By Kirsty Topping
THE centuries-old art of salmon netting is returning to one of Scotland’s most famous rivers after a 20-year ban.
Bosses on the River Tay – one of the country’s “big four” salmon rivers – had banned the practice to protect dwindling stocks.
But Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board has authorised volunteers to use the method on a section of the river as part of a “tag and release” scheme to monitor salmon numbers.
Fish trapped in the nets will be given a yellow tag with a serial number and the board’s telephone number.
Anglers who catch the tagged fish are being asked to inform the board.
The board wants to investigate the link between overall salmon numbers and the number caught by anglers using rods.
The Tay Salmon Fishery Company is playing a pivotal role in the project and employee David Gardiner, who has 30 years fishing experience, is one of the few who will be casting their nets into the Tay once more.
He said: “Because of my experience, I was approached to help out with this project as most anglers these days are only used to fishing with rods.
“We have just started work on this and have already had two or three daysout on the river trying to catch some fish.
“So far we’ve only caught a couple as the bottom of the river is quite clogged up with weeds and debris, but hopefully this will get cleared over time.
“We are gradually getting places cleaned out with the nets, so we should start picking up a bit more fish.”
The board will continue the netting until around a fortnight before the end of the angling season to allow fishermen the chance to catch and report tagged fish.
The data gathered will give information on the number of salmon being caught on the river and how far they travelled.
Mr Gardiner says the board would have started the project earlier in the year but were unable to complete the paperwork in time.
“Ideally we should have started this in June or July, but by the time we were given permission and had the necessary paperwork sorted it was getting on for the end of August.
“If it is decided to repeat this next season, we should be a bit more organised and will be able to get going earlier.
“Obviously I would be quite keen to be a part of that and help the board out.”
Salmon were netted on the Tay for over 500 years, with the fish being exported around the world.
Landowners in the 19th century objected to the practice and in 1899 the fisheries company was set up to control the practice of buying fishing rights in the area.
The last of the company’s nets ceased operating in 1996 and the Tay Foundation, a charity set up to protect the river, now holds a 99 year lease on net fishing on the river.