Hatchery Stocking Update 2021

In April 2021, the OTFA completed its usual program of stocking trout to many of Orkney’s smaller lochs.  This was done with some relief, as new rules regarding introductions of trout had threatened to halt a practice that has been going on for decades. 
These new rules, previously described in The Orcadian on the 20th July 2020, were designed to protect the genetic character of wild trout by stopping the artificial mixing between different populations.  This meant that in Orkney, the traditional practice of taking trout fry that originated from the Loch of Harray, and putting them a different loch with its own trout population would no longer be permitted.

Joe Thomson from Stromness watches another batch of trout fry being released.
However, nearly all lochs stocked by the OTFA had no trout in them to begin with, usually due to the absence of suitable spawning habitat.  Any trout in those lochs today are therefore not genetically unique – they could more accurately be described as family offshoots of Loch of Harray trout, whose eggs are collected to fill the OTFA hatchery each winter.  Due to the absence of natural spawning, numbers can only be maintained by regular stocking and the OTFA closely follows a blueprint established in the University of Stirling’s “Orkney Brown Trout Project”, published in 1991.  
Unfortunately, Marine Scotland was not convinced by this approach and only a handful of stocking licences were granted in 2020.  It requested fresh evidence that wild populations, through natural spawning, had not become established in the lochs the OTFA wished to stock.  Consequently, OTFA members busied themselves carrying out habitat and electrofishing surveys through 2020 and early 2021, which succeeded in demonstrating the absence of any naturally occurring juvenile trout in those lochs, which included Stromness Reservoir, Skaill (Mainland), North, Bea, Roos (Sanday), Saintear, Burness (Westray) and Meikle Water (Stronsay).  Happily, this contemporary information was enough to satisfy Marine Scotland that stocking at these venues could continue and a full batch of licences was issued in spring 2021.  Having addressed this new policy, it is hoped that stocking can continue smoothly again for many more years.
There is a good case for ensuring that Orkney’s smaller lochs contain viable trout populations.  They help to spread angling activity across Orkney, relieving some pressure from the Orkney’s main lochs, which include Harray, Boardhouse and Swanney.  They attract anglers to the North Isles, bringing some additional economic input to guesthouses, shops and hotels.  Finally, and perhaps most significantly, these fertile, small lochs grow very big fish and offer the angler the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime.  It’s no angler’s tale that the size of the trout in the Sanday lochs compare quite easily with those of famous angling venues like Iceland and New Zealand.  In 2005 it was estimated that trout fishing injected over £1.8 million into the Orkney economy annually.  Orkney’s small lochs play a large part in this and angling in generally has provided welcome distraction and pleasure for many during lockdown.  The knowledge that the OTFA can continue to nurture these places for the benefit of locals and visitors is welcome news indeed. 
The OTFA would like to thank Liam MacArthur (MSP) for his help and advice and Alison Curtis from Marine Scotland for working through the issues.  Thanks also go to north isles residents Tommy Tulloch (Westray), Vickie Holland, Iain Johnston (Stronsay) and Kelly Brown (Sanday), who all helped with survey work.

Malcolm Thompson

Hatchery Helpers 2021

Jason & Brooklyn Gillespie release trout fry at Yelda Water (Stromness Reservoir) Brooklyn Gillespie, aged 6, looking after trout eggs at the OTFA hatchery over the winter of 2020/21.
Joe and Ruari Thomson releasing trout fry into Yelda Water (Stromness Reservoir) Trout fry tasting freedom at Yelda water (Stromness Reservoir)



On the hatchery front, last season’s stock was released to their new habitats with permission from Marine Scotland. The spawning crew were out at the end of November and filled the hatchery in record time with two bumper trips to Netherbrough. Then the hatchery volunteers were back in full swing attending to the eggs daily, without their dedication the hatchery would not function. The water quality has been poor this year with constant high winds and heavy rainfall. This causes silt to block the sand filter which leads to the eggs struggling to get enough oxygen.  Permission to stock waters has been an up hill battle this year and is ongoing. We have been given permission to stock Burn of Voy, Lea Shun, Loch of Clumly, Echna Loch and Bea Loch. To get permission for the other lochs we will have to provide additional info, some of which include survey work over the summer, which will involve significant man hours.
Thank you to all the volunteers for their continued hard work over the past season.

Raymond Miller