THE WORLD'S OLDEST SALMON
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.