Trout & Salmon (UK) - - FIRST CAST -

At the Tay Dis­trict Salmon Fish­eries Board’s Al­mond­bank fa­cil­ity this month, more than 300 salmon have al­ready spawned, pro­duc­ing more than one mil­lion eggs with which to re­stock de­pleted trib­u­taries of the Tay. Now, as kelts, they are slowly mend­ing. With a steady sup­ply of food and with­out fear of preda­tors, hen fish, in par­tic­u­lar, can lead long lives. The hatch­ery’s old­est-ever res­i­dent was called Dolly, a 15-pounder who lived for 14 years, 11 of them at the hatch­ery, spawn­ing most years. A 15lb hen may pro­vide 10,000 eggs a year. Last year on the Tay, 622,458 eggs were col­lected from new brood­stock and 425,936 were taken from fish re­con­di­tioned at Al­mond­mouth; 1,048,394 in all. This year, with more re­con­di­tioned fish, the num­ber should rise fur­ther. The brood­stock is col­lected in late Oc­to­ber. When first caught, they are par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble and great care must be taken to avoid fun­gal in­fec­tion. Eggs are stripped in Novem­ber and De­cem­ber and planted in the rivers as eyed ova in Fe­bru­ary and March or un­fed fry in May. Also, more than 10,000 parr were stocked in 2018. Get­ting the spawned kelts to feed is not straight­for­ward. At first, a prawn on the end of a roach pole is dan­gled in front of their nose un­til temp­ta­tion proves too much. Once the fish take their first prawn, they gain an ap­petite for more. Next, they are fed a stink­ing putty of her­ring, prawn and fine crumb pel­lets. By April, with the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture ris­ing, they are feed­ing fu­ri­ously. They mend, chang­ing from red au­tumn colours to gleam­ing sil­ver.

Hatch­ery man­ager Steve Keay, helped by Craig Dun­can, strips a re­con­di­tioned kelt, orig­i­nally from Tay trib­u­tary, the River Tilt.

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