2017 Spawning Season Well Underway

November 15, 2017

November is a busy month for Dee salmon. We are in the peak of the spawning season and the team have been out and about counting redds. Just because the season is over doesn’t mean we are not thinking about salmon. We spend much of our time as anglers trying to outwit these wonderful fish, but by the late autumn our minds turn to a new generation of salmon as we enjoy one of nature’s great spectacles.  Watching the fish on the redds, completing the salmon’s incredible life cycle is a real privilege.  The purpose of the count is to help assess the abundance of spawners in the river each autumn.

 

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. The female fish, or hen, creates a nest for her eggs, known as a redd. She turns on her side and flexes her body rapidly knocking stones out of her way with her tail, over several hours, to create a depression in the gravel. This is known as ‘cutting’ the redd.  The males, or cock fish, fight for position and the successful ones move alongside a hen as she deposits her eggs and fertilises them with milt. She then covers the redd with stones.

Redds can be found in a range of locations; typically, we would expect to find them in pool tails where the water speed increases and the pool depth decreases and there is more gravel like material and loose stones for the fish to work with. These redds can be spotted and counted, if the water conditions are conducive. Our Fisheries Officers all have good eyes for the job and have been maintaining a weekly count of fourteen sites since October. Counting will go on for another few weeks and we will be able to compare the numbers with previous seasons.

River Dee Trust Manager, Dr Lorraine Hawkins, said, “I think this year’s spawning activity has been much better than in recent years. So far, the team have been upbeat about what they have observed. There have been a lot more fish in evidence in the upper reaches than in 2015 and 2016. Some of our key sites have shown a marked improvement, with the Clunie, Bynack Burn, Tanar, Quithel and Beltie sites all looking good.  The sites above Braemar seem to have peaked and there is a sense that the spawning season has been at least two weeks earlier this year than last. Further down the system spawning will peak soon and we will have a much clearer view of the overall picture by Christmas time when all the data is in."

Beat owner and Clerk to the Fishery Board, Lawrence Ross was similarly upbeat after joining the team on a count.

“I observed a very encouraging level of spawning activity - on the Clunie quite decently better than last year and in the main stem at least on a par with 2016. There were plenty of chunky fish - 20lb plus - in evidence.”

If you are interested in participating in a redd count, please get in touch with the River Office on 01339 880411 or by email to info@riverdee.org