Fisheries bosses have announced tighter conservation laws at the start of the 2018 salmon season.
The traditional toast of “tight lines” was made by anglers at colourful ceremonies up and down the River Tay.
But Monday’s celebrations were marred by new figures suggesting the Tay’s worst salmon season since records began.
The river has experienced a marked declined in amounts of grilse, young salmon that has returned to fresh water after a single winter at sea.
Grilse are a traditional mainstay of fishing from July onwards. The river’s salmon catch between July and October was 3,196 compared to an annual average for this period over the previous 10 years of 6,502.
The Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board is taking action to address the plummeting numbers and has asked anglers not to keep any fresh-run fish caught in the summer months.
Interim chairman Iain McLaren said: “There is little doubt that we are experiencing a period of major changes in the Tay’s salmon runs. It is the board’s responsibility to act whenever necessary to protect and conserve our valuable wild salmon stocks.
“Accordingly, after due consideration and in line with the precautionary principle, we are introducing new restrictions or limits on the number of fish that anglers may kill in the summer and early autumn.”
He said: “Previously, we advised anglers not to keep any fish at all in the spring and no more that one fresh-run male grilse per day after June 1.
“As that could add up to a significant number over the season, we are asking anglers now to keep no more than the very occasional fresh-run fish during this period — unless of course, there happens to be a sudden recovery in grilse numbers this year.”
On the plus side, early running spring salmon are getting bigger. The mean weight of fish caught between January and March last year was 12.8lb.
That’s nearly 3lb heavier than the average weight at the turn of the millennium and suggests that the majority of salmon entering the river in the first three months of the year have spent three winters at sea, when previously two winters was the norm.
Comparable average weights to those recorded early last year have not been seen this consistently since the 1960s.
The new season was launched in traditional style at Meikleour boathouse, by Kinclaven Bridge.
The blessing of the boat and the river with a quaich of Glenturret whisky was performed by Perth and Kinross Provost Dennis Melloy.
Renowned UK and international fishing guide Marina Gibson had the honour of taking the first cast.