top of page

Save the Spring Hatcheries or Trees and Beavers?


Some say they simply don't work, whilst others feel they have a purpose. I don’t really want to get into the debate again but having just watched the Dee’s video on the “Save the Spring” it leads me to the following question.  

Dee “Save The Spring” Project 

A salmon under the water
A Salmon Being released but was it a Hatchery Salmon ?

The plan here is to Recondition Adult Salmon at Stirling University.  

The authors can be quoted as saying “Fitter bigger Smolts have a 2-3 times better survival rate”. An interesting observation, as it is exactly what Peter Gray, the Hatchery manager on the Tyne said was required to make any Hatchery a success.  

He can be quoted as saying, they/he made mistakes at first but once they realised fish needed to be bigger, “super-fit athletes” much better results soon followed. I am so glad to finally see the Scientific community finally agreeing with Peter and people like Throstor Elliosson, who have long since known this, and had great results in their fishery. In fact, the latter, having begun the highly successful fishery on the Ranga river in Iceland, has now applied the same principle on the Jokla river and, surprise, surprise its now one of the most improved and sought after salmon fisheries in Iceland. Even at £2000 per rod day, is difficult to access because its fully booked. At the same time on the advice of EA advisors, the Tyne hatchery is not run in the same way and the best beats are accessible most of the year. 

This really does beg the question why does Marine Scotland [or whatever they decided to call themselves today] insist we put hatchery fish in at egg/fry stage and not bigger when they and everyone else know that small doesn’t work! With the species in dire trouble, those people making decisions and advising our government have done everything in their power to stop hatchery fish being introduced at a time the know would provide those fish with a 2 – 3 times better chance of marine survival! How can this be? Are they really that stupid? Surely not them all?  

However, now that the Dee Trust and their partners recognise the fact that bigger is better when it comes to Smolts, perhaps this will lead to a proper case study and not, as has been done in the past, a project run by people intent on making it fail by using what we all know are the wrong sized fish! To those worried about genetic integrity, I say, why not do the study in the once famous and much studied Girnock burn on the Dee as, quote the film “Last year it had just 2 female salmon in it”! It's not as if you would be losing much as it sounds like its knackered anyway!  If keeping the genetic integrity of those 2 salmon is more important then why not put it to the test in a river which once had plenty salmon and now have none.

Surely when we know what we’ve been doing wrong with hatcheries its worth a try at least??  

Another thing about the Dee Spring Project that got me thinking was - The stale old fish caught in the lower Dee, Spey, Tay and Tweed in Sept and October. When did they come into the river? Certainly not the Autumn. For me those must be Spring and late Spring salmon. Fishery boards now count fish entering the river in June as Spring Salmon. I would think it's very possible that, given those years of low flows and high-water temperatures, those spring fish [the only MSW fish in the river] will be spawning not in the dry and warm upper tributaries, but in the main stem of the river where they can find cooler deeper pools. Again, it's not as if there’s an overcrowding issue there with Autumn salmon right now! A few scale readings would tell those interested but my guess is, this doesn't make them any money from funding, so they will not have the answer! To be fair it could be a time thing as they only have around 10 biologists working on the Dee.


I know from Spey data that every year there is a certain downstream migration, my thought and common sense would suggest that this would be more evident during drought and low water years.


Attracting funding for planting trees, introducing beavers, and saving the planet is an easy sell to GPs [Gullible Politicians] right now, however, protecting salmon fishing and the people employed is much harder. However, we should not go down without a fight and not leave a single stone unturned to save the future of Salmon Fishing and those relying on it. If this means questioning Marine Science Doctor Who, or whatever they call themselves now, to follow the advice of those leading the Dee project and Stock fish into the river as “Super fit athletes” instead of their preferred “Peely wally minnows” then why not? 

866 views14 comments

Recent Posts

See All

14 comentarios

03 mar

Nice one, great blog. I once met Peter Grey years ago when he gave a talk in Hereford on salmon stocking, he gave some really good information. The Wye decline had started and interested parties were looking into how to improve the river.

Peter stated one of the most important factors in stocking was releasing smolts at the right time of year as many would starve otherwise, a lesson he learnt on the Tyne.

The Wye Salmon Association, started a stocking program on the Wye using semi natural rearing ponds, to help build up stamina in the smolts, Sadly several years later , the program was abandoned after it was made illegal by the NRW..

As Geoff Franks would confirm,…

Me gusta

Releasing smolts? Its only taken them 30 years to realise the benefits! How many years has the Ranga been doing it? Delphi, and the Tyne? Practical measures that showed they worked. You were putting this stuff in Trout and Salmon in the 90’s when I was fishing at Lower Pitchroy. Who can forget “ Look an eagle!” and the furore when John West Shot their advert on the Dee using a Canadian salmon. The salmon that didn’t touch the water, but might have breathed fumes and altered the genetics of all the other Dee salmon. (If it could have found any…..)

Me gusta
Contestando a

Tyne has shifted totally to fry these last few years and always released more 0+ than 1+ parr previous to that. I think it’s many years since smolts were released ( see Milner et al 2004 ). Ranga is ranching not stocking for recovery.

Me gusta

John wark
John wark
24 feb

Well said Ian

Me gusta

Do not believe hatcheries is the miracle solution.

Let us consider Allier river in France.

One of the best salmon river in Europe in the 70s. Fishing forbidden since 1994. Salmon Hatchery is financed by EDF fundings since this year (EDF = électricité de France). Some dams has been destroyed or lowered.

Let us check trap stats at Vichy and you can see the number of salmon crossing the trap each year is lower and lower since 2000.

Conclusion ?

My opinion is it could improve the situation on short rivers.

When they are too long, the result is nearly zero.

Concentration should be focused in the sea to improve fée dingue groupes.


Me gusta

Agree whole heartedly. Academics, Politicians and “nature lovers” with a green agenda who show a total disregard for the damage done by seals, gooseanders, beavers and cormorants to the Atlantic Salmon population. The whole re-wilding thing is a nonsense and unless land and rivers are “managed” the end is in sight for lots of outdoor activities (hunting, shooting, fishing) and the species that live in those environments.

Me gusta
Contestando a

Its nothing more than an easy route to attract funding for a project dreamed up with that as its main aim. Saving salmon by waiting 30 years for trees to grow? Introducing Beavers to saw them down? Really!?

Me gusta
bottom of page