The Spey Scale Project

Do you love Atlantic salmon and want to help conserve this important species for future generations?
Do you fish on the Spey and are interested in finding out more about the life of salmon and trout that you catch?
You can support salmon conservation and discover the fascinating story of your catch by participating in our #SpeyScaleProject.
Simply follow the steps below. But first…

Why is the Spey Scale Project important?

Scale fish sampling is a crucial part of salmon conservation as it provides valuable information about the growth, health, and migration patterns of salmon populations. This information is essential for the management and protection of salmon stocks and helps ensure that the future of these magnificent creatures is secured.

Our goal is to gather as many scale samples as possible so that we can begin to analyse, understand and track adult Spey salmon and trout. At the same time we want to give you the opportunity to find out more about the amazing life of the fish that you catch. 

Follow these simple steps to take part in the

Spey Scale Project.


STEP 1: Collect your scale sampling packets

 Many of the Spey Ghillies are supporting this project and will have sampling packets you can use. Alternatively, sampling packs  can be collected from the Spey Fishery Board Offices by prior arrangement, or please contact our biology team via email, who can organise to get some packets sent to you.

STEP 2. Catch a fish and collect your scale samples

To collect scale samples you will need:

  1. A small pen knife
  2. Scale packets to keep samples in
  3. A measuring tape
  4. A pencil

To participate in the Spey Scale Project, you will need to collect a minimum of six to eight scales from an Atlantic salmon or trout.

Once you have caught a salmon or sea trout, carefully collect scale samples using the technique outlined below, before releasing your fish back into the river.

Collecting a scale sample, a step-by-step guide:

  1. Measure the fork length (see image below) of the fish in centimetres to the nearest 0.5 cm using a measuring board or tape measure.

  2. Measure the weight of the fish in pounds to the nearest 0.5 lb, using a digital balance.

  3. Note the presence or absence of sea lice.

  4. Use a blunt scalpel or knife blade to remove excess mucus and scrape scales loose from the fish. Alternatively, use forceps to remove individual scales.

  5. Collect a relatively large sample of 10+ scales from dead fish and 6-8 scales from live fish that will be returned to the water.

  6. Label each scale packet clearly with details such as length, weight, date, place, and sex (if known) to help the scale reader interpret growth.

  7. Allow the scale packets to dry fully in open air before storing and sending them to the Spey Fishery Board

For more information, please watch this useful video about how to collect a scale sample. In the video they collect scales from a brown trout, but the process is the same. 

 STEP 3: Fill in the details on the scale packet and send your sample to us

The following are the minimum reporting requirements that you need to provide. Please write these clearly either on the scale pack (see image of example scale pack below) or on a separate piece of paper:

• Date of capture
• Location
• Method of capture
• Length (cm)
• Weight (lb)
• Sex (male/female/unknown)
• Fish state (live/dead)
• Sea lice (presence/absence)

Please include your name, contact number and email address in the envelope with your scale sample packet.

Once you have collected your scale sample, please send it to the following address:

Atticus Albright
Spey Fishery Board
1 Nether Borlum
AB38 7SD

STEP 4: We will analyse your scale samples

Once we receive your scale samples, our biologists will conduct a microscope examination of the scales’ growth rings (known as circuli) in order to investigate the pattern.

This pattern will reveal the number of winters the fish spent in the river, the moment that the fish transitioned to the marine environment and the number of winters the fish spent in the marine environment.

In addition to this, anomalies in this pattern can reveal more information about the fish. Namely, periods of rough or interrupted feeding (known as checks), the condition of the fish in the river and whether or not the fish has spawned before.

This analysis will be added to a growing database which overtime will give us a better idea of how Spey salmon and trout populations are changing, and will identify any worrying or concerning trends before it is too late. 

STEP 5: You will find out the story of your fish

Once we have completed our analysis, we will write up a short report on our findings which will include information about the growth, health, and migration pattern of your salmon or trout.

We will then email this report along with a photograph of at least one of your scales to the email address you provided. 

Make a donation to the Spey Foundation.

APlease consider supporting our work by making a donation to the Spey Foundation. All donations are gratefully received and will go towards supporting important salmon conservation work on the River Spey.

Please use the tool below to quickly and easily make a donation. 

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