Page last updated at 10:39 GMT, Tuesday, 20 May 2008 11:39 UK

Salmon have it large in the Tay

Ghillie Ernie Duff returning a salmon to the river
A 27lb salmon was one of those released back into the river

Anglers on the Tay are enjoying the best season for large salmon in more than 20 years.

In the first four months of the season, more than 225 fish weighing between 16lb and 33lb were reeled in - about 25% of the total catch.

In recent years, just 5% of the spring haul has been that heavy.

About 90% of this year's catches have been released back into the water, in line with the Tay Board's new conservation policy.

The fish landed have included six weighing more than 30lb and a further 11 at more than 25lb.

The Tay was traditionally known as a heavy salmon river, with a strong run of fish which had spent three winters at sea before returning to freshwater.

However, over the last two decades smaller salmon - generally in the 7lb to 10lb class - have dominated the river's spring runs. These fish have spent two winters at sea, and therefore gained less weight.

John Milligan, chairman of the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board, said: "It is most heartening to see fish of this calibre coming back to the Tay in good numbers, giving so many anglers the opportunity to catch what is very much the 'fish of a lifetime'.

It would seem that many of the young Tay salmon that went to sea in 2005 have spent an additional year in the north Atlantic
Dr David Summers
Tay Board director

"These salmon are in really superb condition - as good as one could ever expect, very deep as well as long.

"It is also particularly encouraging that most anglers have whole-heartedly embraced the Tay Board's new conservation recommendations by practising catch and release, thus allowing fish to continue on their upstream migration to spawn."

Fishery managers have no simple explanation for this year's resurgence of big Tay salmon.

Tay Board director Dr David Summers said: "It is very much conjecture but it would seem that many of the young Tay salmon that went to sea in 2005 have spent an additional year in the north Atlantic.

"It is possible that this has been triggered by a scarcity of prey species in the ocean feeding grounds during 2005 and 2006.

"Indeed this theory ties in with the fact that the fish that actually returned to the Tay in 2006 after one winter at sea were often under-nourished and in poor condition."

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