TAY SALMON anglers drove fishing boats at canoes and cast lines at children according to complaints made in the wake of this year’s Tay Descent.
The harassment allegedly took place in October as more than 400 paddle sports enthusiasts of all ages took part in the mass participation outing between Dunkeld and Perth.
Significant efforts were made by the Scottish Canoe Association (SCA) to avoid conflict with other river users, but it appears that failed to placate a minority of anglers.
The allegations led the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board to ask some Tay salmon anglers to apologise for their behaviour. Chairman Bill Jack made the call during the board’s annual meeting, at which he revealed the Perth and Kinross Access Forum had written a letter of complaint.
He condemned the actions of a few beat anglers who, the forum claimed, had harassed canoeists by casting lines and lures at and over canoes, some containing children.
It was also alleged that in one case a fishing boat was driven at canoes by Tay anglers.
The SCA had arranged for the 2012 Descent to take place after the end of the salmon season. Since its launch it has become one of the sport’s biggest participation events and contributes a significant amount to the local economy.
However, an experimental two-week extension to the angling season agreed with the Scottish Government after the canoe event had been organised moved the goalposts.
And despite the SCA’s efforts to publicise the change and ensure that angling interests, landowners and its members were aware of their responsibilities, it appears there was conflict between the two groups.
With the trial extension set to continue in 2013, Mr Jack suggested riparian owners should consider curtailing fishing on their beats on the day of the Tay Descent next year.
In turn, it was proposed by some anglers that canoeists consider switching the day of their event to a Sunday, when there is no salmon fishing.
One Tay ghillie said some canoeists had “failed to take guidance” to avoid going through pools on their beats.
A report on the trial extension will be prepared for next year’s meeting and could lead to a long-term extension of the season past October 15.
The trial extension applies only to the main Tay system from the Dalguise beat between Ballinluig and Dunkeld to Perth.
During the meeting the importance of catch and release on the system was underlined by Mr Jack, who said he did not want to see mandatory rules brought in.
He noted there had been a drop in figures last season with 89% of spring fish released, compared to 93% the previous year.
Some board members were strongly critical of anglers who felt the catch and release rules did not apply to them.
In particular, they mentioned results from Loch Tay where only 30-33% of the spring salmon caught are released.