Fish on the River Annan

The brown trout (Salmo trutta) is a fish native to the UK and there are both freshwater populations and migratory populations known as sea trout. Brown Trout are present throughout the Annan with fish found on the tidal limit near to the Solway and in the majority of small streams and burns which feed the main river and its tributaries. They thrive in smaller burns of no more than a few feet in width but will only grow to a size that their habitat and environment will allow, there are parts of the system where there are small populations that have remained genetically unchanged since the last ice age as in these areas there are no ways for other strains of trout (migratory or non-migratory) to reach these areas through upstream migration due to natural obstructions, 


 

Trout (Salmo trutta)

Brown Trout
Brown Trout

Image: N Chisholm

Sea Trout
Sea Trout

Image: River Annan Trust

Brown Trout
Brown Trout

Image: River Annan Trust

Brown Trout
Brown Trout

Image: N Chisholm

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although it is possible for fish to move out of these areas due to some downstream migration.Barriers that are natural or manmade remain the biggest obstacle for upstream and sometimes downstream migration of brown trout and sea trout as although populations may exist above manmade barriers they can be small and self-populating and lack the genetic diversity which they wouldget from breeding brown trout moving upstream to spawn. This is particularly true with regards to returning sea trout not being able to reach potentially good spawning habitat which will reduce the amount of sea going trout that the river is capable of producing.


Sea trout are the migratory form of brown trout which at a point during the juvenile stage the young fish will smolt and migrate downstream towards the estuary and into the open sea where it will remain and feed until it is time to return to the river to spawn, this usually occurs after one winter at sea but there are countless combinations in terms of how long a trout will remain in freshwater before smolting and how long a sea trout will remain at sea before returning to spawn. Many of the trout that migrate to sea are female and the fast growth rates they can achieve within coastal waters are beneficial to egg production as the larger the fish the more eggs they can produce. The males do not necessarily benefit from being large and during spawning the fertilization of sea trout eggs may be carried out by resident brown trout, sea trout or sometimes small precocious parr.  
Trout spawn in the autumn in gravel streams by cutting redds in the gravel to deposit their ova into and once fertilized the redd is covered over and left for the ova to develop. The development of the ova is temperature dependant but the trout fry emerge from the gravel sometime in the spring and at this point they are constantly looking for food. Trout feed on many of the invertebrates found in small streams and burns and quickly double their size over the first summer at which point they are referred to as parr. Trout favour a different habitat to young salmon and prefer plenty of bankside cover and water depth in the form of small pools. Because of this preference for different habitat and provided both trout and salmon habitat is present then both trout and salmon can happily co-exist.

River Annan Photos?

 

Have you taken any photos of the River Annan (scenic or wildlife)? If you would like to share them with us we would be happy to put them on our site.

 

email:

Invasives@annanfisheryboard.co.uk

 

 

The Annan catchment has a very diverse fish population with many of the fish species present being at or near to their northern limits. Much of the diversity is due to introductions although many of these introductions happened so long ago that the species present have naturalised into the native community. 

 

Click on the species name to find out more about it:

 

 

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* Bullheads have recently been found in the Kirtle Water and may indeed by native. See the bullhead section for more details.

Native:  

Non Native:  

Fisheries Office
Annandale Estates, St Ann's
Lockerbie
Tel: 01576 470600

Mobile: 07710331079
Email:

director@annanfisheryboard.co.uk

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Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)

The salmon is a fish that inhabits clean and well oxygenated streams and rivers throughout the UK and they are present in good numbers within the Annan system, juvenile salmon are present all year round and make up the majority of the salmon population at any one time. In spring when the young salmon first emerge from the egg (ova) they are known as alevins and at this stage, with an “egg sac” attached to it to provide it with food, they remain lying in the gravel for about a month after hatching. Once they emerge from the gravel with their “egg sac” used up they are then known as fry which is the first free moving and feeding stage of the life cycle. Salmon hatch in large numbers overpopulating their habitat, as a result of this only the fitter and stronger survive 

