(Last updated: Saturday 18th October)
Whilst a few rivers remain open the salmon fishing season has now come to a dignified end on most other fisheries around Iceland. The East and West Rangas will fish until 20th October and do so safe in the knowledge that they have topped the catches table once again this year.
In fact, the West Ranga will be the one and only river in Iceland where over 3,000 salmon have been caught this year. Recent reports suggest that the fishing has been going well over the past few days and so the catches are expected to increase steadily.
Despite providing excellent sport, the salmon numbers in general have been disappointing to say the least. Preliminary reports suggest that so far a total of 32,400 salmon have been caught. This number is almost half last year's total, when 68,042 salmon were landed by anglers. This figure is around 2,400 less than the catch in 2012 (7%). Overall, the number of salmon caught is 21% below the long term average (40,861).
The Ormarsa is one of the very few rivers which actually performed better than last year with 502 fish as opposed to 437 in 2013. Yet there is little comfort in knowing that Iceland is not alone in her lower than average rod catches when compared to fishing in other countries including Scotland.
It is interesting to read James Dowell's archive report of fishing in Iceland published just over one hundred years ago where he observed that: "Again, a bad year for angling has to be reported for 1903 season in Iceland, it being stated to have been worse than any of the five preceding years, all over Iceland; attributed to the absence of rain and consequent low water from July 20th. Like Norway, the Icelandic coasts had a great failure in the run of grilse during the past season, traceable – either directly or indirectly – to the disastrous flood during the spawning season of 1901 which would materially affect 1903 grilse. The spawning season of 1902, being a favourable one, should produce good results for 1904 angling season."
Was it that the exceptionally warm, dry conditions in 2012 inhibited spawning efforts? Is the absence of young stock attributable to climate change or are there more onerous events happening at sea? Whilst a lack of smaller fish is certainly cause for concern only next year will we see if this trend is set to continue and whether the salmon numbers will make a comeback as they have done previously.
It is also interesting to note that salmon have begun spawning earlier in the north, east and south of the country, according to Drostur Ellidason who has been gathering hatchery fish from the rivers Hrutafjardara, Jokla and Breiddalsa in the past week.
To end on a more positive note 2014 will be remembered by some for a higher proportion of big specimen salmon and those lucky anglers who landed a 20lb+ salmon will regale the stories for months to come. Of the many rivers which yielded these monsters were the Nodura, Big Laxa (Laxa in Adaldal), Vididalsa, Haffjardara, Kjarra and Huseyjarkvisl.
A special mention must yet again be made to Jon Ingi Kristjansson who landed a 118cm-long salmon on the Bildsfell beat of the river Sog in August which weighed an estimated 31-33 lbs! The fish was safely released leaving behind a fabulous story for its captor.
Here at FishIceland we stand by our belief that Iceland remains a world-class fishing destination and offers a unique angling experience which should not be judged by statistics alone. From what our guests continue to tell us, whilst they may have faced difficult conditions, they almost always went home with a smile.
Here's to 2015!
Jon Sigurdsson, firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the current list of the top 25 Icelandic salmon rivers in 2014, with the total catches and figures for 2013 in brackets. Please note that this does not take into account actual rod effort.
East Ranga 2905 / 18 rods (4797)
West Ranga & Holsa 2516 / 20 rods (5461)
Blanda 1931 / 14 rods (2611)
Midfjardara 1694 / 10 rods (3667)
Thvera + Kjarara 1195 / 14 rods (3373)
Laxa in Asum 1006 / 2 rods (1062)
Sela in Vopnafirdi 1004 / 7 rods (1664)
Nordura 924 / 15 rods (3351)
Stora Laxa 882 / 10 rods (1776)
Laxa in Adaldal 849 / 18 rods (1009)
Haffjardara 821 / 6 rods (2158)
Vatnsdalsa in Hunathingi 765 / 7 rods (1116)
Vididalsa 692 / 8 rods (909)
Hofsa & Sunnudalsa 657 / 10 rods (1203)
Langa 595 / 12 rods (2815)
Laxa in Kjos 593 / 8 rods (1281)
Grimsa & Tungua 516 / 8 rods
Ormarsa 502 / 4 rods (?)
Hitara 480 / 6 rods (1145)
Ellidaarnar. 457 / 6 rods (1145)
Svalbardsa 403 / 3 rods (?)
Laxa in Leirarsveit 401 / 6 rods (1006)
Affall in Landeyjum 385 / 4 rods (795)
Flokadalsa, Borgarf. 343 / 3 rods (937)
Straumfjardara 316 / 4 rods (785)
Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is home to some of the best Atlantic salmon and game fishing in the world. With crystal-clear, well managed rivers and breathtaking scenery, it is no surprise that anglers have for generations come to, and fallen in love with, Iceland. There are around 100 sustainable salmon rivers in Iceland and most of those allowing between 4 and 20 rods to fish per day, there is a lot of fishing to be had in Iceland, but without the feeling of ever being cramped for space. Atlantic salmon catches have been improving in Iceland in recent years.