!
added: 22nd Oct 2013
posted by: Bob Smith
The last week has seen rain in reasonable quantities and lifts in the river level. Fish have been caught throughout the system. Salmon and trout have come to the net from Warkworth to above Hepple.
Federation stretches have had a lot more anglers out, and consequently more fish have been caught. Around ninety percent of the fish are now coloured, but clean fish are being caught around Rothbury and beyond.One regular rod had six fish on one day and a visitor who fishes every year had six fish during his visit. All his fish were caught on the fly. Head bailiff for the Federation, Willie Farndale, said he was pleased that nearly all the coloured fish were being returned to the river. Now that the trout season is well finished a number of good brownies have come to the net too, typical! The best salmon on the Fed beats was estimated at seventeen pounds. Fish are taking a wide variety of flies, spinners and flying Cs.
The Caistron beat, above Thropton, has had their fair share of fish too. They report that the beat has produced up to six salmon a day. Weight vary from six pounds to double figures.
As I write this there was heavy rain yesterday and the river at Rothbury was about a metre up and coloured. Only light rain showers today so perhaps tomorrow and the next day will prove to be productive as long as there is no more prolonged rain. I expect to see a good number of anglers out in the next few days. Tight lines before the season ends soon.
added: 19th Oct 2013
posted by: Atlantic Salmon Trust
Scottish east coast Salmon and the Usan Mixed Stocks Fishery
A mixed stocks fishery confirmed
Marine Scotland’s South Esk Tracking Project is designed to find out where the River’s...
early running salmon go within the South Esk catchment to breed. Following identification of spawning and juvenile habitats locations it is hoped that an assessment of the physical condition of the river in those places will lead to targeted improvements. To some extent at the end of year 2 (of 3) we can say that objective is being met, although sample numbers are very low.
It is no surprise to learn from the MS tracking project that Usan nets are killing spring salmon from many, if not all east coast rivers. With proof that the Spey is also impacted by the activities of the Montrose-based nets it is now established that the Rivers Spey, Don, Dee, North Esk, South Esk and Tay are affected. It is not unreasonable to assume that the Earn, Deveron, Ythan, Uigie and Findhorn may also be included in the list, not to mention the smaller rivers – The Rivers in Between - such as rivers Bervie, Cowie, Lunan, Eden, about which I wrote recently.
All Scotland’s east coast rivers are affected.
In other words, all the main North East salmon rivers – the jewels in the crown of Scottish wild spring salmon – are being impacted by the activities of one small operation near Montrose. That is a high price to pay for the part-time jobs of a small family business. It is not fanciful to claim that Usan Fisheries Ltd is holding the survival our national reserve of these iconic spring fish to ransom, apparently supported by our government. Why?
Disagreement on the ‘natural capital’ value of wild salmon.
Conflict between conservation & mixed stocks exploitation.
There has been a lot of talk over the years about the effects of exploitation of both Atlantic salmon and sea trout by the coastal nets sited South of Montrose. Quite a lot of what has been said has been speculative and sometimes exaggerated, but no-one can deny that feelings on the subject have been running high on both sides of the debate. An early casualty of emotional arguments is truth, and the Usan nets issue is no exception.
It is unfortunate that during their fishing season the nets have first opportunity to kill incoming salmon and sea trout migrations. Imagine a situation where nets and rods had equal and simultaneous access to the fish. In that scenario there’s not much doubt that agreement would have been reached long ago on how to share the ‘harvest’. Sadly it doesn’t work like that.
Every returning adult salmon is a survivor
After their long migration salmon arrive off the Scottish east coast. Swimming close to the shore, many become enmeshed in carefully sited coastal nets. These fish, so close to their destination, are survivors of about 95% marine mortality between their departure as smolts from fresh water to their return as adult fish. All netted fish are of course killed as they are brought into the boat. Those that avoid the nets might then enter their river of choice. Alternatively they might move on up or down the coast; or, especially if river levels are low and there is only a weak chemical signal inviting them into fresh water, they may just hang around close to estuaries, remaining vulnerable repeatedly to being netted.
Before any fish can enter the river, they therefore have to run the gauntlet at least once as they either caught in the nets, or bypass them. All this happens before a single angler has seen, let alone caught, even one fish.
Perceptions among fishery managers and anglers are that the high-value visiting angler only gets to fish for what the nets have failed to catch. It is the resulting sense of unfairness – crumbs from the laird’s table as it were - among anglers that fuels the argument between netting and fishery management. Isn’t it an irony that those who defend the rights of the netsmen often do so on the grounds of wealth and class? That over-used argument tells us that salmon anglers are wealthy leisure seekers – while the owners of netting interests feast sumptuously off profits from killing survivors of returning migrations of salmon.
The modern angler is more environmentally sensitive than their predecessors were even ten years ago. During the main part of the season they are left to fish for what is left behind by the nets. Moreover, the number of fish killed has decreased through catch & release (70%+). Meanwhile there has been no move towards quotas or increasing the nets slap times. On the contrary, weekend slap times are routinely ignored, more coastal netting stations are being reopened, more salmon killed and financial incentives and support is offered by the Scottish Government and European Commission to the netsmen.
Who are the beneficiaries?
The local economy?
Who benefits from the nets?
Who benefits from the visiting angler?
Where is the sense in all this?
What is significant in biodiversity terms about ‘mixed stocks’ exploitation?
