Adult fish returning to the river to spawn all need: 1) to not be impacted by coastal business and developments, 2) passage through the catchment which is free of barriers and obstructions, 3) varied habitat in the river to remain while waiting to spawn, and 4) suitable spawning habitat which will ensure the successful hatching of their eggs.

Rod catches

Rod catches of salmon generally reflect the numbers of salmon in the river each year and so can provide a picture of the health of the adult stock (see rod catch figure below): There has been a long-term decline between the 1960s and 1990s, which mainly affected spring salmon stocks. At the turn of this century, stocks of summer/autumn salmon improved, whilst spring salmon remained stable. However, since 2010, rod catches have shown a general decline.

It is important to recognise that the Dee - like most rivers - has different stocks of salmon, which genetic testing is just starting to decipher (you can read more in our bulletin: 2015 Fish Stocks Explained). This means we have to protect and conserve salmon and their habitat across the entire catchment to maintain a healthy genetic diversity in the salmon. This is essential for them to be able to respond successfully to the challenges of climate change, pollution and other threats.

Over recent decades, mortality of salmon at sea has increased: In the 1960s, 40% of smolts successfully made their ocean journey and returned to the river, whereas in recent years only around 5% of smolts survive. More and more evidence is linking this reduction in survival with large-scale climate changes, a factor which we have limited control of. To protect our salmon stocks therefore, our attention is focused on ensuring the River Dee habitat is the best quality it can be. This will result in the highest number of juvenile fish growing to become fit and healthy smolts that successfully migrate and return to the river to leave another generation of fish.

Read our Aberdeenshire Dee Fisheries Management Plan 2015 2018


Salmon spawn in the Dee in late autumn and early winter, and at this time we carry out surveys of spawning ‘redds’ on a weekly basis, which gives us a chance to gauge next year’s production (see our redd counting review). It is also useful to compare with the rod catch information as well as highlighting any important changes such as in timing of spawning.

A Million Trees to Save Our Salmon

January 30, 2020

The River Dee Trust has announced plans to plant a million native trees in one of the biggest nature restoration projects in the Cairngorms. The project will recreate areas of landscape that have been lost for 2000 years.

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