UK salmon anglers... some help, please - Spey Pages
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post #1 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-15-2019, 11:37 PM Thread Starter
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UK salmon anglers... some help, please

I recently read an online article reporting on Jan/Feb fishing results out your way. Catches were predictably poor and included 'kelts and baggots, but hopes for a spring salmon'. Baggots was a new term to me, so I inquired as to it's meaning. I was told they are fish from the previous season that did not spawn (and intimated that they are, like kelts, headed back to sea). Steelhead are managed by declaring them summer or winter run (for statistical convenience). In the PNW, we don't have a word for an unspawned adult (well, 'maiden' sometimes for first return and 'ripe' if dark and bloated). Our expectation is that unspawned fish still intend to spawn and are headed upstream, not down. I've caught ripe, silvery winter steelhead the last week of May (nowhere near any spawning gravel). I've quizzed local biologists and the collective opinion is that unpaired steelhead shed their eggs/milt before leaving spawning areas (thus, they are kelts, as are successful spawners). I did learn of an infrequent instance where wild broodstock which were spawning a second time (at a hatchery) had some shriveled eggs from the previous year and ripe fertile eggs also.
So tell me about baggots. How broadly over salar's range is the term used? Is there more than one meaning, or other terms used to describe them? Did I understand the meaning I was given? Hoping to learn from you. Thanks.
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post #2 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 03:48 PM
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I do not fish the UK and 'baggots' is a new term to me. Would guess that frustrated spawners would re-absorb the egg sacs or milt.

It is curious if not downright puzzling why many Atlantic salmon kelts will return to the sea as 'Black salmon' and others are still quite bright.

You are right that the summer/winter distinction applied to steelhead is arbitrary. In some systems, steelhead return 10 or 11 months of the year if not year long.

If steelhead do not mate with another steelhead, they will apparently mate with resident redband trout.
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post #3 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 05:42 PM
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Baggots is indeed a fairly common term over here, the male equivalent is a rawner. I think you're using it entirely correctly. In the early months of the season a baggot or rawner will sometimes pair up with a fresh springer. As to what happens to them, I'm afraid I've no idea. Whether they eventually absorb their eggs/milt and return to sea, or whether they stay in the river, unable to extrude them, and perish. The answer possibly lies in one of the salmon fishing books upon my shelf, but a cursory glance didn't reveal it.

As far as I know, it's not something commonly experienced by sea trout and so perhaps not steelhead either? I'm sure one of the more knowledgeable salmon anglers will be able to add more.
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post #4 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 08:42 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Darth, very interesting, indeed! And you've added yet again to my piscatorial vocabulary ! Let's see what others can contribute.
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post #5 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-16-2019, 10:27 PM
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Here ya go

Baggots are generally well proportioned and dark coloured, not dissimilar in appearance to coloured hens
but their bellies are flabby. However, baggots can be distinguished from coloured hens by their soft flesh,
distended bellies and sometimes open vents. Baggots can sometimes be caught in the spring on early rivers.
'baggot' or 'rawner' both terms are used to describe fish that shed their spawn late or not at all. Such
fish are occasionally caught in springtime on the early rivers and indeed some salmon may spawn as late
as March month. Baggots can be distinguished by their soft flesh, distended bellies and sometimes open vents.
No doubt over the years many of them have been accidentally kept as clean fish because they are clearly
not kelts
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post #6 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 01:42 AM
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Baggots can be distinguished by their soft flesh, distended bellies and sometimes open vents.

This to me would indicate a fish that has spawned, aka a kelt, or maybe a fish that is actively spawning? Those where not clear definitions to me.

Tight lines! B K Paige
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Wishin I was fishin the Sauk!!!
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post #7 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 07:27 AM
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Kelts,Baggots and Rawners are a by catch of the search for the elusive fresh run Spring fish and by and large only encountered in the opening month's or so of the new season.Neither of those fish would be included in the catch returns of a beat.Kelts are protected by law and as such should be returned on capture with the minimum of fuss.It's not really considered sporting to target Kelts deliberately!.
As said the Baggots and Rawners are unspawned fish(no one knows why)they are sexually mature and most certainly on the verge of spawning but for whatever reason are late in doing so or maybe even not going to spawn at all that year.
Most certainly some of these fish are retained, usually through pure ignorance(in not being able to identify them correctly) often sheer exuberance ,and some times through sheer bloody minded ness on behalf of the captor!,but really they should be returned as safely as possible to the river.
Sadly the new Spring fish have a habit of laying alongside the Kelts and the capture of Kelts however much an unintended objective is hard to avoid when searching for Springers especially in the very first few weeks of a new season.
It's an easy mistake to make the "counting" of a Kelt,Baggot or Rawner as a genuine Spring Fish,sometimes its only after years of experience and practical demonstration from those more experienced that the difference becomes apparent.Very very well mended Kelts can be the very devil to identify correctly!.However the old adage of one "knowing" a springer when you've got one is particularly true.
In short ,by and large if your unsure of the status of your capture-then it's probably not the "real thing"!
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post #8 of 8 (permalink) Old 02-17-2019, 02:47 PM Thread Starter
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My thanks, Yorkie! You've provided the explanation I was hoping for... and with that, I now have a means to compare our steelhead behavior with your salmon. And they are very similar. The one exception seeming to be the width of timeframe for encountering them (the large majority of ours spawn in March and April, with some in differing amounts earlier and later). There are/were many streams that close/d to angling from mid March to mid April to avoid the encounters that you describe the potential for. Those streams reopening late May or June, host (or used to) summer run steelhead, and like you say, you know when you've hooked one, although the present fight over the relative value (to the angler) of cultured vs natural fish convolutes that perception.
It helped as well to know that your sporting ethic is a match for ours... fish on gravels and spent fish are to be left to their natural missions, even though we know there are outliers that target them anyway. I hope to experience your salmon someday and your contribution to that interest will be put to good use if I do.
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