Salmon Beat Predation Management
By Jock Monteith 5th June 2018
There's no point waiting for the unattainable & ever changing 'scientific evidence' to be produced from the cash sapping quangos that are in charge of wild Atlantic salmon stocks in Scotland. If you're a beat ghillie and want to do some real good then you can do just that as there are old redundant yet 'highly effective' individual salmon beat management methods that will 'logically' make a difference to returning adult salmon numbers on your beat.
Protect & Develop Your Own Salmon Beat
Unwitnessed by most professional ghillie's in Scotland is an old method that used to be a normal nightly practice on the Tay during the low water Summer nights which completely shocked me the first time I saw this in the mid 70's as a youngster. This predation control practice was fishing for 'cannibal' trout through the night with salmon 'harling' rods rigged up with small 'salt toughened' natural fish baits which would be trailed out behind the boat and fished slowly off the oars between the hours of 11pm and 4am. Sure these are anti-social hours but there's more anti social issues in being eventually switched to part time money from full time income so please read carefully the following facts.
The Salmon Predation Imbalance
One of the main reasons salmon runs are so inconsistent these days is due to their being a huge imbalance of predation on the Tay and most other Scottish salmon rivers whether people agree with that or not. I've seen enough to know that massive amounts of goosander, merganser and cormorant 'rafts' are working most River Tay beats on a daily basis. While it's illegal to kill these birds without a very difficult to obtain license I'd doubt if it's illegal to take a shot to scare them away which will go a long way to deter them from coming back to your beat. In the old days on the Tay I always recall a 12 bore being present in the boat and many almost impossible shots taken to scare more than to kill. That issue aside there's a much bigger and unseen predator lurking undetected on all Scottish salmon beats which has mainly gone completely unchecked for the last 5 decades!
Big Cannibal Brown Trout Predation
When wild brown trout reach to a certain size it switches its dietary requirements from mainly fly life to 100% fish life and we've all caught big trout on salmon lures on occasion so there's no denying that fact. I'm not referring here to the beautiful spotted dry or wet fly taking specimen trout of the Scottish rivers that range between half a pound to 2lbs that are a true delight to catch and release on a trout rod. I'm referring to the big headed dark coloured salmon parr assassin 'cannibal' trout that sits completely unnoticed during the day in it's own territorial lair until the light starts to fade before awakening for it's nightly feed like Count Dracula!
Keep Cannibal Trout Numbers In Check
These cannibal trout used to be targeted on a massive scale by the professional men of the Tay and here's a link to my first encounter of this once common practice salmon beat management drill. The problem now is that these fish are thriving in every salmon beat and haven't been thinned out for many decades. Not only are they systematically destroying vast amounts of salmon fry, parr & smolts but any other form of fish life is on their hit list too. If you work the numbers with a pocket calculator even based on a 4 salmon parr daily diet you'll see exactly that by taking only one of these brutes out of your beat has the potential to retain 1500 salmon parr in your beat the following year! You take a dozen of them out then look at an estimate of a 5% oceanic adult salmon return and that should make you really start thinking!
Fish For Cannibal Trout And See For Yourself
I fully understand that this article will be read and that few will want to act upon any of this but for many professional salmon men in Scotland this was part of their career duties as the custodian of their salmon beat and so it should be retried if any professional is serious about the management & security of his own individual juvenile salmon stock retention and is completely fed up relying on others who're bogged down deep in the 'evidence based' scientific enigma! If you've any doubt about what's contained in that above link then I dare you to try it just the once!
Try This Predation Control And Be Shocked
The explosive action you'll witness if you do venture out from anytime now to the end of August will blow you're mind if you've the patience and faith to keep going slowly on the oars through to around 4am. When these brutes come on the feed you'll witness multiple rods buckling at once so have spare baits ready for quick instant change over hanging on the gunwales and a colleague in the boat to assist in landing them with the net. These predators only feed for 30 minutes anywhere between 11pm & 4am before they'' switch off and it'll all go quiet again so it's important you understand this hard fact as the lead in hours to action can often be long! This was a predation control lesson I learned early in my salmon fishing career and I know of cannibal trout of up to 19 pounds that were previously taken out of the Tay at Dunkeld. They'll still be present to that size and make no mistake about that fact but you'll find their average size is between 3lbs & 5lbs.
Work Smart With Your Own Salmon Beat Management
If you're a ghillie and you love your river career then what I've mentioned here is probably the most effective measure you can personally take to increase your individual salmon beat's wild smolt output. Try this and keep a record of your success and then think to yourself how much benefit you're adding to your own salmon stocks and the concept will grow in your mind for certain. If you want to go a step further then rake off the silt from your main known salmon redds during the the low water periods of late Summer or early Autumn which again was common practice by the career professionals of the old brigade! Everything counts these days for salmon stocks so relying on no one except for yourself is the smartest approach for the optimisation of your own beat's juvenile outputs and returning adult salmon.