Novar Catch Returns
The past 5 seasons have been extremely difficult, producing disappointing catches on the River Alness. The 2013, 2015 and 2016 seasons were characterised by prolonged summer droughts, while 2014 which was also quite dry, was a particularly poor season throughout Scotland with the lowest recorded rod catches in 60 years. The low 2014 catches have been attributed to exceptionally high mortality at sea; most rivers reported catches at about 40% of their previous 5-year averages. 2015 was much wetter, but a significant part of the grilse runs were early and there was little angling effort at the time. In addition salmon taking behaviour was poor mid-summer, a phenomenon common to many Highland rivers.
Pre-2013 we had become accustomed to typical catches on the Novar beats of 350-400 fish per season; catches for 2007-2012 are shown in the table below. This recent sequence of droughts produced poor summer catches for these seasons and has affected recent angling effort; in August in particular, traditionally one of the most productive months. These 2 factors together have drastically affected our 5-year average which has fallen to 165 salmon & grilse up to and including 2017. Overall, we have no reason to be concerned about salmon stocks, and expect a return to previous catch levels given more typical Scottish summer weather!
Our grilse typically range in weight from 3 to 6½ lbs, broadly increasing in weight as the season progresses, and our multi-sea wintered salmon from 7 to 15 lbs, with a few larger fish caught each season. A spring salmon of approximately 23 lbs was successfully landed in 2016, the largest fish caught on the Novar beats for many years.
Novar Catch Returns Summary
A salmon conservation policy was introduced as a voluntary code in 2005. In 2006 the conservation policy was incorporated into the Novar Fishings Regulations, resulting in a significant improvement in return rates on the Novar beats. Return rates have continued to improve since and are now in the order of 90%. We felt that the Novar Conservation Policy was both successful and sustainable, allowing the occasional fish to be killed for the pot by those that wanted to, and first salmon to be celebrated. Despite this, and only 31 salmon killed by anglers on the entire Alness system in 2017 (only 28 in 2016), the Alness (along with 70% of Scottish rivers) has been designated by the Scottish Government as Category 3 for 2018!