It’s early yet for Ayrshire but none the less, Gordon and I felt it worthwhile to take a trip to the upper Doon catchment today to see if there was any signs of spawning activity. Against the odds, we hoped that we may find redds on the Garpel Burn upstream of Loch Doon Dam. I say ‘against the odd’ because in recent years the number of salmon entering the loch have been pitiful with around just 4 – 6 passing through the counter in the ladder (we haven’t yet finalised the 2014 total).  We went straight to the site that we identified as the most likely spawning  area following surveys in recent years but there was no sign of activity yet. It is early and I hope to see a redd or two here in the next few weeks.

The Garple offers few real spawning opportunities but there are holding pools that may contain a few salmon

The Garple offers few real spawning opportunities but there are holding pools that may offer refuge for a few salmon especially later this month. Coarse sediments are plentiful but finer material is lacking due to the effects that Loch Finlas Dam has on transport down the burn.

We looked at Carrick lane too but visibility was poor and the height of the loch being low, makes it more difficult for salmon to migrate over the falls at present. The litter and rubbish around the falls is appalling and a poor reflection on the way many value the countryside even though the very fact that they come to such a beautiful spot and leave litter would indicate otherwise.

A tent left behind after a camping trip. Beer cans and bottles litter the area. If this is what Land Reform encourages, then I for one don't want more freedom for the masses. Where's the respect?

A tent left behind after a camping trip. Beer cans and bottles litter the area. If this is what Land Reform encourages then something’s far wrong. Where’s the respect? Perhaps with free access should come greater penalties for this type of abuse (not the Trust’s view but mine).

The falls at Carrick Lane. With the loch low, the height of the falls may restrict migration from the loch.

The falls at Carrick Lane. With the loch low, the height of the falls may restrict migration from the loch.

In Ness Glen below the dam, we came across a newly built dam 2/3’s of the way across the river. The purpose of this dam is unknown but it bears a great resemblance to many that pop up on the upper Ayr catchment for poaching purposes. Often these are used to constrain fish to a narrow channel where they are netted by the less scrupulous. Bearing in mind how few salmon manage to reach the Loch these days, this is a worrying type of structure should it in fact be designed for this purpose. We weren’t equipped with waders but had we been, we would have dismantled it. I’ll pass a message to the Bailiffs and let them decide on the coarse of action.

A croy build across the river near Ness Glen.

A croy build across the river near Ness Glen.

We did see a redd or two in the Estate Water and although early, it was encouraging to see them. I’m sure more will appear when the water temperature drops or there is a change in flow levels. Once the salmon have spawned, they have completed their life’s work and are relatively safe from illegal activities. In the meantime, bailiffs will be active across the spawning areas keeping an eye on things to make sure the fish aren’t disturbed.

It's not easy to pick out the full extent of the red in the photo but it was there and complete, so all good for the future stocks.

It’s not easy to pick out the full extent of the red in the photo but it was there and complete, so all good for the future stocks.

On the way home we stopped further downstream but once again there was no sign of salmon spawning. We will return later in the month to check progress as we will on the other Ayrshire Rivers. Towards, Christmas, we will lead a spawning walk if there is any interest from members or the Public.

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6 Responses to Looking for spawners in the upper Doon catchment

  1. Carlos Van Heddegem says:

    Why don’t you phone SEPA and tell them Craigengillan Estate has altered the riverbed without applying for a license.

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      I’ve no doubt that this isn’t Craigengillan Estate’s handywork but rather someone else’s so reporting the estate for this would be a complete waster of taxpayers money and SEPA’s time. As these obstacles regularly appear for poaching purposes elsewhere, I would have thought the DSFB bailiffs were the appropriate group to deal with this?

      • Skeffles says:

        Report the estate, because they’ll have more pull to get something done about it. The object would not be to blame the estate, but to get them to mobilise their own resources for the public good. It isn’t that it is their fault, but if it creates trouble for them, they have a better chance than anyone else of getting extra resources to fix things. Politics.

        • Stuart Brabbs says:

          I won’t report someone/ an organisation that has done nothing wrong to SEPA. What I have done is informed the Doon DSFB about it and they have a statutory role to protect their fish. If bailiffs are patrolling the area anyway, I would expect that this is the sort of thing they are ideally placed to remove. If no one dismantles it, then the losers are the Doon anglers and fish. Will I stand back and watch that happen? Not for long, but this isn’t the Trusts responsibility.

  2. colin douglas says:

    I am 100% sure the wee ness glen dam wasnt built by poachers, there has always been a kind of rocky wall there its just been built up a bit by either kids down playin or most probably by 2 guys from bellsbank that fish down there everyday during the season, to improve the pool for fishing. The 2 guys are fine they arent poachers they are members of craigengillan fishing club. I live just through the woods in bellsbank and walk my dog up the glen 2 or 3 times a week and have never seen any evidence of poachers or heard of any poaching there. In fact there is very little if any poaching happens around dalmellington/bellsbank thesedays, and if there is its usually the toon burn. that gets it. I am a member of drumgrange n keirs, I know alot of guys that used to poach the burns but they dont do it anymore and the young ones just arent interested in fish thesedays here.

    • Stuart Brabbs says:

      Thanks for your comments Colin. I hope you are correct but regardless, the dam was destroyed by the bailiffs as we just can’t take the risk of leaving these things. Similar structures are used elsewhere for poaching in Ayrshire so better safe than sorry.