Update to catch and release legislation on Scottish rivers from 2017

06 December 2016

As the fishing season on Scottish rivers now draws to a close for 2016, next year will bring changes to catch and release legislation for favourite fishing rivers across Scotland.  As part of the ongoing Wild Fisheries Reform, the Scottish Government has updated their provisional list detailing the conservation status of salmon rivers for 2017, grading rivers/areas and fishery districts according to the health of their stocks. 

The 2017 classifications are split into three categories.  The Category 1 (28% of areas) classification is given to rivers with good conservation methods and a healthy stock of salmon where taking the occasional fish is deemed sustainable. Category 2 (29% of areas) classifications indicate where some form of management is necessary to reduce “exploitation”, though catch and release is not mandatory.  The Category 3 (43% of areas) classification is given to rivers where the killing of salmon is unsustainable and 100% catch and release is imposed. 

2016 was the first year that these classifications had been made and the system had been criticised for taking too broad a view of a river’s salmon population, which is often (and especially in larger rivers) made up of separate stocks with varying degrees of health. 

Since 2015 it has been illegal to kill any salmon on a Scottish river until 1 April, and this measure will remain in place.

Savills Director, Ewan Harris commented: “Unfortunately, across Scotland overall, whilst spring and summer catches were positive the 2016 autumn run of salmon has proved very disappointing.  There are many possible reasons for this, including rising sea temperatures and changes to the timing of runs, but anglers were certainly not helped by the unseasonably dry and warm autumn weather.

“Field sports, including fishing, are worth around £155 million to Scotland’s rural economy, so it is important that we encourage the sport on Scotland’s rivers.  In Scotland in 2015, 84 per cent of the 54,969 salmon caught were then released.   It is vital that this and other means available are used to continue to conserve salmon stocks.” 


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