In the Tay catchment we are fortunate compared to the other major Scottish salmon rivers in having a number of fish counters to assess the strength of salmon runs. The counters are nearly all located on spring salmon tributaries, mostly on hydro electric installations. The most important counter, at Pitlochry Dam, is situated on the lower reaches of one of the most productive spring salmon tributaries in the district. Furthermore, up to only a few years ago there was also a counter on the lower reaches of the River Ericht, the Tay's most productive spring salmon tributary but this was lost when the weir housing it collapsed. Thus until a few years ago probably more than half the Tay spring run was counted, providing valuable insights into the status of spring salmon.
(Data kindly supplied by SSE)
Annual “net” upstream counts at Pitlochry Dam, River Tummel, (that is down counts are subtracted from upcounts on a daily basis), 1951– 2014
Net monthly upstream counts, Pitlochry Dam, 1951 to 2014. Monthly data are not available between 1987 and 1991.
Pitlochry Dam spans the River Tummel, one of the major tributaries of the Tay. All salmon ascending must pass through a fish pass within which a fish counter is located. Also there are glass panels in the fish pass wall which allow salmon to be observed (see video clip). This facility is open to the public during the day.
The River Tummel is one of the main areas for producing spring salmon in the Tay district so this counter is particularly valuable for assessing spring salmon numbers, although there are some difficulties in interpreting the data which are explained in more detail by clicking here.
Following three good years, the total count in 2014 was down, but only back to the general level that has prevailed over the last 10 years or so. Apart from the previous three years, counts for both May and June 2014 were still good relative to 2000s decade. The reduction in the total 2014 count was principally in the summer / autumn. It was probably also the case that, for some years prior to the mid 2000s, the June count would have had a higher proportion of grilse than has been the case recently. Thus, even in 2014, multi-sea winter salmon spawning escapement still seems healthier than it was some years ago.
(Data kindly supplied by SSE)
Annual net upstream counts through Clunie Dam fish ladder, 1953 to 2014.
(note: counter malfunction occurred in 2005)
Net monthly upstream counts, Clunie Dam, River Tummel, 2003 to 2014. Monthly data are not available prior to 2003. Also, note malfunction in 2005.
The total count at Clunie Dam on the River Tummel in 2014 was again in the higher region of those historically recorded. The June count was again very good for recent times, although this may, in part, have reflected a relatively mild spring. There were concerns that following losses of smolts at Dunalastair Dam in 2013 that there might have been a poor grilse run at Clunie in 2014. Clearly, either that did not happen, or was masked by a good run of MSW salmon instead.
(Data kindly supplied by SSE plc)
Annual net upstream counts, Lochay Falls, 1960 to 2014 (note malfunction in 2012).
Net monthly upstream counts, Lochay Falls, 2003 to 2014 (note no data prior to 2003 and malfunction in 2012).
The Lochay Falls are a naturally insurmountable barrier to salmon on the lower reaches of the River Lochay near Killin. As compensation for the loss former spawning areas on the River Lyon through damming, the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board installed a borland fish lift to allow salmon access to the Lochay.
The 2014 count was one of the highest in recent years despite a generally dry summer. Notably, there was, like 2013, a very good count by the end of June rather than during the summer. It is hoped that this improvement may be the result of stocking and fish passage improvements which have taken place (see page 21 of www.tdsfb.org/documents/TayTributariesElectrofishingSurveyReport.pdf).
Annual upstream counts, River Ericht, 1990 - 2010. Grey additions represent possible additional counts in years of counter malfunction (1998, 2000 and 2001) but in 2003 is indicative of fish which were unable to ascend past the counter because of a drought late in the autumn but were rescued and transported upstream by TDSFB staff
Monthly upstream counts, River Ericht, 1993 - 2010. No data are available for 1996 nor before 1993. No spring counts are available for 1998 or 2000 when the counter malfunctioned.
The River Ericht counter was situated at Blairgowrie, only a few miles above the confluence with the River Isla. It was situated upstream of a waterfall, Cargill’s Leap, which like Pitlochry Dam, acts as a temperature barrier. Therefore the timing of spring counts especially was no reflection on when the fish might actually have entered the Tay.
The counter was installed in 1990 but following the 2010 season the weir on which it was situated developed a breach and since then fish no longer use the fish pass and the counter had to be removed.
The now historic count data are shown here for information.