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A Tweed Fisheries Biologist’s Week : Monday 5th February

Monday 5th February : Up early and out for the winter Goosander & Cormorant count. My section is Rutherford to Kelso. Not many, more Goldeneye in fact. Back for the Tweed Committee meeting considering the new policy on fish stocking and movements. In the afternoon read through the Economic Survey document, all very interesting stuff, and get the photographs for the scale reading article sent off. Answer a query about Salmon feeding as they come into the river with the only data we have on this – from a study done in 1895 which (mainly) compared rates of maturation between Tweed and Rhine salmon. In those days,  the first  salmon reached Basle  in May each year, having entered the Rhine from the sea in February  – it seems an extraordinary thought now, but it used to be possible to fish for Spring Salmon in Switzerland.

Tuesday 6th February : Actually did some work today, the first time this year. The blizzard of consultations, policies, writing etc etc. over (for the moment) sat and analysed some of last year’s data. Each September, we electric-fish 150 sites on the Ettrick and Yarrow to give an abundance index of salmon fry which can then be related to the numbers of adult salmon counted upstream at Philiphaugh the previous year. The aim of this work is to find if there is any relationship between the numbers of adults spawning and the numbers of resulting fry the next year. If there is such a relationship then it would mean that the numbers of adults were limiting the numbers of fry and therefore that there were not enough adults escaping the anglers to spawn. It takes a long time to build up such a data series, our adult counts go back to 1998 but that is still less than 10 years in the series – and we were not able to sample the fry in 2000 due to high water levels. However, one very clear pattern has emerged so far – the abundance of fry in the lower Yarrow has been very closely correlated so far with the numbers of salmon passing the counter in November and December , showing that the number of adults spawners is a limiting factor for the fry of that area – what controls the numbers getting upstream in those months being the temperature of the water. A cold Autumn restricts the numbers getting through to spawn, a mild Autumn lets many more up the fish ladder.

Wednesday 7th February : With all the concern about fish sizes and condition last season, decided to bite the bullet today and get down to work on the oldest set of records we have on fish lengths and weights – tables from 1894 and 1895 published in the 14th Annual Report of the Fishery Board for Scotland. As didn’t want to manually transcribe 20 or so pages of tables, decided to use the text scanning facility on the scanner on my home computer – except that hasn’t been working lately. So, brought the scanner into the office to set it up on my office computer – and found exactly the same problem. Had to get the office Cyberman (James) in to rescue me – and he found that there was a patch available to undo the damage done to scanner operation when upgrading to  Internet Explorer 7. This is what I had done on my home computer and just done on my office one. Extraordinary to  think of the worldwide trouble and expense that upgrade must have caused. Once the patch downloaded, was able to get going, though had to pay up in chocolate at coffee time for the help I had needed. Got 1895 done – 1894 tomorrow !

Thursday 8th February : To the Peebles trap for its weekly cleaning. Get the 1894 figures almost done on return. Some Norwegians with experience of Gyrodactylus control visiting  – there is experience there that can be tapped into and the more planning that can be done in advance, the more effective the response to any outbreak will be. The draft Eel Management Plan for the Solway Tweed River Basin District arrives by e-mail needing comments. In the evening go the AGM of the Ellem Fishing Club of which I am a member. They have a produced a book on their history for their 175th anniversay (I wrote the chapter on their catch records – they have been fishing the same competition for the same medal since 1834 and the results of this must be one of the longest trout data series -if not the longest- in the country) and will be opening a permanent exhibition on their history and on the fish and environment of the Whiteadder at Paxton House on the 30th March (which we have also been helping with).

Friday 9th February : Weekly staff meeting in the morning, main topic next weeks’ visit from Michael Moore, our local Westminster MP who wants spend a day on the Tweed and see how it works. Want to show him Grayling tagging, so Kenny is going to be sent fishing on that day. A consultation on the NASCO (North Atlantic Salmon Convention Organisation) Implementation Plan arrives by e-mail – pages of it. Finish off the 1894 figures – in ounces and inches unlike the 1895 which were metric, so more time consuming. After lunch, things got a bit confusing. Bits and pieces to finish off for the RTC Annual Report. A phone call about trout hybrids for an article being written on trout fishing on Tweed; another from Natural England – they have money for Signal Crayfish work on the Till;  another  from the Environment Agency in Newcastle for information on juvenile densities on the Till for an assessment they are doing and then an author writing a book about the area in for tea.