The opening ceremony of the salmon season on one of Scotland’s most celebrated rivers has been scrapped.
A large number of anglers annually attend the official opening of the salmon season at the start of the year, but the Covid pandemic has ended 2021’s celebrations.
A spokesman for the Spey Fishery Board said: “It is with regret that the board has decided the opening ceremony for the River Spey’s 2021 salmon season should be cancelled.
“The board recognises that many local anglers will be disappointed by this news, but the current situation regarding coronavirus and the restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government as a result, mean it would be inappropriate to proceed with the opening ceremony this year.
“Currently such an event would not be permitted and the board believes it is unlikely that this situation will change sufficiently by February 11. We shall look forward instead to reinstating it in 2022.”
However, anglers are still being encouraged to enjoy their sport given the lockdown restrictions does not totally exempt fishing.
The spokesman said: “Following the latest restrictions imposed by the Scottish Government with effect from January 5, the first minister has acknowledged the importance of outdoor non-contact activities for physical and mental health during lockdown.
“Given this, local outdoor recreation is to be considered an appropriate reason for leaving home. Unlike the lockdown last year, the frequency of outdoor exercise is not being limited.
“Outdoor non-contact activities such as walking, cycling and golf are permitted for all age groups.
“Angling is also permissible provided this is within a single household group, or the group contains no more than two people from two different households. Children under the age of 12 from these households do not count towards this number.”
However, fishing competitions, club outings or group meetings are not permitted under the current restrictions.
Despite the long period of non-fishing on the Spey last year because of the pandemic, salmon catches still leapt by more than 10% from 2019 – building hopes of a continued revival.
Totals on the River Spey reached an all-time low of just 3,178 in 2018 amid a heatwave that caused water levels to drop to some of the lowest levels on record.
Catches recovered to 5,090 in 2019 and further increased to 5,622 during 2020.
The Spey Fishery Board described the rise as “very positive”, as some beats were closed for three months of the seven-and-a-half-month season due to coronavirus.
The number of anglers making their way to the river from the rest of the UK and abroad is believed to have reduced due to the ongoing pandemic.