There was renewed optimism at “tight line” celebrations on the River Tay on Wednesday morning.
The new salmon season launched in traditional style, with piper-led ceremonies across Perthshire.
Songwriter Dougie Maclean performed the symbolic first cast at the early morning Meikleour Fishings event, hosted by the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board and Perth and Kinross Council, near Kinclaven Bridge.
Music star Maclean led a sing-a-long at the riverbank, with a rousing acoustic rendition of his biggest hit Caledonia.
Last year’s festivities were marred by figures suggesting 2018 was one of the worst years for salmon catches since records began.
While numbers are still tumbling, the board believes it has hatched a plan to help recover stocks for future generations of fishers.
Bosses have asked members to return all salmon they catch back into the water – a decision they stressed had not been taken lightly.
Speaking at the launch of the new season, chairman Iain McLaren said: “Recently, salmon runs on the Tay have been changing, with a notable decline in smaller fish being paralleled by increasing numbers of the largest age class of spring salmon in the early season, potentially offering anglers the chance of a ‘fish of a lifetime’ for less than the cost of a round of golf.
“But with overall numbers down, like most salmon populations across the species’ range in the North Atlantic, we all have responsibility to ensure that we maximise the chances of recovery.”
He said: “We decided to recommend that anglers return all fish safely during the coming season, thus ensuring that as many salmon as possible are able to continue their journeys upstream to spawn the next generation.
“We hope that all anglers and proprietors will heed this advice.”
Board director Dr David Summers added: “Many of the factors influencing our salmon numbers are essentially beyond our control, but we are doing everything within our power to arrest these stocks in decline and to protect and improve stocks of both adult and juvenile fish whilst they are in freshwater.
“Among other things, we have produced more salmon eggs than ever – over 1.1 million – in our unique salmon hatchery, and the increase in juveniles being produced in the River Garry, to which flow was restored only in 2017, is hugely encouraging.”
The Meikelour opening ceremony began with a procession by the Perth and District Junior Pipe Band, headed by pipe major Alistair Duthie.
The traditional blessing using a silver quaich of Glenturret single malt was perfomed by Perth and Kinross Provost Dennis Melloy.
Proceeds from fishing at Meikleour on opening day got to the charity Angling for Youth Development.
At the same time, celebrations were held at Kenmore with a riverbank procession led by the Vale of Atholl Pipe Band.