This article details the main species of freshwater and saltwater fish found throughout the diverse regions of Scotland, and around our coast line.
Brown Trout – (Salmo trutta)
Brown trout are iconic, symbolic and abundant in Scotland. They thrive is our clean well oxygenated waters. Brown Trout (or Broonies as we Scots call them) are part of our fishing heritage and have been present in our rivers and lochs since the ice age. Wild brown trout from Scotland have been transported all over the world, to populate rivers and lochs in New Zealand, North America and Europe.
Native brown trout are hard fighting, and very popular with anglers. The current UK record Brown Trout is 31lbs 12oz (14.4kg) caught in Argyll on Loch Awe by Brian Rutland.
Atlantic Salmon – (Salmo salar)
Atlantic Salmon are the iconic fish in Scotland. To catch a salmon in Scotland, ranks as one of the top angling achievements in the Angling World. There is a rich salmon fishing heritage in Scotland. Spey Casting originated on the banks of the River Spey and history and tradition still echoes around the Scottish Rivers. Salmon migrate from the feeding grounds at sea, to the rivers around Scotland. They are difficult to catch, because they do not feed to gain weight, when in fresh water. Seasons vary from river to river, however salmon fishing is available from January 15th to the end of November.
Choosing the best salmon river, at the best time, is a dark art. It depends on many factors, and we can help you navigate that tricky process, using local knowledge, and by keeping a finger on the pulse of recents catch rate performances and trends.
Salmon Fishing in Scotland is not as prolific as it has been in the past. This much persecuted fish is threatened and in decline, but as you can see from the graph below, they are still plentiful. Anglers in Scotland, probably contribute more to conservation than anyone.
With careful planning and using effective techniques, you can still enjoy memorable sport targeting salmon. Our fishing is all catch and release, to protect future brood stock. This is now the norm and a collective culture on the rivers in Scotland now.
Grayling – (Thymallus thymallus)
Grayling are abundant in the clean well oxygenated rivers of Scotland. They feed on a mixed diet of aquatic insects, larvae, shrimp, snail, small fish and ephemerides. The grayling was introduced to Scotland in 1855 on the River Clyde, and then spread to other rivers like the River Teviot , which then allowed them to migrate to the Tweed system and on to the Leader, Whiteadder and other tributaries.
The best grayling fishing in Scotland is in November, December and January. so this makes is a popular species to target in the close season, when trout and salmon fishing stops.
The grayling is an elegant fish, graceful and powerful. They are not “ladies of the Stream”, as often referred to, because they come in male and female form. They use the large Dorsal fin to great effect and give unparalleled sport. An average Scottish grayling is 20-30cm. 40cm fish are quite common and anything over 50cm treated a s a real specimen. Grayling are nomadic and move around, especially if they have been caught and released, however they can often shoal.
As well as offering guided grayling trips, skills classes Alba Game Fishing is a trade member of the Grayling Society.
Fly fishing is the fairest method to catch these fish and is highly effective. Euronymphing is a successful method to catch Grayling. You can bait fish for them in Scotland in certain venues, but that’s not our preference.
Sea Trout (Salmo trutta morpha trutta)
The sea trout like the salmon is anadromous (or sea-run). These are essentially brown trout that have decided to migrate to saltwater to feed, and return to the river to spawn. Sea trout can be found all around our coastline, and as the diet of shrimp, sand eel and other coastal feasts are high in protein, they can gain weight quicker than in freshwater.
Fishing for sea trout is most effective at night. It’s astounding when a seemingly quiet pool devoid of fish comes to life, with fish cascading around. There’s no doubt, these fish are very adept at hiding during daylight.
Sea trout over 10Kgs has been caught in Scotland, and this is an extremely hard fighting, acrobatic fish.
It’s also becoming more popular in Scotland to fish for sea trout in salt water, around our coast.
Pollack (Pollachius) – A saltwater predator
The Pollack or Pollock (depending on how you’d like to spell it), is a saltwater predator. It lurks in kelp (seaweed) beds, in rocky ground rich in feature and hiding spots, typically 25-40ft depth around reefs and coastline. Waiting to power upwards and attack any bait fish or sand eels, that come into vision. Once the fish grabs its food it dives rapidly itself, back to the safety of cover. This makes the initial fight when hooking a pollack quite remarkable.
Pollack fishing in Scotland is best from the shore, or from a boat.
The best fishing tackle and lures to fish for pollack are jig heads, soft plastic lures, metal jigs. Fly fishing is best using clouser minnow patterns, sparsely dressed. When fishing from the shore line, it’s always best to use a longer, powerful rod, this helps steer the fish away from the sharp reefs and in a way does less damage to the fish by scraping on the rocks. Pollack should always be netted or lifted into a pool with seaweed to protect the outer skin. When releasing the fish, throwing it head first into the water, will wake it up and help it escape a predator like a seal, waiting for an easy meal.
Pike (Esox lucius) Scotland freshwater predator
The pike is a fierce predator. As poet and fisherman Ted Hughes wrote “A killer from the egg“. If designed by the military it would be a stealth bomber and a fighter plane rolled into one. Rows of sharp teeth, angled inwards, help secure prey and and anti coagulant in the saliva mens that even if the fish escapes after a bite, it will bleed to death and continue to leave a signal trail of blood to keep the pike in pursuit. Its powerful tail, helps with sudden surges of speed, and finely tuned eyesight and a sense of smell can help it home in on a target.
Pike can grown incredibly large and the biggest Scottish pike was caught back in 1945, from Loch Lomond and weighed in at 47lb 11oz.
We can offer guided pike fishing trips throughout Scotland all year. Many of our venues are private.
The Wrasse (Ballan Wrasse, Goldsinny Wrasse, Cuckoo Wrasse, Rock Cook Wrasse and Corkwing Wrasse)
There are five species of Wrasse found in Scottish waters, and the Ballan is the biggest. Ballans offer the best sport. They can reach a good size 5-7lb and the UK record is 9lb 7oz. They also vary greatly and the colourful coats they display, from dark brown to bright orange. The Ballan is a truly gallous and beautiful fish. It predates on small fish and is armed with a strong set of teeth allowing it to break up molluscs and shellfish.
Fishing for them is best from the shoe line and you can drop shot with small lures, or float fish soft crabs, which is the most effective method. The other wrasse species are smaller, but make for great sport on LRF tackle.