I arranged to meet the Fish Health Inspector at the Girvan today and then go on to the Stinchar. As he was coming from Aberdeen, we attempted to catch 5 dying fish for him to sample to determine whether or not these fish mortalities were as a result of natural stress brought on by the recent high temperatures and low water in both rivers (oxygen and/or temperature stress).

We headed to Cairnhill and then the Enoch areas and managed 3 dying salmonids which we put in a keep net to keep them alive until he arrived. There were many more dead trout in the river than when I’d last attended on Saturday. This was looking very similar to the problems I reported from the Stinchar and although there were a lot of fish affected, this time it appeared to be more adult trout and sea trout very with few parr. The Stinchar problem appeared to be mainly parr with a few sea trout and adult salmon affected.

A 3lbs sea trout which was dying caught from the lower Girvan this morning

A 3lbs sea trout which was dying caught from the lower Girvan this morning

A large sea trout of around albs that we found dead at Enoch Bridge this morning. I've taken scales but haven't yet looked at them.

A large sea trout of around 6 lbs that we found dead at Enoch Bridge this morning. I’ve taken scales but haven’t yet looked at them.

We left the Girvan around 11.45am hoping our three samples would survive until after lunch. On arrival at Colmonell on the Stinchar, it was immediately obvious that there were few dead fish to be seen and nothing dying. (For effective histology, samples can really only be taken within an hour of mortality). We had again checked upstream on the Wee Stinchar and at Hallowchapel and found no signs of any fish affected.  From Colmonell bridge we watched a heron land, wade half way across the river until it’s belly was touching the surface and lift a dead fish from the bottom. there were herons everywhere in the lower river and they have cleaned up many of the fish that died over the weekend and last week.

We saw about 6 herons in around a mile of water when at the Stinchar. They have been having a feast.

We saw about 6 herons in around a mile of water when at the Stinchar. They have been having a feast. This one waded to it’s limit before lifting a dead fish from the river bed.

We moved further downstream but again found few fish. There were a few whitling still dead in the river but it was mainly salmon parr we encountered. As stated previously, if the entire lower river downstream of Garnaburn was affected, there could easily be as many as 5 – 6000 fish dead (based on rough estimates of numbers counted near Colmonell).

As the Stinchar incident appeared to be over (presumably yesterdays rain has helped), we headed back to the Girvan just in time to meet the Fish Heath Inspector arriving. Without delay we went straight to Enoch where we had left 3 fish in a keep net dying. They were dead by the time we recovered them from the water but only recently. We left the FH Inspector to carry on with the autopsies and went looking for more dying fish.

The Fish Health Inspector taking samples from the fish for lab analysis. The greets concern is that these incidents are a result of infectious diseases but that is by no means certain. We will have to wait up to 2 weeks for the results.

The Fish Health Inspector taking samples from the fish for lab analysis. The greatest concern is that these incidents may be a result of an infectious disease but that is by no means certain and may be unlikely but at present, the FHI is stumped having never seen the like of this before. We will have to wait up to 2 weeks for the results.

In a short time we had several more including a salmon of around 10 — 12 lbs. Colin, the Bargany keeper brought along another dying trout in a bucket. There should be plenty of samples for lab analysis and will have to wait up to 2 weeks for the results.

A large salmon that was caught and killed for analysis. It had lost an eye recently and wasn't doing well. I touched it with the net and it failed to respond so it was nested and sampled. It seem a shame to kill such a fish but it is essential that the FHI has the best possible selection of samples to ensure that nothing is missed.

A large salmon that was caught and killed for analysis. It had lost an eye recently and wasn’t doing well. I touched it with the net and it failed to respond so it was nested and sampled. It seem a shame to kill such a fish but it is essential that the FHI has the best possible selection of samples to ensure that nothing is missed.

