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TV’s Paul Whitehouse casts first line to mark beginning of salmon fishing season

Comedian Paul Whitehouse has led the opening of the salmon fishing season on the River Tay.

The star of the BBC’s hit series Gone Fishing performed the honours at Meikleour, a village in Perth and Kinross, on Monday.

The event was hosted by the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board (TDFSB), the Tay Rivers Trust, Meikleour Fishings and Perth and Kinross Council.

Whitehouse made the first cast of the season to mark the opening.

The ceremony kicked off at 9.30am at Meikleour Boathouse, near Kinclaven Bridge.

A procession of anglers was led to the river by the Perth and District Pipe Band, headed by Pipe Major Alistair Duthie and Drum Major Kenny Forbes.

Salmon fishing season
The Perth and District Pipe Band lead the anglers in a procession along the bank of the River Tay on the opening day of the salmon fishing season (Jane Barlow/PA)

Xander McDade, provost of Perth and Kinross Council, blessed a fishing boat alongside Whitehouse after he popped a magnum of Pol Roger Champagne.

All proceeds from the opening day were donated to the Salmon In The Classroom programme in local schools.

Claire Mercer Nairne, TDSFB member and owner of the Meikleour Fishings, said: “At the start of a new salmon season we always feel some optimism. However, it would be wrong for us to put our heads in the sands.

“The reality is that the Tay’s 2023 rod catch of salmon was the lowest in recent decades.

“The Tay DSFB and the Tay Rivers Trust are working ever more closely on environmental projects aimed at safeguarding the long-term health of the Tay and its tributaries.

“Of course, some issues are outside our control and we operate within a framework of official policies.”

She added: “One of the tools we have available to mitigate the issues that constrain juvenile salmon numbers is stocking.

“We are fortunate to have a state-of-the-art hatchery run by a team of experts. This hatchery has been and remains vital for the restoration of the River Garry tributary.

“In this context we are awaiting the imminent publication of the Scottish Government’s review of its policy on salmon stocking.

“We hope very much that this will widen their current narrow definition of ‘mitigation’ and allow more effective use of our hatchery to take place.”

Salmon fishing season
The Perth and District Pipe Band leads a procession including comedian Paul Whitehouse to the River Tay (Jane Barlow/PA)

Calum Innes, chairman of the Tay Rivers Trust, said: “One important initiative that we are increasingly focusing on is riparian zone tree-planting in the Tay system’s upper tributaries.

“Bankside trees provide valuable shading which helps to keep water temperatures within acceptable levels for salmon.

“As the climate warms, this is a vital issue and the sooner we get young trees in the ground the better.

“We are already progressing several possible tree-planting schemes and it is very much our intention to accelerate this.”

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon MSP said: “The Scottish Government takes the issue of our declining salmon populations very seriously and we are committed to working with our partners, both domestic and international, to safeguard this iconic species.

“Last year we published the Wild Salmon Strategy Implementation Plan which sets out over 60 actions to tackle the wide range of pressures on wild salmon.

“Over the next five years these will be progressed not by government alone, but in collaboration, including with District Salmon Fishery Boards and Trusts.

“Many stakeholders and interested parties have a role here to help.

“The ongoing work to safeguard wild salmon is an example of our commitment to tackle the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.

“Recently we launched enhanced Forestry Grant Scheme measures, which will boost planting trees along rivers to provide shade for wild salmon, a species that needs cool water.”