Saturday, March 13, 2010

River Tay Sparling

Sparling. Up until about 15 years ago there were two small fishing boats operating out of Newburgh North Fife catching sparling. Sadly the catch went to London and thence to the Continent where it was valued and appreciated. On occasions I was given a box. I have to say it is a most exquisite fish to eat. Up to 8-10cm in length, I found the best way to cook was to lightly batter the whole fish and deep fry for a few minutes. A touch of salt and a squeeze of lemon, fantastic. The most pervading quality is the powerful smell of cucumber until cooked. I miss eating them but remain happy that they are out there unexploited except by seals which gorge from time to time.

Sparling photograph by
Sparling, also known as Smelt are reported from two Scottish sites. Both sites are considered to be in favourable condition. However, these results should not be treated with complacency, as smelt are predictable in their spawning behaviour, are marketable as a commercial commodity and are incredibly simple to catch. These factors mean that it is highly vulnerable to overfishing and this activity could eliminate the population in any given year. Furthermore, they are relatively weak swimmers, so river engineering or agricultural operations which reduce water quality could have a significant negative impact.
smelt (small cold-water silvery fish; migrate between salt and fresh water)
About 50% of the UK coastline (9,849 km) is estuarine and of this 2.5% is in Tayside. There are two major estuaries in Tayside - the Inner Tay (12,265 ha., of which 5,720 ha. are inter-tidal) and Montrose Basin (842 ha., of which 739 ha. are inter-tidal). These make up most of the region’s estuarine habitat, the remainder being accounted for by five much smaller river mouths – Pitairlie, Buddon, Lunan, Elliot and North Esk - all of which are in Angus.
The Firth of Tay is one of the largest estuaries in Scotland and has the highest freshwater inflow of any estuary in Britain. It can be divided into the strongly marine outer firth (seaward of Broughty Ferry), a middle zone between Broughty Ferry Castle and the rail bridge which exhibits the greatest variation in salinity, and the upper estuarine reaches upstream of the bridge. The influence of spring tides penetrates 50 km inland to about 4 km beyond Perth, but saline conditions occur only as far upstream as Newburgh.

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