Brighter prospects for Dee fish numbers

Assessing young fish numbers on the River Dee
Assessing young fish numbers on the River Dee

Who on Deeside can forget the events of December, 2015, when the Dee valley experienced the most devastating flood in its history?

The impact of Storm Frank on homes and livelihoods was immense and the effects are still felt acutely.

Young fish numbers are recovering

Young fish numbers are recovering

Houses, shops and businesses were flooded and local people were evacuated, taking refuge at Victoria Barracks.

Images of caravans being washed under the bridge in Ballater and the buckled footbridge at Cambus O’ May show that it was a mercy no lives were lost.

For those working on the river, particularly in the salmon fishery, it was also a worrying time, more so as the storm struck just weeks after the spawning salmon had laid their eggs in the river and tributaries.

What impact would it have, on the fish population, and the fishery?

Assessing the strength of juvenile fish numbers is a key component of the River Dee Trust’s programme of work to understand and improve the river.

From July into early September is a particularly busy time for field officer Pamela Esson and her team, as they carry out one of the key activities of the year - electrofishing.

Electrofishing is the trust’s primary means of assessing young fish numbers, as it enables them to capture and count all the fish in a stream, and while the results have yet to be fully analysed, Pamela is optimistic about this season’s figures.

She said: “It’s been a busy electrofishing season so far, with a few more weeks still to go.

“We do the full analysis in the winter but the main message is that things are much brighter this year with salmon and sea trout fry numbers.”

“This time last year fry numbers took a hit and were quite disappointing– we had a quarter of the number of previous years’ fry.

She added: “One theory could be an after effect of Storm Frank washing eggs out of the river bed the previous winter.

“So, this year I’m very happy to see the river in recovery with an increase in fry numbers from last year.

“The older juveniles of salmon and trout seem to be healthy in number and holding own.”

The data from this work shapes the trust’s annual stock assessment report.

The trust employs seasonal staff to assist with the programme. Anyone interested should contact the river office on 01339 880411 or email info@riverdee.org