Open Letter Catch & Release

Against a backdrop of declining adult salmon abundance throughout its range, the River Tweed Commission is actively encouraging anglers to maintain the upward trend in catch and release rates and to follow best practice guidelines for returning fish. 

The RTC, like other Boards and Trusts in Scotland, is working with a broad range of stakeholders to address a number of identified pressures on the Atlantic salmon.  These include water quality, quantity (specifically the effects of temperature extremes on fish), riparian planting to offer river shade, pollution control, barrier removal or improvement, predation and enforcement.

Rod exploitation of different salmon stocks is a particularly important pressure, with appropriate Tweed management actions in place for Spring, Summer and Autumn fish. The introduction of a Catch and Release (C&R) policy for Atlantic salmon is not a new topic for the RTC. In 2010 Commission considered evidence presented by the Tweed Foundation which led to the adoption of a 100% C&R policy in the Spring for the whole of the Tweed Catchment. In 2015, the Scottish Government introduced a Spring Close Time Order, with a mandatory 100% C&R requirement from the 1st of February to the 31st of March. While the RTC welcomed the Order, we further committed to the conservation of salmon by choosing to maintain the voluntary 100% C&R until the end of June. In addition to our Spring Policy, the RTC also introduced a 100% release of all hen fish after the 14th of September.

The RTC is committed to ensuring that fisheries for wild Atlantic salmon are sustainable and has actively engaged with individual beats to comply with the Tweed codes and to operate best practice when handling those fish returned.  Our engagement has resulted in an increase in the rates of C&R from 2008 with 96% achieved in 2022.  However, after a drop in the return rate to 93.1% in 2023, the lowest return of the four main salmon rivers in Scotland, we would like to remind anglers of the importance of maximising release rates.  Tagging and radio-tracking studies have demonstrated high survival rates and successful spawning for salmon released after capture – up to 100% under certain conditions. However, the longer a fish is out of water, or poorly handled, the less chance it has of survival.

Whilst not mandatory we recommend Fisheries to consider their policy on Catch and Release and extend it to 100% for the full season.

The simplest way for anglers and ghillies to make a positive and significant contribution to salmon conservation is through best practice, catch and release.

Jonathan Reddin
Chief Commissioner, River Tweed Commission.

River Tweed Angling Codes

Even minor adjustments in how an angler catches, handles, and releases a fish can have positive outcomes once it swims away. Implementing best practices increases the survival rates of fish, but it also helps the fish to return to their normal behaviour as quickly as possible after release. Adopting these best practices for catch-and-release is a simple and effective way to put conservation into practice.

More information can be found on the River Tweed Website 


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Anne Woodcock


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