Anglers should be aware of the legal requirements before you book fishing. There are conservation codes, individual beat and booking agency conditions to consider. Fundamental legislation requires anglers to have written permission to fish for salmon and sea trout.
River Annan conditions
The regulations on the Annan are very simple and there are very few restrictions imposed by local legislation.
For the salmon fisher the season opens on 25th February and continues through to the 15th of November.
It is compulsory to return all the fish that you catch before 1st June.
Guidance Notes for New Regulations on the Annan Fishery
From the 25th of February, 2012 there will be a new set of regulations that affect how rod and line fishing can be undertaken on the Annan Fishery. These regulations are effective from midnight on the 25th and will run for 5 years, i.e. until midnight of the 25th February 2018. The regulations have been put in place to protect the dwindling early running salmon from unnecessary pressure.
From the above date it will be an offence to kill any salmon caught on the river before the 1st of June. Even if a fish appears to have been hooked badly it must be returned to the water. If, in the unlikely event, a fish actually dies on an angler that angler must contact the District Salmon Fisheries Board immediately. A member of staff will retrieve the fish as soon as possible and the carcass will be used for scientific purposes. The legislation on killing fish only applies to Salmon and sea trout may be taken. We would however like to make it clear that whilst the situation with sea trout is better than it is with salmon that the River Annan District Salmon Fisheries Board would like to see as many of the sea trout landed by anglers on the river returned as possible. As a bare minimum anglers should return all fish over 3lb and not take more than a brace of fish smaller than this.
In addition to the regulation that insists that all salmon be returned there are bait and hook restrictions that apply to both sea trout and salmon. The use of worm, shrimp or prawn is prohibited until the 1st of June and during this period all fishing must be carried out with a lure that only has one set of barbless or de-barbed hooks. This could be one single hook, one double hook or one treble hook. This means that certain lures such as Rapalas that have multiple sets of hooks must have all removed bar one and the one that is left must have all the barbs removed. Barbless hooks are readily available but are commercially tied flies and lures are rarely supplied on them. It is relatively straightforward to resolve this issue by taking a pair of pliers or forceps and squeezing the barbs down. This will, to all intents and purposes, make a barbed hook barbless.
It is important that anglers when returning fish to the water do so in the correct manner. Survival from being caught can be remarkably high but poor handling by anglers can compromise this. There is already some excellent guidance for this that has been produced by the Association of Salmon Fisheries Boards. This can be found at http://www.asfb.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Catch-and-Release-Leaflet.pdf
The following actions are the most important.
Use tackle that is strong enough to subdue a fish as quickly as is reasonably possible.
Play fish hard and get them to the net as soon as possible
Remove the hooks as quickly as possible and have a set of long nosed forceps on hand to do this. If the hooks cannot be seen, a rare occurrence with artificial lures, the line should be cut as close to the hooks as possible.
Try not to remove the fish from the water.
If you need a trophy shot support the whole of the fish over the water and take the picture quickly.
Never, ever, under any circumstances pick a fish up by the tail; this can dislocate the vertebrae in the back.
Whilst returning the fish hold it in quiet water orientated upstream. When the fish has recovered it will swim off.
Clean fish can be caught right to the end of the season throughout the river but anglers should make sure, particularly as the season draws to the end that they return all coloured fish. Be careful as hen fish in particular may not always colour greatly but will be very soft and unpalatable come late October and November. These should also be returned.
Many beats are fly only or fly only except during high water when spinning or bait fishing maybe allowed. Some beats allow any legal method at any time of year or water height. Anglers should make sure that they are familiar with the beat rules before they start fishing.
Sea trout fishing
The legal season is the same for sea trout as salmon but realistically almost all the fish that are caught after mid August are unclean and it is frowned upon to deliberately fish for them. Having said that there are often a number of fresh fish caught accidentally by salmon anglers towards the end of the season. If the salmon fishing is slow there is no reason why anglers shouldn't scale down their tackle and fish for these.
Over the last 4 years the numbers of sea trout caught on the Annan has reduced somewhat, although it is still a very good sea trout river compared to many others. After a great deal of deliberation, and looking at the juvenile recruitment of fish in the river the board has decided that for the season 2008, after 1st June, anglers may retain a MAXIMUM of 2 sea trout per rod in any 24 hour period BUT all sea trout over 3 lbs MUST be returned to the river unharmed. legislation requires that no sea trout or salmon be killed on the Annan before the 1st June each year. It should be stressed that catch and release is not the only action that the board is taking as we are also carrying out work to improve the habitat of sea trout spawning areas and will be making room in the hatchery for sea trout.
Sea trout numbers have collapsed in the past and recovered pretty quickly so the board will be reviewing this situation on a annual basis. Meanwhile it is essential that we operate all of our fisheries in a sustainable manner.
Brown trout fishing
The brown trout season starts on 15th March and finishes on 6th October. As with sea trout the fish are getting progressively softer as they get closer to spawning so many beats have a prohibition on the killing of trout before the end of the season (normally mid September).
Many beats are now operating a 100% catch and release policy for Brown trout. Brown trout on the Annan are not remarkably common but they do grow to remarkable sizes. If fisheries were killing everything it would not take long before there was little left in the water for other anglers to fish for.
Catch and release guidelines
To ensure that the fishery remains sustainable the board considers that catch and release is an essential tool, however this only works when properly carried out. The following points should be implemented by anglers.
1. Use as strong a tackle as you can (whilst realistically able to fish) Use single hooks whenever possible and do not delay to long when there is a take before tightening.
2. Play the fish out as quickly as possible.
3. Try not to remove the fish from the water if at all possible and when doing so use a landing net.
4. When handling fish make sure that your hands are wet.
5. Salmon should never be held up by there tail wrist, it will dislocate the spinal column (not good!).
6. Trophy shots should be taken as quickly as possible.
7. When releasing the fish hold it gently with its head into the current and release it when it is strong enough to move of.
There is still a misunderstanding amongst a minority of anglers that fish die after being released. This is not true. The mortality will increase however with poor handling; this is particularly true in warmer water. If anglers take care and release a proportion of the fish they catch they are genuinely assisting the river by increasing the numbers of spawning adults.
All other species have no statutory close season in Scotland. In general the rules on the Annan are very much more relaxed than on many other rivers and we rely, successfully, on good angler etiquette instead of regulation wherever possible.
Individual owners may also have their own individual conditions, such as the hours that fishing is allowed on that beat, provision of ghillies (if any) and what fishing methods you can use.
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