We left Enoch and walked down the Penwhapple Burn where there were about 20 dying trout in the bottom two pools. There was no sign of fish dying further upstream. We can only presume that these fish had taken refuge in the burn as water temperatures were cooler. We successfully removed a further 5 or 6 trout from this location for analysis.

There were around 20 trout all in apparent distress in the lower two pools of Penwhapple Burn.  Half a dozen were removed for further tests.

There were around 20 trout all in apparent distress in the lower two pools of Penwhapple Burn. Half a dozen were removed for further tests.

The gills of one moribund trout recovered from Penwhapple Burn. Necrosis is apparent and this may point to a disease rather than an environmental pressure but we won't know for sure for a further 2 weeks.

The gills of one moribund trout recovered from Penwhapple Burn. Necrosis is apparent and this may point to a disease rather than an environmental pressure but we won’t know for sure for a further 2 weeks.

The Trust are very grateful to Dan who came from Aberdeen this morning to assess the situation and take samples. He is heading to the Clyde in the morning where they too are experiencing fish mortalities. SEPA have been out taking water samples from both affected Ayrshire rivers today and we await the results. There really is nothing more that we can do other than hope that there are no infectious diseases afoot in our waters and that the heavens opens soon to flush out both systems. The Girvan Board requested an artificial freshet today so it should soon be reaching the affected lower reaches.

I would recommend as a safety precaution, that no one eats fish from these rivers or in fact goes fishing until water temperatures drop and these incidents are past. This may be unpopular but until the cause of the mortalities is determined, any additional pressure on the fish may be disastrous and without knowing what has cause the problems, we can’t say whether fish are safe to eat or not.

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9 Responses to Girvan and Stinchar updates

  1. Richard Menzies says:

    The Ayr seems to be unaffected at present with fish mortality problems hope this continues however I think eany tru angler won’t fish the river at present even the water temperatures in our reservoirs at cumnock have been extremely high with temperatures of 22-23 for about a week now

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      Brown trout will struggle before the rainbows Richard. Temperatures between 21 and 25ºC can only be tolerated by brownies for short periods. Anything above 25ºC will be disastrous. Temperatures were down a bit in the last 2 days and the little rain that fell will have helped marginally.

  2. ian radburn says:

    this is a heartbreaking sight i hope it is heat related and not disease i feel for all the organizations who have been working hard over the years to improve the fishing on our rivers
    then to have witnessed these distressing sights

    was the river ayr affected at all

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      I’ve no similar reports from the Ayr but the bailiffs are aware of this situation and are keeping a close eye on things. If it occurs, we will immediately request the assistance of the Marine Health Inspector once again. They have been really helpful.

  3. […] Update. Ayrshire Rivers Trust | Girvan and Stinchar updates […]

  4. Douglas Dunsmuir says:

    The last rise in water in Ayrshire which happened last weekend only rose the stinchar and
    Girvan to any significant height
    The other rivers in Ayrshire rose slightly and appear to have come to no harm
    Could this be a coincidence or could it have something to do with rainfall on the two rivers ?

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      Douglas, that’s a good point you raise but not quite correct. The Doon and Garnock came up too. The Doon rose about 9″ and the Garnock rose around 15″. Of course the Doon already receives compensation water so hasn’t suffered the low water and extreme high temperatures that other Ayrshire rivers have experienced. We have had no reports of any dead or dying fish from the Garnock.
      But, it is a good point and one worth considering as both the affected rivers had significant rises and quickly dropped back to extremely low levels.
      I will remind the Fish Health Inspector of this and see if he can relate it to the problems.
      Thanks for taking the time to post your comment.

  5. Ricci says:

    Is there neting being done in Harbour for mullet .is salmon being taking to ? What news is there on things so far

  6. Stuart Brabbs says:

    The Girvan bailiffs will be watching any netting activity either in or outside the Harbour and no, anyone taking a salmon by net on the Girvan is committing an offence. If you have information to the contrary, I’d suggest you speak to a bailiff urgently so that they can sort this out. If you need contact details for them, let me know.