Howietoun Fishery History
Howietoun Fishery was established by Sir James Maitland in 1881. Sir James experimented on his Sauchie Estate and produced fish for sale as early as 1873.
After several failures with facilities being flooded or frozen up completely he tasked his gamekeepers with finding an area on his considerable land-holding where he had complete control over the water and where he could reliably maintain water flow over the most severe winter. This was a tacit acknowledgement that while he owned the land he did not know it in such detail as his employees. All details were written up in his “History of Howietoun” volume 1.
It is fortuitous that a continuous 30 plus years record on all transactions (from 1881) is now held in the University of Stirling library archives and this material has been the subject of several research theses. Howietoun Fishery was secured by the University of Stirling in 1979 and a process of restoration and improvement began. Although all of the existing earth ponds were fully functional the hatchery required significant investment to secure the fabric of the building and upgrade the interior.
Significant investment in the production of salmon was initiated in 1980 to satisfy the rapidly expanding salmon farming industry and currently around 700,000 salmon smolts are produced (from 3 sites) for transfer into salt water.
Brown trout production has remained at around 40-50,000 2 year old fish with a trend in recent years for fewer fish of larger size. It is possible to produce fish in excess of 2lbs at little over 2 years of age which is around double the growth rate of wild fish (other than ferox). Much depends on suitable weather and although “compensatory growth” allows us to catch up after a severe winter it is more usual to have 2+ fish topping out at 1.25lbs. Forcing fish by overfeeding leads to poor muscle development and consequent flabby fish that do not provide a good account of themselves on a rod.
Rightly or wrongly, Howietoun has been responsible for establishing brown trout in many countries worldwide. The fact that these countries are now famous angling destinations (despite the introduction of an alien species) is worthy of debate.