Salmon in Germany
I read with great interest the monthly reports about salmon rivers in the UK. Unfortunately, it seems that the stocks are declining but nevertheless I am jealous as many anglers still have salmon-fishing opportunities on their doorstep. Over here in Germany we have salmon again but to fish for them successfully is only possible in some places. A pity as it was once the country with the largest runs of Atlantic salmon. If you take the mighty River Rhine, for example, the annual catch in the beginning of the 19th Century was around 100,000 fish. It could be fished for almost the whole year as there were four independent runs of fish. Many tributaries of the Rhine have been re-stocked but it is very hard to establish self-sustaining runs. Too many parrs and smolts are killed by predators. The returning fish have to pass illegal nets along the Dutch coast and many of the headwaters are still blocked. Although it is not impossible, it is still some kind of miracle to hook a salmon in the main river. Some tributaries, however, do get a run: the one into the River Sieg, which joins the main river 300km above the estuary, is estimated to be around 800 fish. Although it is illegal to fish for salmon, quite a few fish are accidentally caught (and released) but a good number are kept as “large trout”. To stock the Rhine tributaries, eggs of mainly French origin, from the River Allier, are used. Eggs of other origins failed, but the Allier, which joins the Loire, is in length and structure quite similar to the Rhine system. Beside the Rhine, many rivers in the northern German lowlands have been re-stocked. The River Weser and the Aller/leine system get runs of fish but it seems that the sea-trout there are better suited to a comeback. These rivers run into the North Sea, like the Rhine. Towards the east, fish of the Baltic race can freely run up the mighty Elbe, migrating as far as headwaters in the Czech Republic. Some German tributaries get runs and a lot of effort has been made to remove dams and other obstacles so that the fish can run past them to spawn. From time to time I fish the Rhine with a switch rod or double-hander, mainly for asp. These fish belong to the carp family but are predators – having no teeth, their takes are violent. They hold in places that are similar to salmon lies so I hope to hook a salmon one day instead. Friends have done so, which keeps my motivation high. If you’d like to know more about salmon in Germany, read the website wanderfische.eu – the German section of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund. The maps that show obstacles in migration routes are particularly interesting. Hartmut Kloss, by email
Salmon are proving elusive on the River Rhine but the predatory asp produce good sport.