The River Carron Research Project
The River Carron Research Project was formally established in August 2009 but is founded on the long standing work of salmonid aquaculture expert, Bob Kindness of Inverness College UHI. Since 1995, Bob has been working on a salmon and sea trout stocking programme with the primary aim of increasing wild North Atlantic salmon and sea trout populations in the River Carron.
The River Carron is located in Wester Ross on the west coast of Scotland. Like many West Highland rivers, stock and catch levels for salmon and sea trout fisheries crashed in the 1990s to critically low levels in 2001. Captive broodstocks from the few remaining wild fish were established using specially constructed tanks and ponds. To date more than five million spawn and juvenile salmon and sea trout has been released into the river. As part of the project, to track progress over 100,000 autumn salmon fry and over 25,000 spring smolts have been tagged and fin-clipped since 2005. A screw trap has been monitoring the flow of smolts descending to the sea and checking how many of these were tagged. A 100% catch and release policy is in place to maximise the number of naturally spawning fish in the river. Fishery records show that rod catches of salmon and sea trout have both significantly increased since 2001 when only six fish were caught all season.
Since the restocking programme began overall catches have improved dramatically and the number of fish spawning naturally has increased greatly. The lower three beats have been made available to visitors on a cheap day ticket basis making the river an asset to the local community.
A report giving details of the River Carron Restoration Project
to date has been produced. The report collates and evaluates all of the data collected on the River Carron on Atlantic salmon stocks up to summer 2014 and presents preliminary analyses related to the effect of stocking on catches in the river and the reasons for historical declines in catches and recent historical highs. Preliminary conclusions are drawn from the data in relation to this issue where the data permit.
The studies discussed in the report, in particular the genetic analysis of the fish stocks and the modelling of expected demographic outcomes based on existing understanding of salmon biology, are ongoing. As more data becomes available over time, it is hoped that it will be possible to draw increasingly robust scientific conclusions about the state of the fish stocks on the River Carron and the role of stocking on the recovery of the river’s salmon stocks and in delivering recent historical record catches.