Salmon Parr
Salmon Parr

Image: River Annan Trust

Salmon from fry to Parr
Salmon from fry to Parr

Image: River Annan Trust

Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic Salmon

Salmon Parr
Salmon Parr

Image: River Annan Trust

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and during the first three months as many as 90% may die. By the end of the first summer salmon fry grow rapidly prior to their first winter, the following spring more fry populate the streams with the one year old salmon parr making up only a small percentage of the numbers at this time. As the salmon parr grow older each year their numbers are depleted by an urge to migrate leading to a process called smoltification and at this point they are commonly known as smolts, this usually happens after two years but can happen after one or as many as three plus years.
Smoltification is a physiological process undergone by salmonid (salmon and trout) fish to allow them to migrate from freshwater to seawater as part of their lifecycle which involves morphological, biochemical and behavioural changes, including development of the silvery colour and a tolerance for saltwater. After they enter the sea they become known as post smolts as they begin their journey to their north Atlantic feeding grounds where they will remain for at least their first winter. Salmon returning after spending one winter at sea (one sea winter) are known as grilse, their size varies depending on food availability at the feeding grounds and the time at which they choose to migrate for breeding, summer grilse may be anything from a few pounds up to six or seven pounds in weight and autumn grilse migrating in October and November may even reach double figures although from an angling point of view a grilse is considered a fish of up to 7lb. Two sea winter fish are much larger and this dramatically increases egg carrying capacity as the larger the fish the more eggs they can produce (approx. 1500 per kilo). Salmon can remain at sea for more than two sea winters as can they spawn more than once (often as a grilse and then later as a two or three sea winter fish) in fact between the freshwater and saltwater life stages there are countless variations in terms of age and migration times from salmon ova that have hatched in any one year, this is and can be a huge advantage to the salmon population as any one event (pollution, disease or lack of feeding) is highly unlikely to either wipe out or significantly impact on the population in the long term.
Within the river catchment salmon are constantly at threat from sources of pollution and man-made interference, on the downstream migration man-made barriers can slow down the passage of smolts which in turn can increase losses due to predation. Changes in habitat from poor land management also has an impact as does the way in which our rivers are sometimes managed or in some cases mismanaged,  gravel extraction can destroy active salmon redds if done at the incorrect time but can also destroy potential spawning areas and fry habitat if done at all. As adult salmon return on their upstream migration the presence of man-made barriers can be an obstruction (in some cases completely preventing upstream migration) and cause unnecessary damage to the fish although exploitation does remain as the greatest local threat to adult salmon through commercial and illegal netting as well as angling and smaller scale poaching.
The Atlantic salmon is a fish of great importance to the local economy and either directly or in directly we all have a part to play in either its continued survival or its decline.

Chub (Leuciscus cephalus)

Bream (Abramis brama)

Common Bream
Common Bream

Image: N Chisholm

Common Bream
Common Bream

Image: River Annan Trust

Common Bream
Common Bream

Image: N Chisholm

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Chub
Chub

Image: D Monckton

Chub
Chub

Image: D Monckton

Chub
Chub

Image: D Monckton

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The population of chub is long standing and there is no clear idea as to when they appeared, they have certainly been present in angler catches since the early 20th century and probably have been present long before then. They are present within all the rivers that enter the inner Solway (Eden, Esk, Kirtle and Annan) so the introduction may have been to any one of these rivers followed by a colonisation through the Solway (which has extremely low salinity at certain times). Interestingly the Environment Agency regards the chub as fully native and if so there could be a case for regarding the Annan population as native as opposed to non-native. In the River Annan they are widespread and relatively common but largely confined to the lower and middle sections and some of the stillwaters that are connected to the river. Very occasional fish are reported by anglers fishing the upper parts of the river but here they would be regarded as very rare.

