Protect. Enhance. Conserve.


Fishing For Data On The River Oykel

Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust is gathering information on the sizes and ages of wild adult Atlantic salmon in the River Oykel SAC with anglers kindly providing fish for sampling before safe release.

Over the past few decades it has become clear that salmon returning to Scotland’s rivers are getting smaller. This is important as it is the size, and age, of female salmon that determines how many eggs they produce and therefore how many salmon will be produced in future generations.

Scales record information throughout the life of the salmon and can be used to determine the age of the fish, how many years an individual fish spent in the river and in the marine environment and how fast it grew at different life stages.

This project is funded by Marine Scotland and delivered in partnership with Fisheries Management Scotland and Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre.

Steven MacKenzie of Lower Oykel Fishings releasing a salmon unharmed after sampling in August 2022.
Steven MacKenzie of Lower Oykel Fishings releasing a salmon unharmed after sampling in August 2022.
Scale from a remarkable 3.5kgs salmon caught in August 2021. The centre of the scale indicates 4 years of growth as a juvenile in freshwater before 2 winters spent at sea. Image provided by Marine Scotland Science.
Scale from a remarkable 3.5kgs salmon caught in August 2021. The centre of the scale indicates 4 years of growth as a juvenile in freshwater before 2 winters spent at sea. Image provided by Marine Scotland Science.

The project is funded by Marine Scotland and will help inform national and international management aimed at safeguarding salmon for future generations. In particular, it will help to inform our understanding of trends in the size, and age, of salmon returning to Scotland’s rivers. This year's project builds on last years pilot project., report available here.

ScaleMap (1)

Weds June 29 at Bonar Bridge Community Hall

7:00- 7:55PM - Film screening

Followed by tea, coffee and biscuits

RW-Bonar Bridge Invite

The salmon need the forest. The forest needs the salmon. And Scotland needs them both.

Riverwoods is a spectacular and compelling visual journey that shines a light on the perilous state of Scotland’s salmon and the degraded river catchments we have come to accept as normal. Riverwoods shows how Scotland’s life-rich rivers have been greatly diminished but crucially, how they could be reborn through a shared vision of restoration and recovery.

The feature-length documentary filmed and produced by rewilding charity SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, tells the story of an inextricable relationship between fish and forest. It is a rallying call for restoring native woodland to Scotland’s river catchments and all the life they support.

A new position has arisen with the Atlantic Salmon Trust for an individual to undertake eDNA sampling across the North of Scotland to support the Moray Firth Tracking project. The Trust is looking to appoint a Temporary Survey Assistant, for a four-month period from 21st February to 18th June 2022, to support Environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of avian and mammalian predators on the Ness System, with the possibility of some sampling on other northern Scottish river systems.

he role will involve scat sampling of birds and mammals feeding in the catchment. The person appointed to the post may also be required to sample fish predators. The Survey Assistant will act as a liaison with field staff on the ground, and will also liaise with those who have local knowledge of predator behaviour.

Full details can be seen in the Temporary Survey Assistant eDNA 2022. Closing date for applications is Thursday the 27th January 2022.

Since summer 2021 Leanne Munro has been working with Kyle Fisheries as our assistant Scientist. Leanne has now begun a secondment with the Scottish Fisheries Coordination Centre (SFCC), and has written a blog about her time with us.


Hello! Better late than never to introduce myself, anyway I’m Leanne Munro, a seasonal (or so it was supposed to be!) assistant at the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust. You may have met me already, tagging along with Sean or Keith, or know me locally as I literally live a minutes’ walk from the office (yet I still have my late moments). I grew up in this area for the first 18 years of my life before going off to Oban to do a degree in Marine Science with Oceanography and Robotics at the University of the Highlands and Islands – SAMS. Now I am back home and have spent the last 7 months working at the Trust and this is just a wee insight as to all I got up to during this period.

An eventful start it was too. July saw the narrow miss of Covid, TWICE, and a rather foolish decision on my behalf (slippy rocks and bare feet do not go hand in hand, as I learnt the hard way) which saw myself as “hop along” for the remainder of the busy season ahead. NEPS was in full swing sending us to 45 electrofishing sites in the depths of the catchment, some where no one in their right mind would go to, nonetheless we had a job to do and that was to complete them before September.

