A ban has been imposed on hunting trout in Scotland’s longest freshwater loch as a heatwave is causing fish to die a painful death before they can be safely released.
Loch Awe in Argyll near Oban is 25 miles long and is a world-famous fishing destination.
Anglers come in search of the legendary Ferox Brown Trout, as well as pike and sea trout.
The sports fishermen often take great care to return their catch to the water alive.
But at the weekend, a number of large trout suffered unintended painful deaths, due to what scientists believe to be the high water temperature in the loch, caused by a current heatwave.
Alan Kettle-White is a biologist for the Argyll Fisheries Trust and a member of Loch Awe Improvement Association.
He said: “We have had very high water temperatures, much more than usual. Obviously fish like trout are cold water fish. They are at the upper levels that they can tolerate at the moment.
‘They don’t want to kill them’
“The warmer the water gets the less oxygen the fish can hold. They can’t breathe so it is not good.
“A couple of big trout were caught at the weekend and the anglers couldn’t get them back in alive.
“Part of our rules are that trout over a certain size (14ins) have to be returned.
“The people who fish for the big trout care for them. They don’t want to kill them.
“They are coming to put them back alive. It’s upsetting for them, they have totally no intention to kill the fish at all.”
The biggest one that died at the weekend was around 10lbs – 28ins long. Until temperatures cool off, it’s going to be difficult to get the fish back alive.
Mr Kettle-White added: “Water temperatures of between 20-25 degrees centigrade were the highest recorded at the weekend.
“That is really warm. It has crept up to 19-20 before but not like this, it has been above 20 for the last week.”
Mr Kettle-White has been working around Loch Awe and Argyll for 20 years and never experienced this before.
Fortunately, the forecast suggests temperatures will cool down in the area this week.
An average weekend at the height of summer will see around 100 people fishing for trout on Loch Awe.
Chris Davies, of Loch Awe Boats, Dalmally, said: “I have been here seven years and it’s the first time I have ever heard of this happening.
“Most of the fishermen agree that the fish are probably dying because of the water temperature and the stress of being caught in the heat.
‘The ban is the sensible thing to do’
“It is quite right. Especially from a welfare point of view. Of the large Ferox trout which are in Loch Awe, stocks are very small, and they are big fish, which puts them under more stress when caught.
“It (the ban) is the sensible thing to do.”
Meanwhile, despite the soaring temperatures, it is still not advised to be tempted to go for a dip.
Police continue to remind the public of the dangers of lochs and rivers following a number of water-related deaths across the weekend.