We have had little or no rain on Deeside for several weeks. Low water and sunshine has certainly frustrated our ghillies and anglers, but the low water levels have also hindered our work on the smolt traps. The rotary screw traps require reasonable water levels to operate effectively and the smolts also need water to stimulate them to migrate. River Office staff monitor the traps seven days a week, but most of the beautiful, silvery smolts are waiting on the rain before they migrate and are captured in the traps.
Each day we go to the traps and check them for fish. We record the water height and water temperature and the rotation of the drum on the trap. If we have fish, we weigh and measure up to fifty salmon and fifty sea trout smolts. We often capture many more and these are simply counted. We also count lamprey, eels and trout and salmon parr.
Of course, smolt captures change very quickly and once we get significant rain fall, it will be all hands on deck to process the all the fish we get in the traps. In the meantime we have been employing a fyke net to trap the few smolts migrating in the low flow conditions, but like the anglers we are still praying for rain!!
Our target this year is to tag a total of sixty smolts (thirty from the Beltie Burn and thirty from the Sheeoch Burn) and we are confident of doing that, even if it is in a concentrated burst of activity. We are specifically tagging smolts sized between 120 and 125 mm. Marine Scotland Science are also helping us by tagging 40 smolts that are captured in their Baddoch trap, in the upper catchment.
You can read all about the background to the study, and the 2016 findings here.
If you have any questions or queries about the project, please get in touch at