July came and went in a flash and August in with full force. A couple of new projects were on the go, the National Adult Salmon Sampling Project, which made a change to the wee tiddlers we were getting electrofishing, and a pilot eDNA project for the Trust. It was the dreaded ‘odd’ year which saw the return of pink salmon nationwide. A school was spotted on the Oykel and an ambitious netting operation took place to get them out. Me being me, I was in the middle of it all and we ended up catching the most important fish, the female, full of eggs but I can certainly say now that I fully appreciate the old nets men and the skills they had to do this daily!

Before long, we were into autumn which was welcomed as it meant the field season was coming to an end. The last NEPS sites were done. But that didn’t mean it was time to kick the feet up. There was still radio tracking to be done on the Carron, mapping data and coding and the fun task of sorting out the archived files. This period saw my proudest achievement to date, I managed to code a ShinyApp which converts SFCC’s electrofishing data file into a format which can be inputted directly to Marine Scotland’s ShinyApp that calculates the densities of the sites. Hopefully one day it can be implemented for the whole industry to use!

By this point in the year, the Trust has gone tree mad. The big push is on to try and save what we can of our rivers from overheating and to protect the future Atlantic salmon population and other vulnerable riverine species. The glamourous side of being a biologist assistant has come to light as it is time to collect head samples… and yes, I do mean the cutting off the rather ripe kelt heads. To finish off my spell here in style, Sean and myself nearly had a search and rescue party deployed (it was dark by the time we were back in signal range) while out at the temperature loggers on the Upper Oykel where a much-needed bath was required afterwards.

It has been a diverse experience at the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust and I cannot thank the team enough for giving me the opportunity to develop such a wide range of skills for the future and for putting up with me during this time!

Fisheries Management Scotland are asking anglers to assist in data collection, and to report any instances of Pink salmon fish with red skin disease, or escaped farmed salmon being caught.  A new reporting app has been developed, that can be accessed by scanning the QR code on their poster or by visiting this webpage. Please report any instances of these fish, as it allows us to determine the scale of these issues both in terms of how widespread they are, and how often they are occuring.

A project to restore freshwater pearl mussel habitat in a tributary of the Shin catchment will be a recipient of the Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund. On the Shin catchment we are conducting a freshwater pearl mussel habitat restoration project – this will involve mitigating for adverse anthropogenic impacts by adding gravel substrate and large wood structures to sections of the river which have been deprived of an input of gravel sediment, which is great habitat for freshwater pearl mussels and spawning salmonid fish.

Investment in a ‘green recovery’ is understood to be the most cost effective way of making our communities and our nature sustainable and more resilient, while driving inclusive economic development.

The Biodiversity Challenge Fund specifically encourages applicants with projects creating transformational change to increase the biodiversity and environmental value of land and sea, with a focus on habitats and species, and supporting green skills, training and jobs where possible. Through this approach, successful projects from this third round of funding will contribute to the green recovery as we emerge from Covid-19 and work towards a nature rich future.

This project is one of 12 successful projects across Scotland to share the additional £2million committed in this round of the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, taking the overall Fund investment to £6.4 million. The projects will take practical steps to improve natural habitats, safeguard plant and animal species and improve biodiversity.

The Biodiversity Challenge Fund adds to the many millions of pounds of Scottish Government funding delivered through the Scottish Rural Development Programme and other sources to support biodiversity and help to deliver Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy.

NatureScot Chief Executive, Francesca Osowska, said:

“During lockdowns people around the world have valued the direct physical and wellbeing benefits of nature. More than ever before, people are starting to understand fully and support powerful arguments to put nature at the heart of our emergence from this crisis.

As we emerge from the COVID pandemic, investment in a ‘green recovery’ is understood to be the most cost effective way of making our communities and our nature sustainable and more resilient, while driving inclusive economic development.

“This year new global targets to improve nature will be agreed at a Conference of the Parties in Kunming, China (COP15). Alongside COP26 on climate change in Glasgow, Scotland has a huge opportunity to address the many challenges and pressures that nature is facing. Nature is at the heart of what we do, and we will continue to deliver the transformational change needed to bring a nature-rich, sustainable and more economically secure future for Scotland.”

This project is supported by the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund.


