Record-breaking salmon season on River Tweed

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THE 2010 salmon season on the River Tweed has been described as the best for 60 years, in a newly released report.

Ahead of the Tweed Commission’s official figures to be released next month, Bill Stanworth of the FishTweed group - who cover 75 per cent of the beats on the river - said a “staggering” 18,000 salmon were caught.

And Mr Stanworth’s “conservative” estimate for the whole of the Tweed’s 97 miles of water is 22,500 salmon caught, a record breaking total.

Mr Stanworth, who wrote the report, told The Berwickshire News: “2010 was absolutely fantastic. “There were some good waters during the summer but by late July and August it took off big time.

“It is not uncommon to see over 1,000 salmon returned in a week in autumn but for five weeks in September and October it became the norm. We had a return of 1,400 in one of those weeks.

“There was even a day in September where 600 were caught.

“I have records going back to the 1940s and have never seen anything like it.”

The previous annual best recorded by FishTweed was 12,984 in 2007, while 2009 saw just over 10,000.

The huge numbers were despite a poor spring season, according to Mr Stanworth.

He wrote: “In the early spring months it appeared from the returns on gillieline that there was a slight improvement to those of the previous year, however, when all the FishTweed beats updated their figures at the year end, the spring figures were marginally lower.

“Knowing these early season returns, the Tweed Commission took the decision to impose a total catch and release policy for salmon from mid-April till the end of the spring fishing period - this ruling has subsequently been extended for the next five years.” Mr Stanworth also noted the high numbers of salmon weighing over 20lbs, with four tipping the scales at 30lbs.

He wrote: “All the beats that subscribe to FishTweed exceeded their five year average and set new records on a daily, weekly and monthly basis during the autumn.

In conversations with boatmen/ghillies and rods they all expressed the view that the size and quality of the fish caught was exceptional.”

Mr Stanworth admitted, however, that 2011 has not got off to the best start, and a replication of 2010’s figures are unlikely.

He told us: “We have had 13 days of fishing (since start of salmon season) and only the opening day and the day after have been fish-able.”

He reported high numbers of “unclean” fish such as kelts, baggots and rawners, still in the Tweed.

But the importance of a prolific River Tweed to not just the fishing community is not lost on Mr Stanworth.

He said: “It brings visitors into the area. We had a large number of visitors from Italy, as well as Sweden and Denmark. Hopefully similar visitor numbers will return this year and help the Tweed contribute to the economy of the Borders.”

The Tweed Commission will publish the official salmon figures for 2010 on March 7.