How to identify a clean Salmon

OK so you’ve just caught your first Salmon from the Kelvin, It’s a big beast of a thing still alive and thrashing in your landing net. The fisherman in us all will instinctively fumble about looking for that homemade priest and wonder have I got a bin bag big enough for this Leviathan……STOP for a minute and think!

What have I got in my net here? Is it a Cock, a Hen or a Kelt? If you’re unsure then this wee guide might help you identify your catch and make an informed decision as to whether you should really kill this fish:

How to identify a clean Salmon

Fresh Salmon

Fresh Salmon - Recognised by the pristine condition and bright silver flanks. Fish straight from salt water have loose, easily detached scales and many carry sea lice which drop off within a few days. Hen salmon (illustrated) have a tiny kype on the lower jaw but unlike cocks they retain normal head proportions while in the river

Kelt

Kelt - Kelts are salmon which have spawned. Usually identified by the thin shape, distended vent and presence of "gill maggots" on the red gill filaments, they are often encountered by anglers in spring when they regain a silvery appearance and can be mistaken for fresh run Springers. Kelts must bereturned unharmed to the water.

Maturing Cock and Hen

Cock

Cock - The combination of "tartan" colours is typical although shades vary - the fully developed kype, used in fighting rivals, and the enlarged adipose fin, are the most consistent indicators of maturity.

Hen
Hen -

These are usually less coloured than cocks of similar age and they
never have enlarged jaws. This one will have spent a few weeks in river or
estuary – note the coloured head and lack of true silver flanks.

Cock and Hen In Breeding Dress

Cock in Breeding Dress (Tartan Breeks & Waistcoat)
Cock in Breeding Dress (Tartan Breeks & Waistcoat)

The combination of ‘tartan’ colours is typical although shades vary the fully developed kype, used in fighting rivals is the most consistent indicator of maturity.

Hen in Breeding Dress
Hen in Breeding Dress -

This is a summer fish – springers are often darker by spawning timewhile late entrants may still be silver flanked. Fully mature hens have soft, swollen bellies and spawning is imminent if they also have protruding vents.

Considering the above:

  • It is illegal to deliberately attempt to foul hook fish.
  • It is illegal to kill kelts, smolts or parr.
  • It is illegal to take unclean or unseasonable fish (anything but a fresh salmon – see pictures above)
  • It is illegal to fish with any form of salmon roe.
  • It is illegal to fish with a “fixed line.”

It is illegal to kill anything apart from fresh salmon – this is why you are not allowed to fish off bridges – how can you net safely or return an unclean fish – an unclean fish should be netted and returned safely to the water with a minimal amount of fuss.

Happy Fishing

The hard graft of this article was submitted by Grant