The River Tweed Commission has compiled the Tweed catch for the Spring season to 30th June. The overall reported catch by rod & line was 1,083 Salmon. Whilst this represents a further drop on last season when 1,843 fish were caught, it is not the lowest Spring catch in recent times: the early 1990s saw catches of a little over 800 fish. There have been Catch & Release measures to help conserve Spring fish on Tweed since 1998 and from 2011, with no great improvement in the Spring stock, anglers were asked to return every Spring fish to the river, unharmed.
Fishing conditions, coupled with less fishing effort, have had a significant impact on the total figure recorded, compounded by a range of other factors – that all rivers in the UK are experiencing – and connected to conditions at sea and long term changes in run timing.
2018’s five-year average is 1,831, a drop of 11% on the figure to 2017. All areas of the river suffered much poorer catches, with Lower and Middle Tweed – where traditionally most Springers are caught – catching just over 50% of last year’s figure.
The TWEED SPRING CATCHES GRAPH shows the long-term catches for Spring since 1970, when the Autumn run on Tweed became dominant, and the Spring season switched to being the smaller component. It may be significant that the 2018 Spring catch has dropped to the level of the poor years of the previous 5-year cycle seen in the 1970s and 1980s when it appeared that there were not enough fish to fully spawn the next generation – thus, one bad year led to another five years on. However, it is important to note that only happened because 70-80% of Spring Salmon at that time were five years old; the make-up of the stock is now very different, with more variety in age classes, with many 1:2 fish (four years old) as well as the old Tweed “standard” 2:2 (five years old) fish.
As the Spring graph demonstrates, this poor level of returning Salmon has been reached before, and bounced back the following year. What happens next is therefore crucial: if overall environmental conditions are still the same as in the past there will be a lift in numbers, as after previous bad seasons – but, if these fundamental conditions have changed, a second (or more) bad Springs in a row may occur.
To date, the last couple of seasons have shown that the change is towards Summer fish, not Spring, which is why the dry Summer Tweed is now experiencing has been so poor for fishing.