The west coast Carron is a fairly short river of about 15 miles and, like most west coast rivers, is subject to potentially damaging winter spates. During a 5-year period in the early 1990’s, a series of winter spates was most likely responsible for an almost total collapse of the stocks of salmon and sea trout. With rod catches for salmon as low as 5 fish per season, the river was no longer a viable fishery and there was a risk of losing the Carron stock completely.
The river owners include Attadale and Glencarron, who, with the help of Bob Kindness, formerly head of the Seafield Centre in Kishorn, started a restocking programme in an attempt to restore the stocks in the river. Rearing facilities were established at Attadale and a captive broodstock created from eggs taken from the small number of wild Carron hens caught in the river. These eggs were hatched and the resultant fish taken through to maturity entirely in freshwater.
Significant numbers of eggs were produced allowing fish at various stages to be stocked out throughout the entire river system. Within a few years catches rose steeply correlating exactly with the stocking effort. In 2010 and 2012 record catches of over 400 salmon and grilse were achieved and the current 10-year average of 237 is much higher than at any time since official records began in 1952.
The programme has now been running for over 20 years with support and funding from the river owners in addition to help from the fish farming industry. Efforts are now being made in conjunction with the University of the Highlands and Islands to assess the current contribution of stocking to the fishery through DNA analysis.
The programme has been instrumental in saving the wild Carron salmon, re-establishing a viable fishery, enhancing the biodiversity of the catchment and providing a community asset by making fishing available to both visitors and locals on a cheap day ticket basis.