River Don Monthly Report

April 2021


Anglers were confronted with a cold and blustery start to April, these conditions lingered for another two weeks before a change in the weather pattern brought a more springtime feel. River levels dropped away as the month progressed but thankfully a few days of heavy rain arrived as the month ended providing the river and anglers with a much-needed lift.

On the 26th travel restrictions throughout Scotland were eased by the Scottish Government allowing anglers to fish from further afield, an increase in angling effort for salmon and trout was noticeable thereafter.   

Catches of spring salmon unfortunately have remained low with just the odd fish reported from a few beats, as April ended several beats are still to get on the scoresheet for the season. The lower river produced the better sport for salmon anglers, the ADAA beats fairing best where members reported landing small numbers of salmon straight off the tide. Encouragingly on the rise of water salmon were witnessed moving upstream at Grandhome and Parkhill beats. The highlight of the month was news of a large fish being landed from Kemnay beat 4, the fresh run fish was measured at 41 inches and estimated at 25lbs, a fantastic specimen and one the angler will remember for a long time. The first fresh sea trout of the season was also reported as the month closed.

The brown trout fishing also suffered due to the constant cold – water temperatures, an improvement in the weather encouraged better hatches of Olives and March browns to appear which brought the trout up onto the surface to feed. A few experienced trout anglers reported decent catches for their visits regularly landing specimen fish from 3 to 5lbs. The quality of wild trout present throughout the river is welcome news.

                Specimen brown trout over 4lbs                                Spring salmon being returned

Smolt Monitoring

The smolt trap became operational on the 12th Despite low river flows and cold-water temperatures a steady movement of fish was collected in the trap every day. Those smolts of suitable length were retained and tagged. After the procedure is complete the fish are kept on site until fully recovered before being safely released to continue their journey downstream. Come the end of the month the target of 75 salmon smolts had been successfully met. The ten river receivers deployed last month will now monitor their movements over the coming weeks. Once river migration is concluded the collected data will be analysed and the results then made available. Well done to the Dee and Marine Scotland tagging team who have been kept busy in all weathers over the past month.


Throughout the month policing has been predominantly focused on the lower and middle reaches of the river where an increase in illegal rod and line activity was reported. Fisheries officers maintained daily foot patrols in the targeted areas, and this has resulted in several adults and youths being issued with warnings for attempting to fish with no legal right or written permission. Officers carried out a search on an area being visited by poachers where they discovered and removed a bottle trap designed to catch minnows for use as live bait. A total of seven incidents were recorded over the month all involving illegal fishing with rod and line.


The second of three spring predator bird surveys was completed on the 29th April from Poldullie Bridge at Strathdon down to the estuary limits. A total of 85 goosanders were counted, most birds were recorded on the lower reaches. No cormorants were counted which is typical for the time of year, as they move to the coast to breed. The allocated quota of goosanders and cormorants on this year’s license looks set to be completed with only a handful of male goosanders remaining before the middle of May. A further count will take place in May.

One common seal was reported in river on the 14th on Grandhome Estate. The lone seal was quickly displaced downriver. Anglers reported several seals congregated in and around Seaton Park towards the end of the month moving in and out with the tide.    

Habitat Improvement

The willow bank repair on Waterside beat at Alford has proved to be more labour-intensive task that first thought due to a combination of the deteriorated bank structure and unseasonal weather encountered over the month, however the task is now complete as can be seen in the photos below. The weaved willow whips around the posts provide a strong natural barrier against any further bank erosion and the backfilled reinstated bank will soon green up providing a stable foothold. The living willow grows very quickly and once established also provides great shade for juvenile and adult fish.