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Coquet - Rothbury

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Coquet Valley Gas
Weather near Rothbury

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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.

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Local Reports

Atlantic Salmon Trust's profile picture

Usan Coastal Nets

added: 2nd Mar 2014

Mixed Stocks Fisheries. The Lairds of our Coast and wild salmon. Breath-taking arrogance, unsustainable, out-of-date, and cause for international censure.

After years of abuse of the netting...

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slap periods, Usan Fisheries have at last been brought to account. To anyone concerned about the state of salmon and sea trout stocks on the east coast of Scotland, they will feel that this legal action is long overdue.

Sailing close to the wind. Did Usan jibe?

It is widely recognised by everyone involved in salmon fishery management that the activities of the Usan Salmon Fishery have at times been somewhat ‘close to the wind’ in terms of the law. The weekly slap times, when nets are by law supposed to be rendered inactive by removing the leaders to the bag nets, are in place to support the conservation of salmon, grilse and sea trout. They are most certainly not regulations for a pick and choose approach by Usan Fisheries, arguably the most destructive mixed stocks fishery remaining in the UK.

The owners of the Usan Salmon Fisheries company now face 12 charges relating to alleged incidents in Angus and Fife during August and September 2013. The locations cited are at Boddin, Dysart, Ethie Haven and Scurdie Ness. If it transpires that their nets were operating in the month of September it will confirm the extraordinary arrogance – some might say the behaviour of people who seem to regard the Scottish coast as their fiefdom, and all salmon as their property – of a fishery which surely is now an anachronism, putting Scotland’s inept management of its wild salmon into international pariah status. The fact is that September is outwith the netting season. Transgression of statutory season closures is surely tantamount to poaching?

Of the twelve charges, five are related to netting salmon every weeekend in August from 1800 on Fridays to 0600 on Mondays, all outwith the statutory weekly close time for net fisheries.

All this may seem petty and somewhat arcane to anyone unfamiliar with the operations of Usan Salmon Fisheries. This company, which has long received political and moral support from government and funding from the EU, takes salmon in unknown numbers from most, if not all, east coast salmon rivers. No-one knows which populations of fish are being exploited, some of which may be in a fragile condition (as is the case with the government’s own assessment of South Esk spring salmon). The activities of Usan Salmon Fisheries make it impossible for fishery managers on all affected rivers to assess the condition of their salmon stocks.

The existence of that mixed stocks net fishery is simply bad fishery management, and it is time to take full control of their exploitation. If it is found that they have been flouting the law, notwithstanding health and safety considerations, it will become absolutely clear that they cannot be trusted to manage their operations within the law. Appropriate measures to curb their activities, on conservation grounds alone, must surely follow?

And I haven’t even touched on the immense damage being done by one small family business to the rural economy and communities from Fife to Inverness!


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Bob Smith's profile picture

Up and running.

added: 24th Feb 2014

The first spring salmon has been caught, and verified, on the Federation waters. It was a fish about nine pounds and it came to the net at the Jack Rock on Wednesday afternoon, February 19th. The salmon...

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was caught by Rob Stephenson who was fishing an Odin Spoon. This fish gets Rob the Coquet trophy for a year, a replica of the trophy to keep, and three years free fishing permits for all the Federation beats.

Another salmon was caught the same day and it is reported to have been around the same size.This fish was caught above Felton Bridge on a private beat. This means fresh fish are well up the Coquet already and that is probably because of the new pass at Warkworth and the amount of rain we have had over the last few weeks. Anglers are catching plenty Kelts so anyone casting a line should have a reasonable chance of some sport.

If fish keep coming at this pace, and the rain keeps the river level up, it should not be long until the fresh salmon reach Pauperhaugh! Time will tell no doubt.

Anglers on the Federation beats should remember that no spinning is allowed above Pauperhaugh Bridge before June 1st.

It is only four weeks until the trout season starts and already on some of the milder days there has been hatches of flies. Roll on the warmer spring days with more springers and lovely brown trout.

Tight lines!

Bob Smith's profile picture

Not yet!

added: 10th Feb 2014

There was a good turn out of rods on the first day. Around 16 anglers fished the tidal section where there were a mixture of fly fishermen and some anglers were spinning.

I am not aware of the first...

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springer being caught yet, although several kelts have been brought to the net and returned.More rain is expected in the next few days, so it depends how much arrives and to what extent it will change the river condition. We will just have to wait and see and hopefully someone will land the first fresh salmon, fingers crossed!!

As soon as I hear anything I will post it on here with all the details.

Bob Smith's profile picture

Nearly there.

added: 21st Jan 2014

Just a quick hello and I hope everyone is anticipating a super season. Plenty rain at the moment and the river is up. Hopefully it will be perfect for February 1st.

Received my 2014 permit today so I...

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expect all those who have applied for one will have got it, or it will be dropping through the letter box in the next few days.

Let us see if we can land the first spring salmon a lot earlier than the last couple of years!! Bob.

Atlantic Salmon Trust's profile picture

AST/IBIS Stocking Conference

added: 1st Dec 2013

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,...

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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!

Tony Andrews

AST 1 December 2013

Bob Smith's profile picture

It's all over.

added: 6th Nov 2013

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...

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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 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

Bob Smith's profile picture

Water , but it has been a long time coming.

added: 28th Oct 2013

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...

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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!