I would like to welcome you all here this evening. Thank you for attending the 2019 AGM of the River Stinchar Fishery Board. Your presence is heartening to the Board, please pass on to friends, neighbours and anglers the news of what this Board is doing on behalf of the river and it’s valley communities.
The salmon fishing statistics for the 2018 season were, I am afraid to report, dire. Not since records began in 1952 have the numbers of salmon and grilse caught in Scotland been so low. 99% of all spring fish were released and 93% of the overall annual rod catch were also released. The Stinchar regrettably followed the rest of the country recording only 73 rod caught salmon and grilse. Our release rate was 82%. We are a category one river, however it falls on us all to do our best to persuade all anglers to achieve a return figure for this season that is closer to the National Average. I implore you to help us with this matter in these straightened times this wondrous natural resource needs our help to survive and breed. Sea trout too must be included in a species to nurture and preserve, remembering the bigger the fish the more likely it is to be a female. As you will hear our scientists think the Stinchar is in good health. Stocks of par and fry seem to be holding up despite the long period of extremely low flow that we had last summer. However, there was in July a serious and damaging incident. It occurred on a stretch of water below the Craig pool at Almont. A similar circumstance happened on the same stretch of water previously. To the untrained eye, it looked as if pollution was responsible. SEPA attended the scene and reported that in their opinion the damage was as a result of low oxygen levels in low water. May I remind all landowners whose ground marches with the river, if proved to be responsible for a pollution offence, their Single Farm Payment would be threatened and a large fine imposed. It is imperative that if numbers of dead fish are seen in the water at anytime of year, the appropriate authorities are informed immediately, including a member of the Board. We are all obliged to conform to the rules and regulations that pertain to managing the environment. CAR Licenses should be obtained before any substantial work is carried out on the river or its banks. The Board does have funds to assist Landowners with projects they might undertake if these projects are seen to be of benefit to the river and its aquaculture. Bank maintenance on both the main stem and tributaries is to be encouraged. Neighbours could club together therefore reducing the costs of licensing and works. This Board would be willing to help coordinate such a collective enterprise. Now that the weather pattern is probably changing, deeper pools and shade are important features to enhance and install. I urge all members of this community to take this responsibility seriously. We are inheritors of a managed environment and manage it we must.
Spate rivers like ours only keep their figure if they are fit for purpose.
The security of the river is under review this coming season. The Board is organizing a combination of bailiffs and Wardens to police the river. A member of the Board has been appointed to liaise between the four Volunteers. Their names and addresses will be circulated along with this Report. Eyes, ears and boots on the ground all help. Please involve a member of this team if a problem occurs.
At this point I would like to thank Robert McIlwraith for his long service to the River and the Board. I am glad to hear he is making steady progress. His courage in doing so is to be admired. The Board has been able to accumulate a small war chest. We are proposing spending a small proportion of our funds on repairs to both riverbanks and culverts, which will be overseen by ART. As mentioned previously, if the Board is approached by Clubs, Landowners or Farmers we hope to be able to offer them some funding too. We should all be grateful to Gordon Hyslop for organizing and running the Management and control of predatory birds over the last few months. This he has done with enthusiasm and to good effect, culminating in arranging the patrol of the river mouth by George Lees for assisting the smolts as they head to sea. Thank you both. The cost of nursing the smolts has been covered by the Board and may very well become an annual event. Numbers of predatory birds are on the rise and represent a considerable danger to our fish stocks. Please inform Gordon if you are being bothered. He will apply suitable measures within the limitations of our License.
The Board would like to recommend the same angling guidelines as last year, with one addition, to ban worming in October. However, we are going to take a Vote tonight with a show of hands to see whether this has support.
Each year, as stressed previously, fishing records are essential when it comes to judging the health of the river. Please assist the Board by being disciplined and accurate in this regard. We plan to get the record sheets out to you well in advance of the end of the season. In passing any caught ‘farmed’ fish should be recorded separately. These are unfortunately on the increase.
On behalf of the River Stinchar Fishery Board, I would like to thank ART for its continued conscientious monitoring of our river and we look forward to the conclusion of this Season’s restoration projects that they are under taking.
Thanks too to Tom Lothian and his team. Tom continues to give much of his precious time to our river, however none of us are getting any younger and this may be his last year as Head Bailiff.
To my fellow Board Members, thank you for bearing with me and for all that you bring to our purpose. It is nice to have welcomed Matthew Aspinall onto the Board in proxy for Lord Frederick Wellesley, always good to have new young blood on the Board. Austin you and Angela are our Wicket Keeper and Slip, thank you for the part you play in the field. Here’s wishing you all a successful and enjoyable season on the beautiful River Stinchar.