Saturday saw a little bit of history made at Loch Leven because, for the first time ever the end of season finale, in the form of the Loch Leven Championship, was fished on a purely catch and release basis. In place of the usual weigh in at the end to determine the heaviest baskets of fish, we had a ‘measure in’. All fish caught during the day were measured in millimetres in the boat and then promptly released. Rather than recording the total weight, we calculated the aggregate length of all the fish caught by each angler.
The winner on the day and 2011 Champion was Alan Smith with 7 fish measuring 2,749mm – if like me you find that statistic meaningless and can only relate to feet & inches, Alan’s catch of 7 trout would have measured a tad over 9 feet in total if laid out end to end! In 2nd place with 6 fish measuring 2,673mm (about 3 inches less) was John Reid whilst in 3rd place was Dave Clark with 5 fish measuring 2,334mm. We did not have a Heaviest Fish prize this year but, if we had had a Longest Fish prize, Dave would have won with one measuring 609mm (24 inches) which unofficially weighed 5 lbs 8 ¾ ozs. Stan Headley was 4th. In all, the total number of fish caught by the 33 competitors in the Loch Leven Championship was 57 measuring a totally meaningless 24,793mm (81 feet 4 inches)!
Although the ‘measure in’ might be deemed slightly unorthodox to the purist, there was some method in the madness. Loch Leven is a wild brown trout fishery and anglers this season have been extremely responsible in adopting a general catch & release policy in order to nurture the overall brown trout population which is showing signs of welcome recovery. By running the competition on these lines, the overwhelming majority of fish caught were returned after being measured. Although we have no problem at all with fish being taken for the pot, the fact is that most are now on the point of running the streams to breed and killing hen fish laden with eggs in particular seems to be ill-advised and counter-productive in the longer term.
Aside from the competition on Saturday when no less than 4 brownies were estimated as being in excess of 5 lbs, big fish again featured in catches last week. It seems strange that until very recently, trout caught here on Loch Leven weighing in at 5 lbs or more were regarded as exceptional and rare – interestingly, the average of all the brown trout caught on Loch Leven since records began in the 1870s is just 15 ozs! The improvement in water quality over recent years has resulted in the loch producing an abundance of food for the trout and they appear to be revelling in it. Just 4 weeks ago, we had the heaviest fish (9 lbs 6 ozs) caught on Loch Leven for almost exactly 100 years and the chances must be that we will see the first ever brown trout caught on Loch Leven breaking the 10 lbs barrier next season – we can but hope!
Shallow water off the North Shore is producing good numbers of fish, as too are the margins all along the south shore of the loch, the Point of St Serfs and all along its south shore of the island. Fry feeding fish have been very active and, in some areas, it has been quite spectacular watching them chasing fry all over the place.
Water clarity all season has been pretty good and is still currently just on 2 meters. Thanks to the mini heatwave last week, the water temperature has crept up slightly to 15.5°C.
As mentioned earlier, fish are now showing signs of entering their breeding phase. Indeed a few have already been spotted in the burns over the last 2 – 3 days. We will be monitoring the progress of the spawning activities throughout the close season and will report back how it all seems to be going.