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Tight line celebrations launch salmon season on River Tay

The parade before the opening led by Perth and District pipe band Pipe Major Alistair Duthie and Claire Mercer Nairne (of Meikleour Fishing). Meikleour Fishing, Kinclaven Bridge, by Meikleour.
The parade before the opening led by Perth and District pipe band Pipe Major Alistair Duthie and Claire Mercer Nairne (of Meikleour Fishing). Meikleour Fishing, Kinclaven Bridge, by Meikleour.

Celebrations to mark the start of salmon season have been marred by a worrying decline in River Tay stocks.

“Tight line” toasts were held across Perthshire on Tuesday, with adventurer Polly Murray – the first woman to climb Everest – casting off at Meikleour, near Blairgowrie.

Polly Murray at Meikleour Fishing.

Traditional piper-led ceremonies were also held in Dunkeld and Kenmore.

The festivities were dampened by figures suggesting 2018 was one of worst years for catches since records began.

According to the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, the total for the season is somewhere between 4,500 and 5,000 – some 500 or more down on last year.

The summer heatwave, which dried up large sections of the river, has been blamed for dwindling numbers but experts have raised concerns that wider problems at sea could also be a major factor.

Simon Rutherford, from Lancashire, having a dram of whisky at the event.

Board chairman Iain McLaren said: “The start of the new salmon season is always a time for optimism.

“But this year that optimism is tempered with realism.”

He said: “The 2018 season was particularly challenging, with disappointing runs and – with the almost unbroken three month summer heatwave – very difficult fishing conditions.

“It is little comfort, but most of Scotland’s rivers are experiencing similar downturns.”

The salmon angling season returns to the Tay.

Dr David Summers, board director, added: “There can be little doubt that problems at sea, during the long migrations that our salmon undertake, are the root cause of declining runs and catches.

“The board and our anglers, who continue to be highly responsible in conservation matters, are doing all we can to maintain and enhance stocks in freshwater.

Polly Murray alongside Councillor Willie Wilson, depute provost of Perth and Kinross, performing the blessing of the river, with malt whisky.

“Obviously, we all hope that conditions at sea will improve and that this year we will see a return to a more normal pattern of weather and rainfall.”

Last year,  the board took action to address the plummeting numbers and asked anglers not to keep any fresh-run fish caught in the summer months.

The parade before the opening led by Perth and District pipe band.

Perth and District Junior Pipe Band took part in the river blessing at Kinclaven Bridge, hosted by Meikleour Fishings. Depute provost Willie Wilson performed the riverside ceremony.

Ms Murray, who had the honour of the symbolic first cast, presented the Malloch Trophy to Perth’s Philip Black for his monster salmon catch, weighing around 28lb.

Comedian Fred MacAulay led the celebrations at Kenmore, with backing from Vale of Atholl Pipe Band.

A similar celebration was hosted by Dunkeld House Hotel.

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