The Environment Agency is investigating what is believed to be the first record of a rod-caught Pacific pink salmon in England.
The 4 lb fish, with its distinctive humpback, was landed by a local angler, Ivan Harris, on the River Camel near Wadebridge who, using his mobile phone, photographed his unusual-looking catch before returning it to the water.
‘I thought the fish looked a bit weird and it wasn’t until afterwards that I released what I’d caught. I showed my photo to some angling friends who took it to the Environment Agency who officially identified it as a Pacific ‘Humpback’ Salmon. I was gob-smacked,’ said Ivan, from Bodmin.
The salmon was caught on the Polbrock Reach of the River Camel on a shrimp bait, ‘It hit the first shrimp really hard and smashed it to pieces. I put another shrimp on and it was grabbed almost immediately. I hooked the fish and was surprised how easy it was to land. After the initial rush and fierce take it just seemed to give up and came ashore like a wet leaf,’ said Ivan.
The fish was ‘coloured up’ and coming into full breeding condition. It’s humpback and extended jaw (kype) indicated it was a male.
‘This is the first record of a rod-caught Pacific pink salmon in Cornwall and probably for England. From its shape and markings it was instantly identifiable as a Pacific pink or ‘Humpback’ salmon’, said Simon Toms for the Environment Agency.
The River Camel fish is thought to be Oncorhynchus gorbuscha – one of five distinct species of Pacific pink salmon. It is normally found off the coast of North California, Canada across to Siberia and Korea. In Alaska, the Humpback is also known as the ‘Bread and Butter’ fish because of its importance to commercial fisheries and the local economy. In the UK, most people will have seen it on the shelves of their local supermarket as canned pink salmon.
Quite how this salmon found its way into British waters is a mystery fisheries scientists are trying to unravel. There is a record of a Pacific pink salmon netted off Montrose in 1990 and this year, there have been unconfirmed reports of two ‘Humpbacks’ caught on the Tweed in Scotland.
One theory is that the Cornish fish is from Russia. In recent years Russia has embarked on a major salmon-stocking programme in the White Sea where tens of thousands of fish have been introduced into surrounding rivers to support the local fishing industry. Some of these Humpbacks have started breeding in Norwegian rivers.
‘Thanks to the support or rod anglers, we now have a successful catch and release policy on many of our west country rivers to help preserve salmon stocks. However, this was one fish we would have liked to have had a close look at for scientific purposes. We would urge all anglers who catch unusual fish in rivers or lakes to report them to the Environment Agency as soon as possible,’ said Simon Toms.