Wild fisheries groups – including the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards (ASFB), the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland (RAFTS) and the Salmon and Trout Association (S&TA) – have launched a campaign aimed at maximising the survival rate for salmon released back into the water by anglers. “Catch and release”, which has been promoted widely since the 1990s to help conserve stocks, now accounts for two thirds of all salmon caught by anglers in Scotland and for the more fragile spring stock component, over 80%.
Brian Davidson, Operations Director for ASFB and RAFTS, said: “Numerous studies including radio-tracking have shown that salmon released by anglers after capture have high survival rates with successful spawning. Releasing the salmon they catch is probably the greatest contribution that anglers can make to the conservation of this iconic species. The critical factor determining the survival rate, which in some conditions can be close to 100%, is the way that fish are handled, particularly in minimising the time if any that fish are out of the water”.
Paul Knight, CEO of the S&TA, added: “The evidence is clear that when the correct advice is followed, the overwhelming majority of fish released make a full recovery. The leaflet now being distributed – ‘Catch and Release: An Angler’s Guide’ – gives explicit advice on best practice. ‘Catch and release’ is often characterised as ‘throwing’ fish back. This unfortunate term could hardly be further from the reality as careful handling, without if possible removing the fish from the water, is crucial”.
The leaflet, which is now being distributed extensively through angling organisations and fishing beats across Scotland, offers simple and clear guidance for anglers who intend to release fish. The Catch and Release guidance campaign has been prompted by evidence of some poor handling techniques including images on the internet and in magazines of fish being held up by the tail or by the gills.
The leaflet has also been supported by the Environment Agency in England and the fishing tackle companies Hardy of Alnwick and Greys of Alnwick.