What We Do
The work Argyll Fisheries Trust undertakes to meet our charitable objectives comes in many forms. Our charitable objectives are to:
- Understand the composition of all fish populations, distribution and trends in abundance
- Identify, protect and improve wild fish populations throughout the Argyll area and the islands
- Understand, protect and enhance the physical environment for fish
- Educate all sectors of the community on their role in caring for the freshwater environment
Our work can be categorised as follows:
Mainly takes the form of fish habitat and fish populations surveys. Fish habitat surveys are walk-up surveys that seek to classify the suitablility of rivers for salmonid fish. Such surveys prove useful in identifying the many potential factors that can limit the recruitment of juvenile fish including barriers to fish passage, degraded habitats and pollution points.
The electrofishing technique is used to temporarily stun fish in the close vicinity of the operator, allowing fish to be retained and processed prior to release. The surveys are undertaken using protocols developed by the Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre (SFCC) allowing comparisons to be made between survey sites and between years. Data collected from electrofishing and habitat surveys is used to inform local managers of the status of the resource. To date, these surveys have detected a wide variation in fish abundance in different rivers, identified barriers to fish migration and highlighted where restoration activities are required. As well as salmonid fish, electrofishing is also used to collect information on other species such as lamprey, eels, stickleback and other non-native species.
We also undertake redd counts, of surveys of areas where salmonid fish have spawned. Identification of nesting sites is an important part of understanding the distribution of spawning activity within catchments.
Below is a link to a short video of Sea Trout Netting on Loch Riddon to monitor the sea lice burden on sea-trout in the sea. All fish netted were examined and safely returned to the sea unharmed.
Another link to a short video taken in Loch Etive of Sea Trout being release post examination.
AFT will be helpig to tag salmon smolts in Argyll this spring to help understand more about their migration routes.
The West Coast Salmon Project will fill the gap in knowlege, tracking wild Atlantic Salmon over a thre-year period to better uderstand their migration routes and, ultimately to infomr policy on how best to look after them.
Improvements in the way we manage our resource are essential if we are to prevent further declines in fisheries. AFT is collaborating with a number of organisations to develop long-term strategic management and restoration plans for all catchments in Argyll. Plans for priority catchments are already underway.
The freshwater habitat for fish has been degraded over many years in many of our rivers. This has been due to historical straightening for agriculture, removal of riverside trees that provided shade and protection for fish, commerical forestry that drained land and changed many burns, livestock access to rivers that degraded river banks. More recently, renewable power, such as hydro electric schemes, have diverted water from large areas of river. AFT are working on a number of projects to improve and restore the habitat for the benefit of freshwater fish and fisheries.
River Goil fish habitat improvement
Utilising funds from the Loch Lomond National Park Authority, AFT staff joined volunteers from the Lochgoilhead Community Trust to direct and assist with habitat improvement works in the upper River Goil. The work stabilised a 100 m length of eroding bank using a green revetment technique.
Since installation, some maintenance has been required following autumn floods, but much of the finer sediment present in the stream bed in the riverbed prior to the work has been scoured out leaving a larger average size of substrate better suited as cover for young trout and salmon. The woody brash used to protect the bank, stock fencing and planted trees also provide bankside cover for fish. Similar works on a further 100 m of bank is planned for 2021-22.
AFT are working on a number of projects and several project partners to remove invasive non-native species (INNS) from river banks. These plants outcompete native plants for space, reducing biodiversity and changing the ecology.
INNS can also change the morphology of a river by destabilising the river banks due to their inferior root system.
The INNS we are targeting at the moment include Japanese knotweed, Himalayan balsam, and Rhododendron ponticum.
The American mink, which is found throughout Argyll, can cause serious damage to freshwater ecosystems, especially to water voles.
Thankfully, at the moment the North American Signal Crayfish has not yet found its way to Argyll. However, it has been found to the South and North of Argyll, and unless measures are taken, it could well find its way to us.
AFT’s main educational project is Rivers in the Classroom. This project sets out to establish a program in local primary schools that will engender a caring attitude towards freshwater ecosystems containing important local and UK Biodiversity Action Species such as Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussels, water voles and otters.
An introduction to the aquatic ecosystem, species and habitats is provided to pupils in a classroom-based session. Pupils are shown how to look after fish from eggs until they develop into fry in the early spring. Classes are then taken on a field trip to a river in their area where fry are planted into their natal rivers. Samples of native fish and invertebrates are collected by the children and their habitat described, reinforcing classroom sessions.
Due to COVID-19 and restrictions in place AFT have been unable to work with the children to date but hope to so when it is safe to do so.
Argyll Fisheries Trust organised a fly-fishing event on the River Ruel for the pupils of the Kilmodan School. The event was funded by the Cruach Mhor Wind Farm Trust.
The project has been running since 2015 and it has become very successful event of the year. Children’s ages varies from P1 to P7. Some children have been practicing fly-fishing since 2015 and their skills have improved over the years. They feel comfortable casting and managing the fly rod. Others have just started with great interest and enthusiasm. The qualified instructor gives them the tips on how to cast and catch a fish, what flies to use and makes it so much fun that they don’t want to stop fishing.
Through every fishing event, we hope that the kids learn a bit more about the river system and the wildlife that inhabits it. This time the biologist talked about invertebrates, which is a food source for fish and other birds and mammals. He explained where the invertebrates live (lifting the stones in the river and doing a kick sample) and showed them how to identify them. They looked through the magnifying glass and put them in trays with water. They loved this activity.
We are very grateful to have the cooperation of keen volunteers who have a great knowledge of the rivers and loch in the area. They come on the day and assist the pupils while fishing.
AFT often undertake river surveys to inform local developments, such as hydroelectric schemes, wind farms, engineering projects and aquaculture farms. Our local knowledge enables us to put the results of these surveys into the proper context. Our reports not only provide developers and local planning officers with important baseline data on freshwater fish and habitats, but we also provide advice on how best to mitigate the potential effects such developments may have on the ecosystem.
Services we offer include:-
- Electrofishing surveys (SFCC accredited)
- Fish habitat surveys (SFCC accredited)
- Fresh Water Pearl Mussel surveys (SNH accredited)
- Freshwater loch surveys
Example of historical straightening for agriculture