The population of chub is long standing and there is no clear idea as to when they appeared, they have certainly been present in angler catches since the early 20th century and probably have been present long before then. They are present within all the rivers that enter the inner Solway (Eden, Esk, Kirtle and Annan) so the introduction may have been to any one of these rivers followed by a colonisation through the Solway (which has extremely low salinity at certain times). Interestingly the Environment Agency regards the chub as fully native and if so there could be a case for regarding the Annan population as native as opposed to non-native. In the River Annan they are widespread and relatively common but largely confined to the lower and middle sections and some of the stillwaters that are connected to the river. Very occasional fish are reported by anglers fishing the upper parts of the river but here they would be regarded as very rare.

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio)

Common Carp
Common Carp

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

Common Carp
Common Carp

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

Common Carp
Common Carp

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

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Grayling (Thymallus thymallus)

Grayling
Grayling

Image: D Monckton

Grayling
Grayling

Image: D Monckton

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Grayling are thought to have been introduced to the River Annan in the late 19th century at a similar time to the introductions of fish into the Nith, Clyde and Tweed systems. They are abundant on the river throughout their range but now appear to be absent North of a railway viaduct at Cogries, north of Johnstonebridge. There is good anecdotal evidence that they were present above here both in the main river and the Moffat Water as recently as the early 1980s.

Carp were a popular stew pond fish (probably the most popular) but there is no evidence that the Carp population on still waters in the Annan catchment is very old. The earliest confirmed record of a stocking was into Castle Loch in the late 70s. Since then the popularity of Carp as a coarse fish quarry species has lead to populations springing up throughout the catchment in still waters. Although they appear to breed in many of these stillwaters every year, there seems to be little evidence of the fry surviving their first winter. Rarely these fish are caught in the river as adults that have almost certainly escaped from one of the Lochs.

Perch (Perca fluviatilis)

Roach (Rutilus rutilus)

Perch
Perch

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

Perch
Perch

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

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Roach
Roach

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

Roach
Roach

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

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Perch are locally common on the slower parts of the river and in most of the stillwaters in the catchment. They are probably present in more stillwaters than are recorded at present but there are no records currently to confirm or refute this.

Roach are found in most of the stillwaters in the lower Annan catchment with a few in the north. They are probably more abundant than is thought but as they live in areas that are not easy to sample and angling effort is very low the exact distribution is not clear. They are found in the slower parts of the middle river and are almost certainly breeding but very few are caught.

Three-spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Male in breeding colours
Male in breeding colours

Image: River Annan Trust

Male in breeding colours
Male in breeding colours

Image: River Annan Trust

Three Spined Stickleback
Three Spined Stickleback

Image: northeastwildife.co.uk

Male in breeding colours
Male in breeding colours

Image: River Annan Trust

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European Flounder (Platichthys flesus)
 

Juvenile Flounder
Juvenile Flounder

Image: River Annan Trust

Juvenile Flounder
Juvenile Flounder

Image: River Annan Trust

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These fish are found throughout the river system and although they are more common in the lowland areas they are also present in most of the upland burns, albeit as infrequent samples in electrofishing surveys. These fish are nest builders, with most of the work being done by the male. They attract females to the nest with their bright red throat/belly and by performing a zig zag courtship dance. The male will protect the eggs on his own until they have hatched usually about 4 weeks later.

Flounder are commonly found on the lower tidal stretches of the Annan and the coastal burns within the Annan catchment from both juvenile to adult stage. The larger adult flounder are occasionally caught in these areas by anglers while juveniles are often found during electrofishing surveys. In its life cycle, an adult flounder has two eyes situated on one side of its head, while at hatching one eye is located on each side of its brain. One eye migrates to the other side of the body during a process of metamorphosis as it grows from larval to juvenile stage. As an adult, a flounder changes its habits and camouflages itself by lying on the bottom as protection against predators.  As a result, the eyes are then on the side which faces up. 

Transformer & ammocoetes
Transformer & ammocoetes

Image: River Annan Trust The transformer (adult) - top - and ammocoetes (juvenile) stages of brook lamprey.

