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Sea Trout Catch Returns

Orkney’s excellent sea trout fishing continues.  To learn more about the fishery, the OTFA began a voluntary project to collect sea trout catch data.  This involved making simple catch return forms available to local and visiting anglers to complete as the season progressed.  The most important information that these catch returns aim to collect are the number of sea trout caught and the time spent fishing.  This allows an estimate of catch rate, e.g. the number of fish caught per hour, which can be used to indicate the health of the local fishery. 
A rather modest total of six catch returns have been submitted so far for 2010.  Catch rates varied from 0.8 to over 3 trout per hour, with the locals having the upper hand!  Some anglers may yet be able to submit returns from last year by checking their logbooks – please do so as soon as possible before the new season starts.  As many returns as possible are required in order to track changes in our unique and valuable sea trout fishery. 
Since starting this project last year, the OTFA has learned that salmon farming companies are about to apply for a large number of new sites around Orkney, increasing production to levels never before seen in Orkney.  This could have a severe effect on sea trout populations, as lice control continues to be a major problem for the industry.  If the OTFA can develop an effective catch-return system then we will be in a better position to gauge the impact of these developments, should they become reality. 
I would like to thank those anglers who submitted catch return in 2010 and would ask that they keep doing so, for this information becomes more useful over time.  I would also like to urge more anglers to get involved by submitting catch returns for the 2011 season.  All you need to record is time spent fishing and number of trout caught.   Catch return forms can be downloaded from the OTFA website (see below) or I can send out paper copies if requested. 
All OTFA members submitting catch returns in 2011 will be entered into a raffle at the end of the season, with first prize being a bottle of Highland Park 18 year old whisky. 

Sea trout catch-return project 2010

In 2010, the OTFA is inviting its members to participate in a voluntary catch-return project for sea trout fishing.  Currently we enjoy excellent sea trout fishing in Orkney, but it’s not many years since we experienced a total collapse in the fishery, a collapse caused to some degree by a rise in salmon farm activity.  Despite being very obvious to anglers, it was very difficult to convince other people and organisations that something serious had happened to the fishery.  The absence of catch data was central to this problem and it is hoped that by starting to collect data on sea trout catches then the OTFA will be able to monitor the health of the fishery more closely.

The aim of this process is not to determine the total number of sea trout caught annually in Orkney (this would be an almost impossible task) but to estimate the catch per unit effort (CPUE), e.g. number of fish caught per hour fishing.  The CPUE is a common tool used in fisheries and can be used as a simple indicator of fishery health – the more fish you catch per hour, the better the fishing!  An example of CPUE for Orkney’s sea trout fishery has recently been constructed from the logbooks of one meticulous local angler – crucially he has recorded the time spent fishing, as well as catch, over a 30 year period.  The graph of CPUE is shown below.  The left hand side of the graph could be described as his “apprenticeship” to sea trout fishing in Orkney, while the right hand side clearly shows the significant dip and recovery of catches.  Unless the angler had suddenly forgotten all that he had learned (unlikely), it is reasonable to conclude that this dip reflects a drop in fishery productivity.  This kind of graph is very convincing but would carry more weight if it was based on the catches of 10 anglers rather than one.

Therefore, anglers are invited to participate in this process by recording their fishing time and catches on a standard catch-return form which is available from the OTFA’s website.  The form comes in two formats:

A word document – you can download this to your computer and update electronically before submitting by e-mail.
A pdf document – you can print a hard copy and complete by hand and submit this paper copy.

It is crucial to the process that you record time spent fishing and number of sea trout caught.  There is space to include other data should you wish to do so – this would be useful but not essential.  If you could split your catch into fish over and under 12” and indicate the size (length or weight) of the largest fish.  You will also see that there is space to record location.  Again - this is optional and does not have to be specific!  However, it would be very useful if you could indicate the general area, e.g. Scapa Flow or Bay of Firth.  Alternatively you could indicate the Parish.  There is also a column for indicating the number of fish in your catch which carry more than 10 lice.  Any angler wishing to include more detailed information is welcome to do so. 

It should be stressed that all data submitted will be treated confidentially.  And remember there is no need to kill fish, if not for the pot, an estimate of size weight etc. would suffice

Local and visiting anglers are invited to participate.  Catch returns should be submitted to Malcolm Thomson.  Submissions can be made at the end of the season, but separate spring and autumn returns would also be welcome.  Visiting anglers should submit following their visit.  Contact details below. 

E-mail:                  malcolm.thomson@hw.ac.uk

Address:
Halssund
Innertown
Stromness
Orkney
KW16 3JW

Overall results will be provided in the annual report from the Association’s Environment sub-committee. 

Thank you in advance for your participation, you will be helping the OTFA to conserve Orkney’s fantastic wild trout fishing