Hopes for salmon recovery after historic purchase

Committee members Peter Lock, David Hogg and River Convener Grant Kellie at the newly purchased Macpherson Fishings

A Perthshire angling club hopes a historic buy-out of 4 miles of a key spawning river can help rectify water abstractions which are harming endangered salmon. 


The river Ericht, which runs through Blairgowrie, is a key spawning tributary in the River Tay system and is part of a European Special Area of Conservation for salmon.


However, in line with rivers nationally, it is witnessing falling stocks, with Scottish Government recently announcing that the 2023 rod catch nationwide was the lowest since records began.


Now, following the purchase of the Macpherson Fishings from the local Macpherson family, on Saturday, the Blairgowrie Rattray and District Angling Association (BRDAA) aim to leave no stone unturned to help species recovery on the Ericht.

Saturday was a historic day on the river, with members and onlookers enjoying the ceremony

Abstractions and low water


The Ericht has a history of industrial water abstractions which act as barriers to fish passage, with low waters making stressed fish more susceptible to predation by piscivorous birds.


Use of the river by mill lades and a fish farm over time has reduced flows along with Victorian-age weirs which are now falling into disrepair, starving the river of water in dry spells.


Having taken ownership of the Fishings in their centenary year, BRDAA officials now hope their increasing ‘muscle’ can help end historic problems, for the sake of salmon and future anglers.


“This is a purchase for the next generation,” said River Convener Grant Kellie, also a member of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association’s Fishing Group, which represents Scotland’s river ghillies.


“We need to monitor the water flow. I’ve seen salmon stranded and dying here. Water abstraction has a detrimental effect on the movement of fish, whether juveniles or adult salmon heading upstream so we need to keep the flows more regular.


“This is not just an issue on the Ericht. I believe there are about 260 rivers in Scotland which all have issues preventing the easy passage of migratory fish and Scottish Govt needs to step up at this moment in time and get this implemented so we can get the fish back to where they should be. The national salmon strategy is not working, at the moment.


"Now that salmon are on the endangered list, how long does the species have?”

Onlookers stop for the first cast, by Jamie Macpherson

River habitat work


While water abstraction presents significant challenges on the Ericht, as it does on rivers like the Spey, it is not the only issue.


Across the Tay catchment, programmes such as riparian tree planting, to lower water temperature, are being initiated in the conservation area surrounding the Category One river.


Nevertheless, the BRDAA has been encouraged by catches to date, in 2024, with 38 landed from the Ericht and returned to the water, mostly during the key Spring run.


The club, which started in 1924 to encourage angling in the ‘Old Postal District of Blairgowrie’ now has around 300 members and officials are hopeful that, with action, there can be rejuvenation.


“There is no doubt salmon are in decline, nationally. When you think of the numbers that used to come up here in the late 70s and early 80s - the Spring run especially- there is no comparison, but this year so far has been good and there has been enough fish to keep people interested,” said David Hogg, BRDAA Committee member and former President.


A historic day on the river


The 4 miles of the river were officially handed over during a ceremony on the banks on Saturday, with Jamie Macpherson taking the first ceremonial cast, watched on by members and locals.


George Thomson from the SGA Fishing Group, said: “BRDAA deserves great credit for taking this step at a critical time for our salmon. It demonstrates the passion hard working local people have for the species and a way of life.”

Jamie and Annie Macpherson were presented with a framed image of the Ericht pools
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