Letters: Conservation of fish is crucial

I WISH to reply to the recent correspondence regarding the River Cree Angling Conservation Code.

The code has been written by the River Cree District Salmon Fishery Board (RCDSFB) following consultation with proprietors on the river. The code is designed to provide a cohesive conservation policy consistent throughout the River Cree catchment, not just the waters fished by Newton Stewart Angling Association.

The code aims to protect the vulnerable stocks of early-running spring salmon, the sea-trout stocks which have collapsed in recent years, and salmon near to spawning at the end of the fishing season.

John Livingstone (January 27) commented that those anglers who prefer to fish with worm as bait are being unfairly targeted and restricted in their fishing. Restrictions on the use of worm have been introduced because this method frequently hooks the fish deeply in the throat. In this situation the hook cannot be removed without severe injury to the fish, and even if the line is cut there is a greatly reduced chance of survival. During periods when fish are to be released it is, therefore, also necessary to restrict the use of fishing with the worm.

I am sure Mr Livingstone would agree that the welfare of the fish is of paramount importance, and those fish which are to be released must be given the best possible chance of survival.

Contrary to Mr Livingstone’s view that the code is overly restrictive, the rules governing angling and angling methods on the River Cree are some of the most open in Scotland. Many rivers are now 100 per cent catch-and-release or fly-only. In England, the EA has introduced a bylaw to prohibit the killing of salmon before June 16, and in Ireland the IFI has closed some rivers to angling altogether and introduced fly-only 100 per cent catch-and-release on others.

If anglers wish to fish for salmon and sea-trout using a variety of methods, and take a fish or two for the table, it is important this is carried out sustainably. The RCDSFB takes its conservation responsibilities seriously, which is why it has produced a conservation policy which accurately reflects and protects fish stocks in the River Cree, and is consistent throughout the entire catchment.

It is not the intention of the RCDSFB to introduce needless restrictions, or target individual anglers. The restriction on worm fishing still allows Mr Livingstone 15 weeks of the season for fishing with the worm, in addition to being able to fly-fish or spin-fish throughout the entire season. Similarly, the catch/kill limits are sufficient to allow all anglers to take their share for the table at a time when stocks are most plentiful. The returning of all spring salmon, sea-trout and late-season fish is simply good conservation practice to protect vulnerable stocks and ensure sufficient fish are allowed to spawn.

The RCDSFB bailiffs have been instructed to police the rules, and any angler found to be breaking the code will be asked to stop fishing and be reported to the fishery owner and the river board. The code will be reviewed each season and changes can be adopted if appropriate.

I would ask all anglers to respect this code and embrace the conservation measures designed to improve our river and fishing.

The code details are:

1. All salmon caught before June 1 must be returned. Badly bleeding fish which are killed are the property of the beat owner.

2. ALL sea-trout over 2lb in weight must be returned – for the entire season. With the exception of sea-trout to be donated to the Celtic Sea-trout Project.

3. No worm fishing before June 1.

4. No worm fishing after September 15.

5. No prawn/shrimp fishing at any time – it is illegal.

6. No live-baiting at any time – it is illegal.

7. Maximum of two salmon/grilse to be killed per angler/day.

8. Maximum of six salmon/grilse to be killed per angler/week.

9. All coloured fish (male and female) to be returned at all times.

10. All female salmon to be returned after September 30.

11. No selling of rod-caught salmon – it is illegal.

Jamie Hyslop,

Chairman River Cree DSFB,

Ayrlie, 40 King Street, Newton Stewart.