In My Opinion

The ugly row over management of the Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association does the sport no favours.  The arguments are now personal and the chances of reconciliation without some change of personnel and structure seem unlikely.

LLAIA has a celebrated history and remains one of the largest “clubs” in the country despite recent membership declines.  It is certainly not short of support and there are many angling organisations which would be happy with its permit income.

But the days when one of the country’s largest and most accessible salmon and trout fisheries can be run and managed by one individual acting as chairman, secretary and paid chief executive, are surely past, no matter how well-intentioned, enthusiastic and honourable the operations.

There are some among the loch’s salmon fishing owners, and clearly also many members, who hope that the current dispute will simply run out of steam and vanish of its own accord.  The “do nothing” approach is unfortunately naïve.

The Lomond and Clyde catchment are anomalies in terms of governance of salmon and sea trout and it should come as no surprise that the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework for Freshwater Fisheries group is looking actively at how best to encourage change.  The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards under Andrew Wallace is also keen to close what amounts to a large loophole in its west of Scotland membership.

ASFB director Brian Davidson told me last week:

Brian Davidson, Director ASFB

Brian Davidson, Director ASFB

“I would say we would be very keen to encourage any dialogue on discussing the formation of a board for Loch Lomond with owners, fishery interests and anglers. But we cannnot compel them to create a board. It is a bottom up process.”

With salmon rights still vested in the hands of riparian owners, this has proved a stumbling block for Loch Lomond whose catchment is controlled by 40 or more individuals, some of whose holdings are quite small.  The prospect of a creating a district salmon board with consequential costs and overheads may seem daunting.

The alternative of continuing with the status quo, however, is worse.  Like it or not, government and public agency support and co-operation for future development will be channeled through approved representative bodies and it is disturbing to learn that the Loch Lomond Fisheries Trust – an excellent organisation quite separate from the LLAIA – already feels it may be suffering adversely financially because of the controversy afflicting its bed-fellow association.

The key to calming the loch’s stormy angling waters may lie with its Riparian Owners Group which needs to stand up and be counted and to play a visibly pivotal role in effecting fundamental changes which will secure the loch and its fishing assets for the future.

If not, the bonnie, bonnie loch at the heart of Scotland’s first national park and a world-wide visitor attraction, may simply continue to be caught up in scorn and ridicule rather than landing bulging bags of praise as a revitalised prime game fishery.

Insults and smears . . .

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