The River Don Monthly Report May 2023

River Don Monthly Report

May 2023


The first week of May saw an improvement with several fresh fish landed from the lower and middle river all were in prime condition ranging from 6 – 14lbs. Heavy thunderstorms fell across the middle catchment on the 9th. Freshly ploughed soil was quickly washed off the surrounding fields and a large amount of heavy sediment entered the river and tributaries. This caused the main river from Alford downstream to run badly coloured for over a week, this affected angling activity and several days were lost on the lower beats.  River levels began to drop away as a warmer spell of weather arrived the following week and angling was limited to late evenings when air and water temperatures cooled down. After a promising start to the month salmon catches quickly fell away again, it became apparent that no head of fish was on the coast to run instream and only the very odd salmon and sea trout was caught thereafter. As we finish the spring fishing period it’s been another trying time for catches, after a promising start to the season which saw an improved March, April and May catches were disappointing despite steady river levels and increased angling effort. Currently we are approaching sixty fish landed which is on par with the total from the previous spring. All fish landed were in good condition, many still carrying sea lice however, there has been a distinct lack of larger 3 sea winter fish appearing in catches. Salmon smolts were all but gone by the end of May, the coloured water mid-month had obviously assisted them with their downstream migration and sightings were low as the month ended.  

Fresh run fish being returned from the middle river.


Throughout the month Fisheries Officers maintained foot and vehicle patrols across the catchment checking for any sign of illegal activity. Eight incidents were attended too the majority being rod and line offences, several items of poaching tackle were also seized. A few anglers were reminded on best catch and release practice when landing and returning a fish to the river, as water temperatures increase its vital to minimize playing time and handling of fish to ensure survival.

Please contact the Fisheries Officers if you witness or suspect that any suspicious fishing activity is taking place on the 24hr number – 01467 642121. All information received will be treated in strictest confidence.

River Predation

The third and final spring bird count was completed on the 30thof the month. A total of 55 goosanders and 3 cormorants were counted from Poldullie bridge at Strathdon down to the estuary limits with most goosanders counted on the lower section of river. The current license for controlling has now expired, the quota of birds on the given license was fulfilled and we will shortly be applying for a goosander license for Autumn 2023 to Spring 2024. 

No seals were reported in river over the month. No Mink were caught over this period.

INNS Plant Control

The giant hogweed control programme is now well underway, trained volunteers have been assisting alongside staff and good progress has already been made on the Ardhuncart to Inverurie section due to the drier spell of weather. This year the upper beats from Strathdon downriver to Ardhuncart have been encouraged to control their own beats as other estates and associations have been doing on the middle and lower river.

Control on the river Urie has also now commenced, contractors are working from the source at Aulton on the Kelloch burn down towards Pitcaple over the coming weeks.

More information here SISI | Scottish Invasive Species Initiative

Angling Development – Fly Fish 50

Loch Insch fishery held the first of this year’s introduction to fly fishing courses. The programme is structured to assist beginners and give them the skills they need to be able to become a self-sufficient fly fisher. Fly Fish 50 is now in its fifth year and courses run over various trout fisheries across Aberdeenshire. Eleven adults and five children attended Insch over the three sessions which covers appropriate tackle and understanding of knots, a session on improved casting tuition by qualified instructors and volunteers and a final one on basic entomology and fish handling. Over the 5 years several attendees who attended the course have progressed onto river fishing and joined their local association or angling club.

Compiled by Martin Webster, Fisheries Officer DonDSFB