River Bran Smolt Trapping started
The Smolt trap on the River Bran at Achanalt was opened on the 31st of march. This trap is used to catch the entire smolt run of the Bran, the smolts are then loaded into a transport tank and trucked past the hydo scheme before being released below Tor Achilty Dam. Not only does this maintain the Bran as a salmon river by avoiding Luichart Dam (which is passable upstream but not downstream), it also allows long term monitoring of smolt production and marine survival. In collaboration with Marine Scotland Science a thousand of the smolts from the Bran trap are tagged each year with electronic PIT tags. When the adult fish return either as grilse next year or 2 sea winter salmon in 2016, the tags numbers of individual fish are recorded by automatic decoders in the hydro dams.
Alness Rhododendron Clearance
Bailiffs have started work to clear the banks of the Alness system of Rhododendron. Beginning withe the clearance of a heavily infested a spawning tributary at Ardross castle.
Forestry Commission funding will cover 10 days of Conservation Volunteer time to assist the Bailiffs. The Conservation Volunteers will be working every Monday and Tuesday for the next month. More volunteers would be most welcome and anyone interested should email email@example.com for more information. No special skills are needed and there is the satisfaction of improving river habitat combined with fresh air and exercise.
After a days work
This week brought one of the most violent storms for many years to the North of Scotland. The broodstock collection at Loch na Croic is very dependent on weather and water flows. A rise in water is needed to draw fish into the trap. However if river levels threaten to overtop the trap then the trap must be cleared and closed, as the force of water through the trap would kill any fish in it. During the trapping period, in November and December the water levels are carefully watched and the trap often has to be fished at night if flooding threatens.
Trap in low flows Trap on Wednesday 5th of December
Heavy rain and snowmelt brought the Blackwater into flood on Tuesday night. Board staff cleared 60 fish from the trap around midnight before closing the trap to let the flood pass. The rain was then followed by very high winds through the night which cut off power to the pumps supplying water to the holdings tanks. An emergency pump was set up and staff called out again. Trees were blown down in front and behind the Landrover on the way to the trap requiring a chainsaw to cut it out. The backup generator was started and power restored to the pumps until powerlines were repaired the next evening. No fish were harmed during the making of this epic although the Landrover suffered some minor damage and Board staff gained a few more grey hairs.
The Partnership Against Wildlife Crime (PAWS) has produced a mobile phone app which can be used to record and report wildlife crime to the police. As well as reporting other forms of wildlife crime this provides a new way of reporting salmon poaching and illegal fishing. Details of the app can be found on the link below
Follow the link below for details of the first sea trout recorded spawning in the River Peffery upstream of the Strathpeffer weir since a fish pass was installed this summer.
The native trees that were planted along the banks of the Orrin this spring are growing very well. The Rhododendron which previously covered the entire river has now been felled and any regrowth sprayed each year. The Woodland Trust supplied native trees to replace the rhododendron, they were planted by bailiffs with the help of the Dingwall Environment Group and The Conservation Volunteers. Further work by Fairburn Estate away from the river bank is helping to bring about a catchment scale removal of Rhododendron.
During the 1970’s UDN (Ulcerative Dermal Necrosis) killed tens of thousands of salmon returning to Scottish Rivers. Although much research took place at the time no causal agent was ever identified. Over the last few years there have been reports of fish with similar symptoms from around Scotland. A centre for investigating this disease has been set up at Stirling University. Trust staff were trained in carrying out the detailed autopsy work which the investigation requires. This week thanks to a vigilant ghillie we were able to autopsy a diseased fish from the Conon. For sampling, the fish needed to show the characteristic lesions around the head but not to be heavily infected with fungus, it also had to freshly killed to provide blood samples and tissue samples from all the major internal organs. There have been a number of reports of diseased fish from the Conon this year but as water temperatures increase the risk of an outbreak spreading should decrease.
Trout fishing the hill lochs around the Cromarty Firth provides some excellent sport and great exercise. There is very little information available on this very under used resource and we would like to collect more information about the trout stocks of our region. Each loch is unique and contains stocks of fish which have been isolated for 10,000 years. Some lochs contain amazing numbers of small trout, others have very few but large fish and others may also have arctic char. Anglers can help increase our understanding of the fish stocks of the region by recording their catches online at www.anglingdiary.org.uk .
If anglers collect scales from trout they catch we can gain even more information and on growth rates and population structure.
Staff from the Cromarty Firth Fishery Trust helped to organise and run a Dingwall Environment Group Wildlife Day. The event was very popular and had a series of guided walks looking at local wildlife including; plants, birds, moths and mammals.
There was an electro-fishing session as well as kick sampling in the Peffery. This gave an opportunity to demonstrate some of the river conservation work the Board and Trust carry out, as well as the fish and invertebrates which benefit from it. Trout, eels, salmon and lamprey were caught during the electro-fishing session.
Two winters ago volunteers from the Dingwall Environment Group and The Conservation Volunteers planted local willow cuttings and alders along bare banks of the Peffery. After two growing seasons the trees are now well established. The trees are now providing shelter, shading and feed for the fish in the river. The roots will help stabilise the banksides and reduce erosion.
Large scale planting with native trees would help to restore habitat and productivity in many rivers in the Cromarty Firth region particularly in over-grazed upper catchments.