Tight Lines focus on mink danger

Every morning, rain, shine, or gale I walk the riverside to the east and west of the town checking to see if I have caught another wild mink.

The control of these alien species has been taken up by the Scottish Government and it is having a marked influence on the numbers of these killing machines, it will never be possible to eradicate them, but control is certainly possible.

The damage they have wrought on some of our native species of ground nesting birds (Moorhens, Mallard duck etc.,) and mammals (Water vole, shrew, rat) is very evident in most Scottish waters as in many cases they are not in any great numbers there.

The most disturbing incident on the South Esk was brought to my notice last summer when local anglers witnessed two mink climb the clay bank behind the East Mill and totally wipe-out a colony of sand martins.

I trapped this area and was able to catch four mink which were forwarded to the University of Aberdeen. This summer I sat on the bank and watched many young Sand Martins make there first flight. That made all these cold wet mornings worth it.

The impact on salmon, trout and eels is not so easy to evaluate but I have witnessed mink make fish, and more often eels, a meal they seem to enjoy. It is reasonable to assume that since they are web footed that a good part of their hunting will be in the water.

This has also given me the chance to survey the river around Brechin on a daily basis and to meet many people who work on it and many visitors to our community who come to enjoy the fishing for which the South Esk is truly famous, or used to be.

“Used to be”... How many times I have heard that said this summer is uncountable but it is a fact that the vast majority of these visitors will not be coming back.

Only a few days ago I met two gentlemen from the Midlands who have fished since the mid-1980s, and who have spent many thousands of pounds in our area say to me, “We will have to look elsewhere”.

They had caught one small grilse for their week’s fishing and they saw so few fish move that their love of our river has gone. They were only one group of many who have come to the same conclusion and it does not stop there.

Workers on the river are being harassed by the lack of fish and are demanding answers and indeed I must count myself in their number. With a very few exceptions the general consensus is that the river as a salmon fishery is dying before our eyes and that some very severe and urgent steps need to be taken before it is too late. I believe it may now be too late.

The economic issue will mean that hotels, B&Bs, shops, tackle dealers, guides, ghillies and many more face a bleak outlook, but far more important is that fact that we are sitting back allowing this to happen and that the measures so far adopted have failed miserably.

The river South Esk is a designated “Area of special conservation for the species Atlantic Salmon and Freshwater Pearl Mussels.”

Scottish Natural Heritage was given the management of this directive. Where are they? What are you doing? When will we see action?

Tight Lines

Bill Balfour