I took a trip up the upper Ayr where I’ve been regularly check for signs of spawning. With the recent cold weather, it seems that some fish have already spawned a few weeks earlier than normal. I spoke with the head bailiff this afternoon and he informed me that they have come across a few kelts when trying to collect broodstock.

I walked several miles this afternoon on the Ponesk and the upper River Ayr and saw a few fish on redds but just a few. Like me, the bailiffs are concerned at the lack of fish in the upper reaches. We have been expressing concerns about the number of juvenile salmon we have recorded in the last few seasons and this has to eventually translate into low numbers of adults on the redds.

We used to see salmon bow waving in flats such as this when we walked alongside in low water. Today there was nothing obvious.... very worrying indeed.

My earlier post highlighted pollution of a burn as a possible factor contributing to these declines but there are others. We have been taking water chemistry samples for the last couple of months and recording conductivity levels throughout the catchment weekly.  The results appear to indicate high levels of enrichment in the spawning headwaters on both the Ayr and Lugar sides of the catchment. The water chemistry analysis indicates that several elements may be linked to declines but more research is required. We are seeking funding to allow us to carry on this research well into 2013 but so far we have failed to secure the necessary funds. We will keep trying as I see this as potentially the most important work that we can do in the Ayr catchment at present.

Wellwood area of the Ayr where we used to find excellent fry numbers at our electrofishing site but in recent years the numbers have declined considerably. I did see a couple of fish moving on the redds below Nether Wellwood bridge and a fair bit of gravel has been turned over so hopefully things won't be as bad as I fear they may.

I don’t like posting gloom and doom type posts but there is no getting away from the fact that salmon numbers on the Ayr are poor. Anglers must bear this in mind when they decide whether to kill a fish or not. In the meantime we will continue to try to identify exactly what is responsible for falling stocks.

On a brighter note, I also walked the Ponesk again today and it is looking really good although today it was pretty well frozen in the shallows. Although I didn’t see a salmon this time, I have recently so hopefully there will be a few spawners somewhere in this burn. Water quality on the Ponesk is about as good as it gets within the Ayr catchment so potentially this burn could be very important in years to come. I also noticed there is more tree planting underway so in a few years from now this should be a very nice river valley.

The Ponesk frozen over but still looking good.