Salmon Fishing for All: Stirling Council Fisheries on the River Forth and River Teith

On the 7th of April I interviewed Stirling Council Fishery Manager David Jones. The Council is one of the few local authorities in Scotland to manage salmon fishing rights on a local river. Below is a summary of our conversation.

History: Stirling Council either owns or manages the fishing rights for salmon and sea trout on a four-mile stretch of the River Forth adjacent to the city, and two stretches of the River Teith near Callander. Council involvement in local salmon fishing can be traced as far back as the 14th century, when salmon fishing rights for the River Forth were presented to the ‘burgesses’ of Stirling by King Robert II of Scotland on the 13th of July, 1386. The sale of fishing permits to the public is, however, a more recent development. Records suggest that public sales commenced sometime in the 1940s or 1950s.

The angling experience:
Both rivers boast attractive opportunities for anglers to catch migratory fish. Fishing on the Council-run stretch of the River Forth is strategically positioned to provide ‘first-crack’ at salmon as they head upstream on the tide. In fact, in 2010 the River Forth was listed as the top-producing beat in Scotland, with 1,351 salmon and grilse. In addition, the Council-run stretch of the River Teith features important salmon spawning grounds and consistently holds good numbers of sea trout.

The fishery promotes fish conservation and responsible fishing. Anglers are issued with tags for landed fish, whilst the practice of catch and release is widely encouraged. In 2010, the fishery recorded an all-time record proportion of caught and released fish, with 70% of salmon and 80% of sea trout being safely returned.

Permits to fish:
Fishing permits are very competitively priced. The Council has a firm policy that season and roving permits should be offered to local residents at a subsidised price compared to non-residents. A cumulative discount is also applicable for concession holders. For example, in 2011 an adult season permit for a visitor was £255; the same permit for a resident was £175, and for a concession-holding resident it was £130. A 2011 day permit for an adult ranged in price from £25 (February-May), £35 (June-July) and £48 (August to October).

In recent years permit prices have been reviewed annually, with the pricing strategy taking into account the ‘urbanised’ setting of the River Forth fishery. As fishery manager David Jones pointed out, “it [the River Forth] doesn’t have the beauty factor of other Scottish rivers like the Dee or the Spey, but what it’s got is these [salmon fishing] beats right off the tide”.

The Council is aiming to operate its fisheries in full cost-recovery mode by the end of 2011. Revenue generated from permit sales is supplemented by additional income generated through a range of fishery management services (fish surveys, river clean-up and bank rehabilitation work) that are delivered for partner organisations. The Council also runs a fish in the classroom project with local schools.

Infrastructure:
Disabled platforms have been installed on the Craigforth section of the River Forth (2001) and at the Geisher Pool on the River Teith (2010). These platforms are not for the exclusive use of anglers and other community members are encouraged to use them. Paths providing pedestrian access to these platforms have also been constructed at a cost of £35,000; including a 450m path on the River Teith and 2000m path on the River Forth. Like the platforms, the paths provide benefit to other members of the community. The paths are regularly used by groups of children from the local nursery, bird-watchers and dog-walkers.

Volunteers:
The fishery significantly benefits from the dedication of a small group of extremely passionate volunteers, who assist on a range of river maintenance tasks and, in some cases, the conduct of highly technical work like habitat surveys alongside Council and Forth Fisheries Trust staff. Several volunteers from the Forth Fisheries Angling Association maintain the small-scale hatchery that the Council uses as part of the Fish in the Classroom programme.

To find out more about Stirling Council Fisheries, visit their website: http://www.stirling.gov.uk/index/leisure/countryside/fisheries.htm