The salmon fishing season has got underway on the River Ure as stocks of the migratory fish and hopes of associated growth in the tourism industry continue to grow.
The first cast of the season was performed by Richmond MP Rishi Sunak who heard about the work to make the Yorkshire river one of the best salmon fisheries in the UK.
Salmon stocks in the river plunged after the Second World War, mainly because of industrial pollution of the lower reaches of the River Ouse system.The River Ure is a tributary.
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Numbers have recovered in recent years and the Ure Salmon Group has been working with the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust to encourage more salmon to make the journey from the sea to their spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the river system.
The group says a rejuvenated salmon population is bringing many more fishing enthusiasts to the area and boosting tourism.
David Bamford, project officer for the Ure Salmon Group, said the objective was a healthy river to bring revenue into the rural community by restoring and expanding the population of Atlantic Salmon within the River Ure.
“This has begun to bear fruit with local hotels and businesses reporting visits by salmon anglers and their families.
“We strongly promote catch and release angling so as not to adversely impact the recovering salmon stock.
Often salmon anglers book a longer break and bring their family who explore the local area and amenities.”
Mr Sunak officially declared the Ure salmon season open at a gathering of group members at the Blue Lion, at East Witton, near Leyburn, before trying his hand on the river at nearby Jervaulx.
He said: “The work that is being done to bring migratory salmon back to the River Ure is very impressive from both an environmental and economic perspective.
“I understand salmon angling on the River Tweed in Scotland generates more than £12m for the economy of the Tweed valley every year. Even if the smaller Ure with fully recovered salmon stocks generated a tenth of that income it would be a major boost for the tourism industry in Wensleydale.
Mr Sunak said that many of the established salmon rivers in Scotland had seen declining catches in recent years and the Ure was bucking the trend by seeing a steady improvement. Also, non-angling visitors viewed the presence of Atlantic Salmon as a key indicator of environmental quality. People associated salmon with wild and pristine habitats which could only be a good thing for the image of the area.
Mr Bamford said the work to help salmon stocks recover included re-stocking and removing barriers to the salmon’s migration, like installing fish passes. Fish counters had been installed to monitor stocks. Last year, salmon weighing between 30-40lb had made it to the upper reaches to spawn.
Work with the Yorkshire Dales Rivers Trust included consolidation of river banks and habitat conservation.
The Ure salmon season runs from April to the end of October.