Sea Trout Regulations Monitoring Plan
Should the Scottish Government agree with the River Annan District Salmon Fishery Board it is essential that the outcome of the regulation is monitored and reported upon. The order sought would last for a five year period which should give a significant boost to the number of spawning fish in the Annan catchment. It is important that we monitor the effect this has, not just on the numbers of fish present but also the secondary effects. We should also be aware that there may be unforeseen impacts which the Board may have to respond to.
As the rod catch tool has been used as the prime indicator for the need for action the same tool will be used on an annual basis to monitor changes in fishery abundance. It should however be noted that there will be a lag between the spawning of additional fish released as result of the order and the resultant juveniles smolting and coming back to spawn as mature fish. The first of these additional mature fish (herling/finnock) will not be seen until at least three years have elapsed and any increases in the numbers of larger 1SW fish will not be seen until year four at the earliest. There should be a small increase in the numbers of fish year on year throughout the catch and release period due to the high survival of sea trout kelts to spawn again and again. This may not be apparent in total numbers of fish but may be apparent in an increase in larger (4lb plus) multi-spawning fish.
In addition to the recording of rod catch net fisheries will also be asked to record the numbers of fish that they are releasing. Not all of these will be Annan fish but it is hoped that there will be similar increases over time to those that we hope for in the rod fishery.
Juvenile numbers will continue to be monitored throughout the catchment, although there are intrinsic difficulties in determining whether the trout found in surveys are destined to be migratory or resident. Electrofishing can be a very coarse tool though as it is only a tiny snap shot of a whole population. Whether or not there is any evidence of recordable increases in juvenile numbers remains to be seen. Small increases in these tiny snap shots when magnified across a large catchment can be significant but whether or not these increases are noticeable amongst the normal annual variation (caused by environmental factors as well as adult spawner abundance) remains to be seen.
Compliance is something which will have to be monitored carefully and any one breaking the regulation prosecuted. The Head Water Bailiff is already briefing local police officers in the wildlife crime unit of potential breaches and good relations are in place. The Board does not feel that the policing of the net fishery will be a big issue as there is a limited number of places where fish can be landed. Resources will be stretched on the river though as there are a multitude of places where anglers can arrive and depart. Consideration will be given to determine whether the Board needs to bolster the bailiffing team.
This is a conservation measure that will still allow people to visit the area and partake of recreational fishing. We already have a good handle on the numbers of day visitors using the river as almost all of the booking is online. We will regularly contact all fisheries throughout the period to monitor the numbers of season and syndicate anglers taking permits. We do not envisage a significant drop in visitor numbers as many have already left due to the lack of sea trout in the river. If, as we hope, the numbers of fish start increasing towards the end of the five year period we may well see an increase in the numbers of visitors as most anglers would rather catch fish and put them back than be allowed to kill fish on a fishery where the chances of catching one are slim.