Transformer & ammocoetes
Transformer & ammocoetes

Image: River Annan Trust The transformer (adult) - top - and ammocoetes (juvenile) stages of brook lamprey.

Early stage of transformation
Early stage of transformation

Image: River Annan Trust

Transformer & ammocoetes
Transformer & ammocoetes

Image: River Annan Trust The transformer (adult) - top - and ammocoetes (juvenile) stages of brook lamprey.

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Brook Lamprey (Lampetra planeri)
 

Pike
Pike

Image: River Annan Trust

Pike
Pike

Image: River Annan Trust

Pike
Pike

Image: River Annan Trust

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Pike (Esox lucius)
 

 

Brook lampreys are abundant throughout the whole of the River Annan catchment and all its tributaries where suitable habitat is available for the ammocoetes (juvineille lamprey). Populations tend to be higher in the lowland areas of the river but occasional sightings are confirmed in some upland parts.

Pike are widespread in the slow flowing area of the middle river and in the stillwaters around Lochmaben and Kinmount. They appear infrequently in angler catches on the faster, lower part of the river. It is thought that these are fish which have become stranded from their 'parent' population as this part of the river is unsuitable for them.

Common Minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus)
 

Minnow
Minnow

Image: River Annan Trust

Minnow
Minnow

Image: River Annan Trust

Minnow
Minnow

Image: River Annan Trust

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Bullheads
Bullheads

Image: River Annan Trust

Bullheads
Bullheads

Image: River Annan Trust

Bullheads
Bullheads

Image: River Annan Trust

Bullheads
Bullheads

Image: River Annan Trust

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Bullhead (Cottus gobio)
 

 

The minnow is widespread throughout the river and may have been introduced in the whole of the river or it may be native. They have certainly been introduced into parts of the system (Loch Skeen for example). The numbers tends to be higher in the lowland tributaries but they are also found in upland environments where there are no obstructions (unless moved above those obstructions by people). Minnows live in groups or shoals and feed on plant debris, algae and invertebrates. They spawn between April and June, making there way upstream to the shallow gravely river bed. Minnows are an important food source for a number of larger fish species (such as brown trout) as well as many water birds such like the king fisher.

Bullheads were previously thought to not be native to the River Annan. However in 2013 a population was discovered in the Kirtle Water. It is not clear if they have migrated naturally or have been introduced by people. Bullheads are native to other rivers in the Solway such as the Eden and Border Esk and although this species is not known for making significant migrations published reports from Scandinavia suggest that some movement in brackish water may be possible. Bullheads outside of their native range are often invasive and can dominate fish communities at the expense of native species. In their native range they are regarded as an important species which indicate a healthy naturalness of a river.Bullheads have a preference for fast flowing streams and medium sized rivers and are easily recognisable by its large head and tapering body. They are normally 6-8cm in length with a brown mottled colouration. They usually feed on small invertebrates and crustaceans living at the bottom of the river. 

Eels are widespread but scarce throughout all the River Annan area of management are more common closer to the estuary. Most of the eel captures further up the river are made up of old and relatively large eels (>30cm). As the electrofishing surveys do not target eels directly, proper distribution is not possible to assess. On some of the stillwaters around Lochmaben anglers report capturing high numbers of eels whilst targeting other species but they are probably present in most of the stillwaters in the area.

Eels migrate between freshwater and the sea but unlike the salmonids eels breed at sea. It is thought that the entire population of European eels migrates to an area of the North Atlantic, probably the Sargasso Sea to breed. Young eels are carried by Atlantic currents back to Europe where they will enter freshwater to grow and mature (although sometimes they will remain in estuaries and coastal waters instead) before starting the cycle over again.

Eel populations have declined by as much as 90% and are listed as critically endanged.

European Eel (Anguilla Anguilla)
 

Eels
Eels

Image: River Annan Trust

Eels
Eels

Image: River Annan Trust

Eels
Eels

Image: River Annan Trust

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Get your copy of the Fisherman's Guide to the River Annan