What an amazing success our 2021 auction was.  In this difficult time we pondered on how many good auction items we could achieve and were our supporters even ‘in the mood’ for another fundrasing event!….. So many answerred the call to donate fabulous items to auction and many more shared our efforts far and wide to gain as much exposure as possible.  2021 far exceeded our expectations and raised over £22K towards our RIVERWOODS project.   THANK YOU, to all who gererously donated.


In December 2020 the Trust held its very first online auction. We were so incredibly grateful to the wonderful auction lots we received from local benefactors and from supporters and individuals further afield. At auction launch we had over 30 lots to promote. As it was our first time, the staff at the Trust were checking every hour and more on the progress of the bids, it was an exciting and thrilling experience. The interest and response we received way exceeded our expectations. After the auction concluded we achieved close to £9K from bids and pledges, an incredible boost to the Trusts funds in these challenging times. Alas, some of the wonderful event lots have regrettably been postponed due to travel and other restrictions still being in place. We are assured however, that the winning bidders will have the opportunity to enjoy their experiences in the future. Our thanks are expressed once again to the wonderful supporters of the Kyle of Sutherland Fisheries Trust.


Following the First Minister’s announcement earlier today angling will be a permitted activity from Friday the 29th of May onwards. However as we are in phase 1 of lockdown some travel restrictions will still apply. See below for some detailed guidance from Fisheries Management Scotland;
“During phase 1, limitations on travel will have a bearing on angling activity. People are only permitted to travel short distances for outdoor leisure and exercise and are advised to stay within a short distance of their local community (broadly within 5 miles) and travel by walk, wheel and cycle where possible. The First Minister has indicated that the reference to ‘broadly 5 miles’ is an indicative guide. What is ‘local’ in an urban environment, as opposed to a more rural environment, could be quite different. It is important that anglers and fishery owners use their judgement about an appropriate distance of travel within a short distance of their local community. Underpinning this guidance is the fundamental rule that no one should be present on the river bank (or indeed outside their own house) if they are showing any symptoms associated with Covid-19, or if contact has been made with a confirmed or possible case of coronavirus within the last 14 days.
As is always the case, no fishing should take place without the appropriate legal right or written permission, or during the weekly close time in the case of salmon and sea trout fishing. Fisheries enforcement activity, including checking permits, will continue throughout all phases set out in the route map in order to protect and preserve Scotland’s salmon and sea trout. Some proprietors may wish anglers to notify them when they arrive at the beat they are fishing and also when they leave. The principal issue is the ability for fishery proprietors and angling associations to ensure that participation in their fishery can be permitted in a manner fully consistent with current physical distancing regulations and hand washing/sanitisation requirements and that anglers take responsibility to comply with these. It is likely that all fisheries will require to make changes to the way anglers’ access and conduct themselves in the fishery, and we provide some examples of the types of practice that will require consideration below.
A critical component of the advice below is the absolute need to maintain hand washing and sanitization, as this is one of the most effective ways to suppress the spread of the virus.
Angler responsibilities
• Travel to and from fisheries by private vehicle. Any passengers must be from the same household and Scottish Government physical distancing regulations must be observed.
• Parking and social interaction on arrival at the fishery must be responsible and consistent with Scottish Government physical distancing regulations.
• Fishery access and use. Anglers must not share fishing tackle or equipment, except with members of the same household.
• Gates and stiles are common on fisheries, and where they need to be used, appropriate sanitation measures should be taken by anglers, including use of gloves and disinfectant
hand gels as appropriate.
Fishery owner responsibilities
• Permissions for fishing should not be physical transactions, and online or contactless facilities should be used for any purchases.
• Fishing huts and clubhouses present the highest risk of social interaction. Group gatherings in fishing huts should not be permitted, but individual access to toilets and handwashing facilities may be allowed if strict hygiene rules are followed. Otherwise these facilities should remain closed until such time as Covid-19 restrictions are consistent with their use. Food and drink should be consumed in a manner consistent with physical
distancing regulations.
• Boats should only be used where use is consistent with the physical distancing regulations in force at the time. Where boats are to be used, the key points of contact (i.e. oar handles, seats, outboard handles etc.) should be sanitised at the end of the angling session.
• Ghillies and angling guides – Many of the accepted activities of ghillies and angling guides in supporting angling clients will have to be undertaken in a modified manner under physical distancing regulations. When setting up to fish, while fishing, and when landing and unhooking fish, ghillies and guides should observe minimum physical distancing regulations in force at the time. Ghillies must not touch the angler’s fishing tackle at any point, including supplying and tying on casts and flies. It is possible that assistance with landing fish may be undertaken, however nets or any fishing tackle should not be passed between people. Ghillies and guides should regularly wash/sanitize their hands throughout
the day and ensure that hand washing/sanitising facilities are available for anglers “
More guidance from FMS can be found here;

A project to improve water flow and fish migration on the River Carron has resulted in the removal of a concrete weir.

