For the last two decades we have experienced outbreaks of a fungal infection in salmon and to a lesser extent sea trout in the North Esk in the vicinity of Edzell.
This has varied from a disaster situation four years ago to the complete absence last year and I was confident two weeks ago that we were once again to get through the danger window, usually in early May but a call from Burn Estates put all such thoughts to one side as large numbers of salmon, mainly three sea winter springers were being observed dying on their beat which is above and below Edzell.
News then came from all local beats and Marshall Halliday (Esk Salmon Fisheries Board Administrator) brought in a scientist who was able to get samples from both alive and dead fish, we await results.
There are so many theories as to why this happens, the latest being the very low water temperatures being experienced this year, but four years ago this was not the case.
Personally I feel that there is a reason within the river itself for this very localised event and am perplexed at the lack of enquiry taking place. The tragedy of the situation is that it is the most valuable spring run of salmon which is decimated and how can we expect the river to recover in years where salmon are becoming rarer and rarer if we continue to lose our spring stock.
Fishing a beat further downriver on Thursday evening, a beautiful calm evening I was expecting to see sea trout starting to move but my excuse is a cold east wind started to blow upriver seemed to be keeping them down, Sitting on a rock well out in the stream enjoying the company of the House Martins taking flies from the surface I was aware of a fin coming straight towards me, it moved and a large salmon rolled past me obviously in its last throws of life and it was a big fish, a fish which was not destined to reach its goal of the redds in Glen Mark, the traditional breeding ground of “Northie Springers”.
This river should be crawling with qualified scientists and bailiffs making intensive enquiries so far we have had one.
Yes I have been and am a Member of the Esks Salmon Fisheries Board, I am not a happy one.