Salmon, and perhaps to a lesser extent sea trout, tend to be ‘loyal’ to their rivers of birth. I say “tend” only because there are many examples of salmon straying. How else could salmon in the River Mersey have re-colonised a river that was to all intents and purposes dead as a result of industrial pollution? There are also many examples of ‘hatchery stocking’ using ova or fry from other rivers, or of fish ‘going up the wrong river’, or changing their minds having entered one river only to go to another one to spawn.
The 'core stock' of a river, with its unique DNA signature(s) is pretty robust, having withstood challenges from straying salmon with different genetic make-ups for millennia. Unless the core stock is swamped, as has happened in rivers where farmed salmon in unprecedented numbers have interbred with the wild fish stock, the genetic integrity of the salmon ‘belonging’ to a river is likely to survive. Intermittent hatchery stocking or salmon straying naturally from other rivers are unlikely to damage the core stock. On the contrary, they may even strengthen it, in much the same way as antibodies strengthen resistance to disease. Of course there are other examples, especially in USA and Canada, where huge dams have eradicated the stock, and the genetic signature of that river is gone forever. That is a tragedy because those genetics have evolved over centuries in response to the physical, geological, chemical and biological characteristics of the river. We must therefore make every effort to preserve the signature DNA of all our rivers where irreparable damage hasn’t already been done.
We should recognise the value of natural biodiversity as the fruit of evolution in the context of every ecosystem. Therefore we shouldn’t be misled into thinking that the tendency of wild Atlantic salmon to stray to other rivers conflicts with the genetic predisposition of nearly every fish of a particular river to return to its home waters to breed. Nothing is so jet black or marble white in the natural world. That genetic preference is part of the DNA makeup of wild Atlantic salmon. In situations, such as the South Esk, where populations of fish within the overall stock of the river can we think be distinguished from each other by their genetic differences, together they define the structure of the river’s stock that has evolved since the last ice age. Scientists and managers are continuing to fill in the detail of genetic attribution maps.
As things stand there is a varied picture of genetic description of stocks and their populations in the NE Atlantic bioregion, ranging from tributary-specific attributions to broad-brush regional ones. Over time, like the detail of a landscape painting being added after the structure of the painting’s composition, the detail will describe with some accuracy which genetic groups of fish belong to which rivers. It is work in progress.
The impossibility of effective fishery management.
Growing awareness of the importance of gene types should persuade us to take special care of rivers where we suspect that some populations, or even the whole stock, may be in a fragile condition. Fishery managers try to use the precautionary principle as a safety net to justify making timely interventions to protect threatened groups of fish. Unfortunately it is not possible to protect any population in any Scottish east coast river while mixed stocks coastal netting as practised by Usan Fisheries continues. The existence of an interceptive fishery that kills salmon indiscriminately from six identified rivers, and almost certainly many others, prevents effective management taking place in any of them.
What does the term “sustainable” mean in this context? It is a situation apparently summarised by the politically motivated thought, “the rod fishery will have to be managed with the Usan fishery continuing its lethal exploitation of unknown stocks”. In fact it is impossible for fishery managers to take effective decisions to protect stocks while that mixed stocks fishery exists. You would have thought that, while genetic mapping continues to fill in the detail of populations attributable to rivers, at least a pause would be called on killing fish from stocks where there is a degree of concern that some populations may be fragile (or in technical parlance, ‘below conservation levels’). That pause should include both rods and nets i.e. no killing at all. If Catch and Release is shown to be politically unacceptable in terms of perceived equity and fairness, then both fisheries - rods and nets - should be closed. After all, the priority is to conserve the fish, not the people that exploit them!
added: 7th Oct 2013
posted by: Bob Smith
With the recent rain and resulting lift in the river level salmon and sea trout are on the move. Good numbers of fish have been seen throughout the system. Large numbers of especially sea trout are moving...
up through the river. At Pauperhaugh bridge a lot of fish have gone throthrough, and although some fish are colouring up, lots of sea trout are in good nick!
Rods have done well around the High park area. Not many salmon have been brought to the net, but guys have done well catching reasonable numbers of sea trout.The usual flies, especially Cascades in sizes eight and tens have produced the goods.
I gather some of the private beats have had successes too.
Not long for the season to run its course now, so let us hope that the recent flurry of activity continues and anglers have an exciting end to the 2013 season.
added: 25th Sep 2013
posted by: Bob Smith
It has been a very quiet season on the Coquet this year. The river continues to run low. The river bed is dirty and slippy when wading.
I was on a middle beat today helping someone new to river fishing....
There was a decent hatch around lunchtime but few trout were rising. The fish we did see rise were a good size, varying between half a pound and a pound. A brown trout was caught recently which was over five pounds, but unfortunately it was not varified and can not be considered for the Coquet trophy.
However, when fishing today we did see a number of salmon and sea trout in the deeper pools. The fish were still a silver colour. The best salmon would be around nine pounds, and others would be six pound ish! The sea trout ,all three of them were smaller , weighing two to three pounds.. The fish are definitely there, but very few are being caught.
This light drizzle we are experiencing at the moment is not what the river needs. We need a good long period of heavy rain to flush the system and get the fish moving.
On a different tack, I was talking to an owner of a beat today and he told me that there were fifty cormorants on his stretch the previous day, fifty. I did not see any today, but no trouble in deciding where all the brown trout have gone. Today I did see twelve Gooseanders on the beat, well they will take more than their share too.
Only ,a few days left of the trout season, and that means not much longer to the end of the salmon season too. Let us hope for a good last month, I think we have waited long enough for some good conditions!!