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A Tweed Fisheries Biologist’s Week – Saturday 8th August

Saturday 8th August: Netting & tagging at Paxton House in the afternoon. Reasonable conditions, a good wavy surface on the water, but bright sun. Very slow to begin with, just a Sea-trout in four shots, but as the tide peaked, just at the time the netsman had predicted, the fish came in. Five Salmon and a Sea-trout in one shot, and 10 salmon and Sea-trout in the last shot.  Of the 15 salmon, eight were Salmon and seven Grilse. All in beautiful condition, the Salmon were 8 to 12lbs, the Grilse 3 to 4lbs. Many had “Red Vents” though, but this obviously hadn't affected their condition. The Grilse were in particularly beautiful shape, very deeply forked tails and nice and fat. Unfortunately, the crowd of about 20 who had gathered to see the netting had almost all gone by the time the real action started!

Monday 10th August: Working at home on the laptop, on the Biosecurity section of the new edition of the management plan.

Tuesday 11th August: Out electric-fishing on the upper Leader, the first day of the annual Fry Index survey. Took a salmon genetics sample as well. Unfortunately, the back-pack machine broke down after just six sites, so had to cut the day short. We have four machines, only one now working, so real problems. The sites we did manage to do were all in tributary burns, so dominated by trout rather than salmon, but all producing really good numbers.

Wednesday 12th August: Out electric-fishing on the upper Gala Water with Sean. Began on the Armet Water, far enough upstream to have a mix of trout and salmon fry – a site on a small side-burn had only trout fry but some salmon parr. Its common to find  parr that have moved into small burns where no salmon ever actually spawn, the pressure of competition must drive them to get anywhere they can where life is a bit easier. Further downstream, Salmon started to dominate. Got an eyed lampey well up the Armet – as larvae, they are blind, living in burrows in the mud. When they metamorphose into adult form, their eyes appear. River Lamprey then migrate to the sea, but Brook Lamprey remain in fresh water, spawn and die. Going by its size, this was a Brook Lamprey, but why they should metamorphose so long before their spawning in April seems strange. Interesting to have a population of this species so far up a small tributary. Moved onto the main Gala in the afternoon, lots of salmon fry. Took a genetics sample for this area as well. Did a couple of side burns as well, and was surprised to find both had salmon fry several hundred metres up from the main river, even though one of these burns was only a metre wide on average. Not usual to find Salmon fry in such small burns and from the numbers we found there had probably been salmon spawning in them. At several sites  local owners and farmers (& children) came out to see what we would find – there's always surprise at seeing just how many fish live in these small burns. Its good for the children to hear how the fish in their little local burn go all the way to Greenland and the Faroes if they are Salmon; to Denmark if they are are Sea-trout and (almost) the West Indies if they are Eels. Hopefully, it gets them appreciating their local burns and fishes a bit more.

Thursday 13th August: Out with Kenny electric-fishing sites on the middle Gala and upper Luggate Water. The Luggate is a pretty inconspicuous part of the Tweed catchment, running deep into the hills, but it's always full of fish, with Salmon getting well up. Not just good numbers of trout, but good sizes, with takeable fish in little burns only half a metre wide. Also a terrible place for Midgies ! We'd forgotten this and so were unprepared and Kenny reacts badly – his forearms came up in spots, just like he had Measles. It's not possible to scratch when electric-fishing as both hands are in use, so we just had to grit our teeth and get on with it, letting them do their worst till the three minute sampling period was up. Our colleagues on the West Coast do their electric-fishing in full anti-Midge veils and jackets or wait till their flying season is over but it's not a common problem here (the upper Jed and the Dye Water are other bad  areas). I think we'll have to have a bit in the electric-fishing database to warn of such danger areas. James and Sean were sampling the lower Luggate and found, to use James's words, “silly numbers” of fish.

Friday 14th August: Weekly meeting in the morning, then round and about at lunchtime, trying to track various people and their promised goods and services down. In the afternoon, managed some time amidst the admin to think about the acoustic tracking work we're planning. A phone call to say a Sea-liced salmon had been caught in the Ettrick. I've had reports of Sea-liced fish from the main river at Ashiesteel before, and the lower Ettrick would be about the same distance. It's good going – four days, at most,  from the sea.