Although in common with many other rivers in Scotland the Spey’s Atlantic salmon have been in steady decline for decades, dedicated monitoring and management of fish stocks led by Spey Fishery Board (SFB) has maintained the Spey in the highest Conservation category. Fisheries management is now guided by the Scottish Government’s Wild Salmon Strategy (2022).
Sustainable angling is now the norm, with a 98% catch and release rate indicating the commitment of the angling community, and angling is increasingly promoted to a wider audience including women and young people. The bailiff team work hard to clamp down on occasional occurrences of poaching and coastal netting.
Almost all projects delivered by SCI have improvements to fish habitat at their heart. Good progress has been made in opening up additional habitat by addressing barriers to passage of migratory fish at several locations.
Measures to tackle the major barrier to fish movement presented by Spey Dam have now begun with lighting installed inside the existing fish pass and plans in the pipeline for further works to enable fish to fully utilise the 15km of headwaters upstream. Two side channels have been reconnected to the main stem of the Spey providing 700m of potential spawning and refuge habitat. Large Woody Structures, a proven intervention to improve habitat quality, have been installed on three tributaries adding up to 5.6 km.
Examples of key successes from 2017 - 2021:
Improved fish access on the River Conglass
After installation of a fish ladder and modifications to the road culvert, migratory fish now have improved access to habitat upstream of this previous barrier in the Conglass sub-catchment.
Backwater reconnected leading to new Salmon spawning habitat
At Delagyle, around 700m of new habitat was opened up when this disconnected backwater channel on the Spey was reconnected to the river. Salmon were found to be spawning in it within a year of the project being completed.
Large woody structures added to River Calder to improve habitat
The River Calder, one of several sites where large pieces of dead wood have been secured in river channels to help create the diversity of physical habitats fish need for different life cycle stages. The ‘Large Woody Structures’ mimic natural deadwood which is lacking where the river banks are bare of trees.
Electro-fishing continues to provide an understanding of fish population changes throughout catchment
Regular monitoring of fish abundance and distribution continues to be carried out by SFB using various survey techniques including electro-fishing. Results have helped gain a better understanding of fish population dynamics throughout the catchment, essential for management decisions.