River Don Report May 22

River Don Monthly Report

May 2022


Encouraged by steady water levels over the first half of the month the first of this season’s grilse ran into the system, these new arrivals pushed quickly upstream into the middle reaches and provided welcome sport to anglers. Those landed weighed 3-4lbs with the majority still carrying lice. Landings of sea trout remain slow although a few fish up to 6lbs have been reported, evening sport is still to get fully underway due to continuing easterly winds bringing in a haar off the coast.

The salmon smolt run continued to gather pace, although fish were smaller this year, sightings have been constant over the month from Alford downstream to the Cruives. A dry spell of weather prevailed over the remaining weeks which didn’t help with their downstream migration. Thankfully localised rainfall over the final few days gave the river a much need lift and assisted the remaining fish on their way. Overall a less productive month for salmon anglers, the stock of early fish in the river began to go stale and off the take, fingers crossed the grilse run continues to build.

Over the month It was encouraging to find the river being keenly fished by both salmon and trout anglers including many first-time visitors to the Don. Brown trout angling continues to be the main focal point for many anglers and again another good month for many anglers who were willing to persevere and choose the right fly to match the hatch. Several specimen trout were landed across the river beats with fish up to 6lbs returned. Interestingly a rare sighting for the Don was spotted by local trout angler Sandy Nelson, Ephemera Danica the true Mayfly have been recorded before on the system, but Sandy managed to capture a few photos this time.  

Ephemera Danica the True Mayfly’                           Tide fresh sea trout from Kintore AC


Foot and vehicle patrols across the catchment were maintained by Fisheries Officers. Over the month four separate illegal incidents from the estuary up stream to Parkhill were dealt with, resulting in verbal warnings being issued to suspects. Association and club anglers have regularly been checked to ensure they are in possession of an up-to-date fishing permit. Fish passes have been regularly inspected over the month to ensure free passage for adult fish heading upstream and smolts downstream.

River Predation

The third and final spring predator bird survey was completed on the 24th of May from Poldullie Bridge at Strathdon down to the estuary limits. A total of 87 Goosanders and 8 Cormorants were counted along with several hatched goosander broods. The quota of given birds on the now expired licence was fulfilled for the year, many thanks to those individuals who helped with the shoot to scare and control effort. Surveys will commence again starting in September.

Over the month a few adult Mink have been spotted on the riverbank, attempts to capture mink at Kintore and Inverurie were unsuccessful. Please continue to report any sightings to the river office on 01467 642121 to facilitate mink traps being deployed and monitored in the area.

INNS Plant Control

The giant hogweed control programme is well underway although disruption from poor weather over several days has put paid to spraying. Volunteers have been assisting and good progress on the upper reaches has been made on more suitable days. Spraying will continue into next month, any plants found already in bloom will have the heads removed to prevent seed dispersal.

Control under the current programme from Strathdon to Alford is supported by the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative (SISI) project which is due to end in March 2023. We are therefore seeking support from landowners to continue control under their own steam from next year. We will be contacting landowners to develop landowner agreements to facilitate this ongoing control, provide training, equipment and support but ultimately look to landowners to take on control in house. The control effort on the Upper Don has been undertaken and delivered in various forms by the Don DSFB, River Don Trust and River Dee Trust for 11 years now and whilst giant hogweed remains, it is much less abundant than in previous seasons and a much more manageable task. Estates such as Castle Forbes and Monymusk already undertake their own control on the reaches below Alford and we would look to support this model going forward across the upper catchment.

Volunteer treating hogweed at Ardhuncart Estate

Angling Development

Loch Insch fishery held the first of this year’s introduction to fly fishing. The programme designed for beginners is now in its fourth year and runs over three evenings with an introductory session, a session on casting tuition by qualified instructors and volunteers, and a final putting it into practice session. A total of 12 adults and children attended, all gave positive feedback on the programme, it is hoped their further progression in the sport will see their interest turn to river fishing. Martin Webster supports this programme as part of his role and also sits on the committee for the programme.

Diseased Fish

At this time of the year, we often have low flows and high temperatures, which can lead to fish getting stressed becoming susceptible to bacterial infections such as Saprolegnia (white patchy fungus). In previous years, we have also had reports of fish with red lesions/rash on their undersides, termed Red Skin Disease, which has been prevalent through May, June and July. The Fish Health Inspectorate was contacted and information on diseased fish has been shared with them. During May four reports of fish presenting fungus patches three salmon and one brown trout were recorded. Fish were reported from Alford, Castle Forbes and Kintore. Due to the category 3 Status of the Don it is illegal to ‘Retain’ a salmon and therefore no sampling has taken place, only trout are able to be sampled on the Don. Fish suitable for sampling must be moribund, dead fish cannot be sampled due to the onset of bacterial infection which can spoil sample results.  A similar situation has presented itself on the Dee and situation continues to be closely monitored. Please report any signs to the River Office on 01467 642121.

Compiled by Martin Webster

Fisheries Officer DonDSFB