Hooked on Fishing
There are three main types of fishing:
• Game fishing: for salmon, sea trout and brown trout, which requires a permit
• Sea Angling: no licence is required, unless fishing for salmon or sea trout which are migratory fish.
• Coarse Fishing: for species such as pike, carp, roach & artic char. No licence is required, but the permission of the riparian owner should be sought.
Angling within the Moray Firth area is a popular recreation activity with thousands participating in this age-old sport. Schools and clubs throughout the area encourage new members and give tuition including fly casting, fly tying and safety issues. Some are also striving to provide improved facilities for less able anglers.
The Moray Firth provides the estuaries for 18 of Scotland's most important salmon rivers, including the Wick, Helmsdale, Brora, Shin, Cassley, Oykel, Alness, Conon, Beauly, Ness, Moriston, Garry, Oich, Nairn, Findhorn, Spey, Lossie and Deveron. All of these rivers have angling clubs or associations which offer fishing, although membership numbers are limited and there may be a waiting list in a few cases.
Most rivers have suffered a serious decline in wild salmon stocks over many years, which has been attributed to a range of factors such as acidification, parasites and diseases from fish farms, hydro-electric schemes, nutrient enrichment. Seals, dolphins and other animals also enjoy salmon and sea trout as part of their diet. Government statistics from 2009 show that the total liveweight tonnes of wild salmon, grilse and sea trout caught by all means fell from an estimated 165,000 tonnes in 1992 to 45,000 tonnes in 2002.
The conservation and management practices on these rivers help to ensure that a healthy population of juvenile Atlantic salmon and seatrout (smolts) return to the marine environment. However, once at sea , mortality rates are high and only a small percentage return to the rivers as adult fish. Predation, industrial fishing, pollution and oceanic warming are but a few of the hazards facing migratory fish.
Wild trout fishing is readily available throughout the Partnership area and the local fishing tackle shop is a good place to get best advice on where and when to go.
The Moray Firth Sea Trout Project is carrying out research to try to identify reasons for the decline in numbers of wild trout.
Scotland is internationally recognised for the quality of its stocked trout fisheries, and there there are at least twelve fisheries (rainbow trout) located around the inner firth alone, as well as other stocked trout lochs for brown trout. Stocked fisheries provide good sport, easy access including many opportunties for less able anglers, and tuition facilities. Except in severe weather, these fisheries can be accessed all year round, and rainbow trout are a non-native speces so do not have a "close season".
Sea angling can be practised from shore or from boats, and a number of clubs have sea angling sections. There are now fewer sea-angling charter-boat operators around the coast, (five registered in Moray Firth in 2010/11), due in part to the rising costs of fuel and higher insurance and safety compliance costs for passenger-carrying boats. The main catches include cod, mackerel, ling, dab, wrasse and conger. A Scottish Government report in 2009 estimated the value of sea angling in Scotland to be about £140 million per annum to the local enconomy.
Coarse fishing is mostly confined to pike in this part of the world, and is carried out in the winter and early spring months. A number of angling clubs have pike fishing enthusiasts.
The Moray Firth Directory has further information contact details for the many fishing related clubs and societies around the Moray Firth.