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The Annual Fish Letter 2017

12.01.2018

2017 Season
It has been a real rollercoaster of a year. A cold start to the season and a late spring gave way quickly to a warm dry period and some of the lowest spring water levels that anyone can remember. The mild winter left little reserves of snow on the hills and for much of the summer the Dee behaved like a large spate river. The biggest frustration was that we were seeing fish in good numbers throughout the whole season, but it has been very hard to catch them. The final catch figures do not reflect the potential of this season and we can only surmise what might have been, if we had had more water in the late spring and early summer.

Given the challenges of the season, it has been an immensely successful year on the Commonty.
The final total of 116 salmon and grilse was within a whisker of the 2012 and 2014 totals. With a fine new hut and without its croys, the Commonty is fishing extremely well. It has also been a record-breaking sea-trout year on the Commonty. Little wonder that it is attracting strong interest for the 2018 season!

The impact of Storm Frank has been more obvious on Carlogie and Ballogie. However, Ballogie has been fishing extremely well as a 3-rod beat and in terms of fish caught per rod is still top of the Middle Dee beats. The river is still in a changing state. We have had only one 5ft flood since Storm Frank, so we can expect to see a lot of changes in the pools over the next few years.

For the river as a whole, with the final catch of 4300 fish, it is not far off the 5-year average. The summer months were particularly successful and it was great to see really good catches on the Dee in the last few weeks of the season, when we comprehensively out-fished the Tweed and the Tay.
It has been very challenging year, but one in which there is a strong degree of optimism for 2018 and beyond.

Catches
                      Ballogie                    Carlogie                  Commonty
                  2016    2017                2016    2017              2016   2017
Salmon       137      172                   105    125                    82     46
Grilse           44         43                     41      41                    34     20
Sea Trout    61          52                    40      33                     33     11

Biggest Fish
Carlogie:        K Simmons, Willowbed - 22lbs
Ballogie:        J Perrson, Bulwarks; P Holmberg, Bulwarks – 20lbs
Commonty:   E MacLachlan, Boat; J Fyfe, Points – 15lbs

Bookings 2019
With the increasing demand for holiday cottages, it is essential that we reserve fishing and accommodation for you, as soon as possible. The proposed changes are aimed at insuring that your bookings are secure and that administration is kept to an absolute minimum. Before you depart in 2018, we shall fix the prices for the following season. If you wish to take the fishing, please confirm with Sean or Ian. A deposit of 20% will be payable immediately with the balance due 2 months in advance of the 2019 start date as usual. 

It is very important that we keep all costs under as tight a control as possible, so that we can maintain the core standards of the service that we offer to you. We have to recognise that fishing catches have not been as good as we would have wished in recent years, however, at the same time the costs of the fishery management continue to rise, most particularly this year. The new Revaluation has been based on the years 2010-14. The result of this has been a very sharp increase in the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board Assessments for all 3 beats. The Revaluations have been appealed. However, the Appeals are not being heard until January and the Assessment has to be paid up front.  Assessments, prior to appeal have nearly doubled for Ballogie and the Commonty and increased by just over 70% on Carlogie.

Potarch Café & Restaurant
Several guests have mentioned that it would be appreciated if it was possible have evening meals at the Restaurant at Potarch during the week.
We are very willing to deliver food to the holiday cottages or if there is a large enough number and a definite booking to provide a meal in the Restaurant on week-day evenings. To organise these options, we do need to know what your requirements are in advance. If you do want meals from or at the restaurant outside the normal hours of 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and Friday and Saturday evenings, please contact the café (013398 84468 or potarch@ballogie-estate.co.uk) at least a week in advance. For anyone staying in Potarch Lodge, we can lay on a catering service in the Lodge for the week.

2018 Catch & Release and other Fishery News
I attach a copy of the 2018 Catch & Release Regulations which remain unchanged from the previous season, except for the addition of control measures of the pink Pacific salmon, which have arrived in the Dee and other rivers in Scotland in large numbers this year.
During 2016 the Board funded an independent survey of the potential for a hatchery on the River Dee. This survey was carried out by the Fourth District Fishery Board and was presented to owners and ghillies at a seminar toward the end of 2016. The survey was very definite in its analysis and recommendation that a hatchery would not be appropriate for the Dee and would not represent good value for money. The approach of the Board on the hatchery issue had virtually unanimous support amongst Riparian Owners, who see that the current policy of habitat improvement and targeted research is the best way forward for maintaining stocks of salmon in the river.

We now have the results of the first year of the smolt-tracking work that has been carried out by the River Dee Trust. Interestingly and importantly, this indicates a far higher level of predation of smolts within the river and also that most of the smolts that make it as far as the harbour actually travel through the harbour area unimpeded and quickly. The survey this year will be extended well out into the estuary and beyond, due to significant sums received from the windfarm project off Aberdeen. If we are to pressurise the Government Agencies for actions on issues that are seriously impacting on the wellbeing of the Fishery, we do have to have the concrete scientific research to back up our arguments, if they are to bear any weight whatsoever.

The River Dee Trust is approximately 50% funded from payments from the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board. The Trust is able to attract funding from a number of other sources and makes use of payments that are made as recompense for disturbance from operations such as the new Western Peripheral Route crossing of the Dee and also the aforementioned windfarm off Aberdeen.

You are probably aware that the Scottish Government decided not to press ahead with its reform of the management of Fishery Boards for the time being, however, the issue is still very alive and it has taken up a considerable amount of Fishery Management time to make the Government understand the impact of its proposals.

The Marine Scotland Assessment of stock management on the Dee has seen Category 1 status maintained. The Government intervention in salmon stock management is welcome in that it proposes a total ban on the coastal netting in the early part of the season. As some of you may be aware the River Don is now being managed through the River Dee Office and it is possible that a formal amalgamation of the management of the two rivers may take place. Although there are obvious issues to resolve, it is an example of how the Board is taking steps to contain their overall administrative costs.

The Trust has a very successful programme of outreach to schools and arranging young angler days on the river. Ballogie presents The Callum Mackenzie Cup annually to the Angler under 16, who makes the best catch of the season. This year we were delighted to welcome Angus Robertson and his father Hugh for a day’s fishing on Commonty. The Cup was presented by Heather Mackenzie.

In addition to administrative and habitat work the Board staff have been involved this season on the lower sections of the river controlling seals and also for the first time taking action against the pink Pacific salmon. The work has involved catching and dispatching the salmon where possible and also removing their redds from the river. This has been a very time consuming exercise and is an additional cost in river management that I feel the Scottish Government ought to be doing a lot more to support. It is an extra burden to the already key activity of controlling invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam, which has been spread significantly as a result of Storm Frank.

Finally:
We can be optimistic about the high numbers of fish seen in the river this year and also the good results from surveys of fry and parr in the tributaries as shown by the electro-fishing surveys. Ghillies, fishers and all those involved in the river management have shown immense resilience in pulling away from the critical impact of Storm Frank and hopefully, we shall not see such a traumatic event for a good few years (probably 100). My thanks to Sean and Ian, who once again put in a hard season’s work, looking after guests and the riverbank and to Jean for handling all the administration. Thanks to you, all our regular guests, for supporting us through all these changes and we look forward to welcoming you back in 2018.

Contact Ballogie Estate

For further information call our Estate Office on 013398 86497 or send an e-mail to info@ballogie-estate.co.uk