Castle Huntly has defended its decision to take prisoners fly fishing.
The open prison ran courses in angling, which culminated in a trip for inmates to try out their new skills at a loch.
However, North-East Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said: “I’m all for rehabilitating prisoners before they come back into society, and it’s good to have a hobby, but many will be appalled.”
Scottish charity Angling for Youth Development ran the course and the eight prisoners who took part in the first fly-fishing trip each paid the £13 cost from their own money.
Mary Stewart, head of offender outcomes at HMP Open Estate Huntly, said: “Some individuals who come to prison have only ever lived criminal lifestyles and don’t have the normal pursuits and hobbies that give access to social company.
“Even people who have taken time in prison to do courses, engage with the regime and have good intentions of turning their lives around can be influenced by their criminal mates on the outside.
“If we can replace offending with hobbies that include developing good family ties and contacts, I’m sure the Scottish public would like to see that in place, especially since this was at no cost to the tax payer.
“The course has been hugely successful and we have had a lot of feedback about people going home and taking their kids fishing.”
The course started in August and finished with the trip in September, and only prisoners who were coming to the end of their sentences were invited to take part.
Ms Stewart added: “It is fantastic for team building, really brilliant for learning and making them think about how they can interact with their family once they get out.”
The course was “oversubscribed” and there is enough interest to run the course three more times.
She said the course had been very positive and has inspired some to join angling clubs outside the prison, and one prisoner is looking into possible apprenticeships in fishing and conservation.
She added two former prisoners have also volunteered to help teach the skill to current prisoners, and with careful risk assessment the prison is looking into how they can get the children of some prisoners involved in the activity during special visits.