The Dee has over 2000 km of rivers and streams, the majority of which support salmon and trout.

Most of the Dee’s rivers and burns, as well as the main stem itself, contain abundant juvenile salmon and trout. They are found in burns down to just half a metre wide, though they are well camouflaged and usually hidden between stones. Generally, abundance of juvenile salmon depends on whether adult salmon have free passage to an area, and the quality of the habitat.

It is vital to keep track of the health of our fish populations as fish are a great indicator of the general health of the river. We undertake monitoring of salmon and trout numbers within the catchment at various stages of their life cycle, to help validate stock status and identify where issues are occurring.

Redd counts - number of spawning fish

Female salmon lay their eggs in a gravelly redd which they dig themselves. Each autumn River Office staff count these redds to help understand the number of adult spawners who have returned to the river.

We have spawning fish in the Dee from just above the tidal limit, all the way into the headwaters in the Cairngorms. As a rule of thumb, we expect the early running fish to spawn in the highest reaches of the catchment, while later running fish will spawn further downstream. Mid November is the peak of the spawning activity on the Dee.

Redd counts review

Read the 2020 Redd Count Report

Electrofishing - fry and parr

Sites in the upper Dee tributaries have been electrofished since 2013. Data gathered during the annual surveys are essential for monitoring juvenile fish populations and distribution in the upper reaches. The Upper Dee Riparian Scheme UDRS was developed to help offset the effects of climate change and to help establish shade and shelter for juvenile salmon. The study also monitors water temperatures, which remain a long term threat to salmon. The summer of 2018 was a particular concern as water temperatures on certain upland tributaries approached dangerous levels.

Upper Dee Riparian Scheme: 2019 Electrofishing Results

Trapping and tracking - smolts

The production of smolts is central to the work of the Dee Board and Trust. Recent poor seasons have given everyone cause for concern, particularly the fate of our smolts as they begin their long journey from the river through the harbour and estuary to the open sea. This early part of the smolts’ journey has been shown to result in high mortality rates in other systems and it is crucial we discover what is happening on our own doorstep.

We use rotary screw traps to monitor the number of smolts in lower catchments tributaries - the Beltie and Sheeoch Burns. Combined with the long-term monitoring by Marine Scotland Science on the Girnoch and Baddoch Burns we are developing a picture of smolt production across the catchment.

Read about smolt production between 2016-2019.

Recently, to investigate the migration of salmon smolts in the River Dee and harbour, we have used acoustic tagging and tracking. Between the years 2016-2019, we trapped thousands of smolts to help us better understand smolt production and to find out more about the perils they face in the early stages of their migration to the sea.

Read about smolt migration through the river and harbour here.

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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