Crowds line Dee for first cast of the year

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Crowds lined the banks of the River Dee this week as a lone piper sounded to mark the start of the new salmon season.

Around 250 people gathered at the Potarch Bridge on Monday, February 2, to watch as the first line was cast by Martin Gilbert.

Mr Gilbert, chief executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, was guest of honour at the opening ceremony. He had previously expressed his confidence in the River Dee by committing considerable sums to the future of the North-east’s leading salmon river.

Pupils from Kincardine O’Neil Primary School were also in attendance to mark the occasion.

Mark Bilsby, river director of the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board (DDSFB) and the River Dee Trust, said: “October 3, 2014 was historic for the Dee. That day the first salmon ascended the Culter Dam in over 250 years, made possible by a fish pass we had installed on the dam just days earlier. This was funded entirely by the generosity of Martin Gilbert and Stewart Spence, owner of the Marcliffe Hotel.”

The Culter Dam, by Peterculter, is the largest man-made obstruction in the Dee’s catchment. The fish pass has opened up 76 miles of habitat in the previously inaccessible Culter burn for migratory salmon and sea trout to re-establish natural populations in. Once habitat restoration work is completed in the Culter catchment, the DDSFB expects to see an additional 1,500 adult salmon returning to the Dee each year.

Mr Bilsby added: “We are most grateful for Martin Gilbert’s willingness to invest in the Dee and the future of its salmon. In this context it is noteworthy that he has also invested directly in the river with his recent purchase of the Tilbouries fishing beat on the lower Dee, further underlining his positive view of the river’s future prospects. This is particularly encouraging after two years of disappointing catches – in common with most of the rest of Scotland.

“At the start of a new salmon angling season we remain optimistic that salmon numbers and catches will soon bounce back.”

Following the start of the season on Monday, Police Scotland have reminded the public about the impact of wildlife crime.

It is anticipated that high numbers of people will visit the local area to enjoy fishing, river sports or simply to take in the landscapes.

Wildlife Crime Liaison Officer PC Mike Whyte said: “Operation Salmo has been running successfully for several years now and was launched to tackle salmon poaching as well as river crime in a variety of formats including rod and line to organised and travelling groups who often travel from outwith the area to net the rivers.

“Working with the river bailiffs and various partner agencies our enquiries will include night and day time patrols and visits to fish selling premises.”

If you witness anything suspicious contact Police on 101.