Tayside and Central Scotland

Rafting row over River Tay salmon fishing

Salmon fisherman
Image caption Fisherman want to restrict commercial rafting on the River Tay

Salmon fisherman in Perthshire have said that "relentless" commercial rafting is destroying once lucrative fishing beats.

Rafting companies using the Upper Tay are making the river a "highway", many fisherman claim.

But one operator said they restricted rafting days and were sensitive to the presence of fisherman.

A by-law proposal to restrict rafting in the area has recently been rejected by Perth and Kinross councillors.

The sport has become increasingly popular since the 2003 Land Reform Act opened up access.

Les Dargie, who said he had fished the six-mile stretch between Aberfeldy and Grandtully for a number of years, said many fisherman were now going elsewhere.

'Staying away'

He told BBC Scotland: "There's no question at all that the fishing is affected adversely by this relentless commercial pressure on the resource.

"If you come to fish you'll find that quite often if a lot of rafts have been through you won't catch fish.

"The result is that people tend to say away - people like me who could be paying into the local economy."

There are five rafting companies currently operating on the Upper Tay, catering for families and school trips as well as hen and stag parties.

Freespirits owner and river guide Steve Thomas, who has worked on the Tay for 20 years, said he sympathised with the fisherman, but did not accept that the boats were a nuisance.

"We do play about on the river, people do like to jump in the river," he said.

"[But] we don't do it in sensitive areas and we don't do it in fishing pools. If we see a fisherman all the messing about stops... That's what should be happening."

Mr Thomas said his company restricted rafting on Tuesdays, Thursdays and often on Saturdays.

'Equally important'

But he added: "Effectively what's happened in the last two years, the fisherman are asking us to stay off the river for three consecutive days - Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday - and it's just something that we can't work with."

Last month, Fish Legal - a body operating on behalf of the Salmon Fisheries Board - asked Perth and Kinross Council to introduce a by-law that would set aside three consecutive days for fishing.

The request was turned down on the grounds it was unenforceable, but the council's community safety convener Willie Robertson rejected suggestions that the council had failed to take into account fisherman's interests.

"Both are equally important to the area," he said.

"If we can do anything to help both parties I hope we can do that."

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