Novar Catch Returns
The past 5-6 seasons have been extremely difficult, producing disappointing catches on the River Alness. The 2013 and 2015 to 2018 seasons were all characterised by prolonged summer droughts. The 2018 drought was the most severe of all, extending throughout the Highlands, and devastating locally; lasting here for 130 days from early May until mid-September.
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.
Pre-2013 we had become accustomed to typical catches on the Novar beats of 350-400 fish per season; catches for 2008-2012 are shown in the table below. This recent sequence of droughts has produced poor summer catches since 2013 and has also 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 158 salmon & grilse up to and including 2018. Overall though, we have no major concerns about our 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 6 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, the Alness (along with 70% of Scottish rivers) was designated by the Scottish Government as Category 3 for 2018.
The River Alness has been awarded a provisional designation for 2019 season as Category 1, meaning that subject to confirmation, we will be able to reintroduce a limited harvesting of our salmon catch, as part of our conservation policy in 2019.