Changes in Loch Leven Fisheries

Major blow to Loch Leven anglers

By Ken Bell, angling correspondent

IN A major blow to angling, all stocking of Loch Leven is to cease and the number of fishing boats—already cut to 30—is to be further reduced, Loch Leven Fisheries announced yesterday.

It is understood that from next season only half a dozen boats will be retained at the 3400-acre water, once dubbed the “Queen of Scottish Lochs”, and it will revert to being a naturally stocked water as it was until 1983 when the hatchery opened.

Loch Leven has been the heart of Scottish angling since the first national championship was held there in the late 19th century and was the only Scottish venue for the twice-yearly Home Countries Fly Fishing Championship until recently.

The final of the Scottish National Fly-fishing Championship, the world’s oldest national fly-fishing event, is also held on the loch, as are some of the earlier stages. But due to reducing returns over 10 years, anglers have been voting with their feet and fishing elsewhere.


In statement Mr Jamie Montgomery, whose family owns Kinross Estate, said, “Faced with mounting losses totalling over £500,000 in the last five years, Loch Leven Fisheries is now in a position where it is forced to announce a significant reduction in its angling operation on Loch Leven from the end of the current season.

“The fishery’s hatchery and rearing ponds at Tarhill on the north shore of Loch Leven will be closed down and decommissioned at the end of the season. All the Loch Leven brown trout currently being reared there will be released either directly into the loch or its feeder streams depending on their stage of development. Loch Leven will revert to being a natural brown trout loch, with its trout population dependent on natural recruitment from the burns.”

He said the number of clubs and individual anglers fishing Loch Leven had been declining steadily over the last decade but the rate of decline has accelerated over more recent years partly due to the well-publicised problems associated with the stocking of rainbow trout which stopped in 2004.

He was grateful to the many individual anglers who continued to support the loch. Many clubs, however, had decided not to hold their competitions there and this had had a serious effect.

Mr Montgomery said he could, however, understand the anglers’ point of view.

Loch Leven Fisheries has also undergone problems, all outwith its control, with the quality of water that led to the first introduction of rainbow trout following “Scum Saturday” in 1993. Then a huge algae bloom, feeding on ever more phosphates pouring into the loch from adjoining agricultural land and the Kinross wastewater treatment plant covered much of the surface in a bright green scum, in places inches thick, and also killed thousands of fish.

The introduction of 30,000 rainbow a year after this incident initially produced an increase in sport, but in 2003 eye fluke hit the hatchery and many fish stocked had one or both eyes damaged by the parasite. That year catches plummeted and the fisheries decided that as the native brown trout was more resistant to the parasite they would in future only stock the indigenous strain.

This year around 100,000 fish will be stocked, and the hatchery trays are full of fry, planned to be stocked next year.

Mr Montgomery admitted Loch Leven had found it difficult to compete with the growing number of much smaller, better-stocked fisheries. The number of cormorants has not helped, a recent survey showing they were eating 42,000-123,000 trout—more than the number being stocked at the time.

He added, “The Scottish Executive, on advice from SNH, have repeatedly turned down applications for a licence to shoot cormorants, which increasingly find freshwater fisheries easier pickings than their traditional North Sea feeding grounds and the damage they cause is considerable.”

Up to 700 cormorants have been counted on the loch in winter, feeding mainly on trout.

“By closing the hatchery and rearing ponds, which cost in excess of £80,000 a year, Loch Leven will no longer be artificially stocked from the end of the current season. It is inevitable this will further reduce the number of clubs and individual anglers wishing to fish on Loch Leven in 2007 and beyond,” he said. “Most of the 30-strong fleet of boats will no longer be required and will be disposed of next winter.

“But it should be stressed this is not the end of fishing on Loch Leven—a small number of boats will be retained for next season and beyond for those anglers still wishing to fish on the loch.”

There is always the hope that as trout numbers pick up from natural recruitment the number of boats may rise. But these would not be the traditional oak and larch 19-foot clinker boats—a feature of the fishery since it began over 100 years ago. Annual maintenance costs of each boat run to several hundred pounds, so replacement boats will be of easier maintained material like fibreglass.

Mr Montgomery said it was sadly ironic the announcement came when the loch is fishing as well as it has for many a year.

At the weekend 30 anglers taking part in the Pure Fishing Loch Leven Classic Pairs Competition weighed in 351 brown trout averaging just over the pound, and returned a further 127, an average of 17 trout per angler over the two days despite near gale-force winds.

“However, the economic reality is such that the loch has to be allowed to revert to being a natural brown trout fishery, as it was prior to 1983,” he said.


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