SSE Renewables, the UK’s leading renewable energy developer and operator, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), and the Kyle District Salmon Fishery Board, who represent the angling interests on the River Carron, have worked together to agree the removal of the weir.

SSE Renewables has installed new flow gauging system in its place that does not require anything to be built in the river channel. This will ease the passing of fish upstream and minimise any visual impact whilst still collecting this much needed river flow data.

Built in the 1950’s as part of the Conon Hydro scheme by SSE Renewables predecessor, The North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board (NoSHEB), Deanich weir was constructed as a gauging station to measure the river flows on the River Carron. The weir was needed to allow the hydro-electric board to meet its commitment to environmental management by demonstrating the agreed flows were being maintained in the river.

Due to its design, the weir posed a partial barrier to migrating fish who travel upstream to their traditional spawning grounds. The new flow monitoring equipment, now situated above the water level, will allow fish to move upstream without restriction.

For fish such as Atlantic salmon, sea trout and lampreys, free passage between the ocean and freshwater environments is an essential part of their lifecycle for breeding and spawning. Removing obstacles which may have partially blocked these migration routes helps the recovery of damaged fish stocks, while also preserving the natural ecology of Scotland’s watercourses.

Following the weirs removal, the concrete from the weir was repurposed to fix some of the roads on the Alladale estate, helping to reduce waste and any environmental impact of the removal.

Iain McMyn, SSE Renewables Environment Advisor, said: “For over three-quarters of a century our hydro assets and schemes have provided renewable power and water management to the north of Scotland.

“When these schemes were first built, we agreed a duty of care to ensure we minimised the impact on the natural environment and that is still our ethos today. We’re very pleased to have worked with SEPA, the Kyle DSFB and Alladale Estate to remove the weir and replace it with a less impactful flow gauging system and look forward to working together in future on more innovative projects to benefit the environment we work in.”

Richard Fyfe, Water Specialist from SEPA said: “The removal of these historic partial barriers to fish migration brings huge benefits to our natural water environment and help to unlock traditional spawning grounds on the River Carron for Salmon and Trout. It’s encouraging to see SSE Renewables tackle the legacy issues which these barriers can pose for the health of Scotland’s rivers and look forward to seeing the ecological benefits this will bring over the coming years.”

Keith Williams, Director of Kyle Fisheries, said: “Research increasingly shows that manmade structures can prevent or significantly delay fish migration and obstacles and barriers thus represent a key pressure at a time when salmon stocks in particular are very fragile.

“As such, Kyle Fisheries is delighted to have been able to work with SSE Renewables and SEPA in the removal of this redundant structure.”

Innes MacNeill, Reserve Manager at Alladale Estate, said: “We at Alladale Wilderness Reserve were pleased to see the removal of the weir below Deanich Bridge in August this year. It’s great to see another man-made obstacle being removed from the river. Our thanks go to SSE Renewables for making this happen and to the contractors that carried out a high standard of work. We’re also pleased that the material did not go to waste and helped fill some potholes on the access track.”

The work at Deanich is linked to another project which involves the alteration of a weir further upstream at the Glenbeg intake. This work is due to be completed in summer 2020. SSE Renewables and SEPA are working in partnership to alter mitigation flows at the Glenbeg weir to ensure the same amount of water will be flowing throughout the year which will bring enhanced ecological benefits to the river.

On 13th June 2019 a Salmon showing hemorrhaging on its underside, and with a secondary infection of saprolegnia was caught within the district. An inspector from Marine Scotland was in the area and accompanied by our Science and Mitigation Officer took samples from the fish. It will be at least two weeks before we have bacteriology results back from this. We will provide an update when results come through, however in the meantime we would urge everyone to follow the recent advice from Fisheries Management Scotland in regards to these diseased fish – see here

Update from Atlantic Salmon Trust – July 2019
Damaged fish update