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Low water delays downstream migration of smolts, over-wintered sea trout and kelts

Posted: Friday 4 June, 2010 @ 10:08:14

Loch Kernsary: a salmon kelt's challenge?

Smolts, over-wintered sea trout and finnock were delayed in reaching the sea after water levels fell in many Wester Ross rivers in early May.  Rivers finally rose over the weekend of 29th - 30th May after heavy rain. Smolt migration resumed at Tournaig; River Ewe Rotary screw trap (see other news item) catches peaked with both sea trout smolts and last year's finnock and salmon smolts heading for the sea.

The following chain of correspondense may also relate to the low water conditions in May . . .

From: Glynn Cutts
Sent: 31 May 2010 17:09
Subject: Freshwater Fish

I was on holiday with my wife in Scotland the last couple of weeks.
On Sunday 23rd May we were in Gairloch, in the afternoon we decided to do a circular walk from Poolewe. We walked up the river Ewe, branched off towards Fionn Loch, then turned along Loch Kernsary back to Poolewe. Right at the very end of the loch, where the path leaves the loch at the Poolewe end, the bank is steep and the loch ends in a sharp corner/point.
Approaching along the path I saw a swirl of a biggish fish towards the corner, and again as I got closer, I put on my polaroids and peered down from the high bank.
I saw a shoal of good fish finning up the loch about 3 feet down, I saw 6 fish, there may have been more preceding them, I estimated each of them at 3 to 4lbs. Behind them were two more fish even bigger about 6lbs, just below the surface, swimming in a relaxed and inquisitive manner.
I have fished in Scotland over 20 years, I am experienced in watching fish and their behaviour, I consider this sighting quite extraordinary?
They can't have been Brown Trout, that size, they wouldn't travel together.
Early for Salmon, especially Grilse.
Sea Trout? best guess, in that case they must have come via the joining river from Loch Maree. Is Maree at last improving for Sea-Trout?
I'd welcome your thoughts,
Glynn Cutts


From: Jennifer Shand On Behalf Of Reception
Sent: 01 June 2010 12:57
To: Stuart Middlemas; Ross Gardiner; John Armstrong
Subject: FW: Freshwater Fish

Hello gents,

Are you able to help out here?

Many thanks,



-----Original Message-----
From: Ross Gardiner

To: Glynn Cutts
Sent: 01 June 2010 13:07
Subject: RE: Freshwater Fish

 Dear Glynn

Many thanks for seeking the advice of Marine Scotland Freshwater Laboratory. However, in this case, I think this is one for the local Wester Ross Fisheries Trust which is based at Gairloch, in the first instance, and I am copying Mr Peter Cunningham (the WRFT Biologist) in, so that he can reply to you. Hope OK.

All best wishes.

Ross Gardiner

Marine Scotland - Science                +44 (0) 1224 294400 (Lab office)

Freshwater Laboratory                    +44 (0) 1796 473523 (fax)

Pitlochry                               Perthshire                    PH16 5LB


To: R.Gardiner; G. Cutts
Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2010 13:40:20 +0100

Hello Ross,

Many thanks for forwarding this very interesting observation.

Loch Kernsary is a rather strange loch in so far as the outlet to the river to Loch Maree and on to the sea is not where one (a person or fish) might expect to find it. My guess is that the fish seen may have been salmon or sea trout kelts heading for the sea, and were having some difficulty in locating the way out of the loch. The weather was very dry up to 23rd May: even if they found the outlet it is possible that they were unable to exit – because the water was too shallow. Our smolt run at Tournaig stopped for two weeks, until the past weekend (rain on Friday and Saturday). The water is now higher, and with luck the fish will have now been able to travel downstream and on to the sea.

Well spotted!

Best wishes,



-----Original Message-----
From: Glynn Cutts
Sent: 01 June 2010 15:02
To:; r.gardiner

Subject: RE: Freshwater Fish in Loch Kernsary

Thank you for that.
I attach a photo of the OS Map which shows the path we took. I see what you mean, where I saw the fish was about as far from the outlet to Loch Maree as you, or they, could get. It also demonstrates the problem they would have finding their way out.
I'd never thought of the navigational difficulty a fish would have returning to the sea from a large expanse of stillwater, do they just go round and round until they bump into the exit river? No chance of smelling the sea.
Glynn Cutts

Many thanks to Glynn for this observation and Ross for forwarding the message. One hopes that after the rain last weekend, the fish have found their way back to the sea.