The River Spey

About The River Spey

Rising in the Monadhliath Mountains to the west of Laggan, the River Spey flows 160 km east and northeast into Moray where it joins the sea aside the villages of Kingston on Spey and Tugnet at Spey Bay. The Spey is one of Scotland’s big four salmon rivers, the second longest river in Scotland and the seventh longest in the UK.  The Spey is similar to many Scottish Highland Rivers and supports only a limited number of fish species that includes the Atlantic salmon; trout as migratory sea trout and resident brown trout.

Whilst the mouth of the river is continually subject to change with the formation of shingle spits and the cutting of new outlets, it offers excellent low cost fishing to residents and visitors alike.

The Spey Fisheries Board (SFB)

As part of its long term commitment to the protection of Salmon stocks the SFB launched a Salmon Conservation Policy in 2003. The policy aimed to achieve the release of at least 50% of Salmon and Grilse and to protect the depleted stocks of multi-sea winter Salmon in February to June. At least 50% of these fish are female and therefore contribute an important part of the river’s spawning stock.

SFB Conservation Policy for Salmon and Grilse

As part of its long term commitment to the protection of Salmon stocks, the SFB agreed in August 2009 to simplify its Salmon Conservation Policy. The latest one for 2016 can be viewed here.

The Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and others have also produced a useful guidance leaflet for anglers on the best approach to catch and release.

Catch and release:

  • Each angler must return the 1st, 3rd, 5th etc. salmon and grilse caught
  • All hen salmon and hen grilse must be released
  • Throughout the season all stale or gravid fish must be released
  • Escaped farmed salmon must be retained


  • Where possible anglers should be encouraged to fish with a fly
  • All hooks should be ‘pinched’ or barbless;
  • Where spinning is allowed only one set of barbless hooks may be used on a lure.

Fishing effort:

  • Where possible the numbers of hours and rods fished should be limited.

SFB Conservation Policy for Sea Trout

Under fisheries legislation Sea Trout have the same legal status as Salmon, and DSFBs are also responsible for their protection and enhancement. Sea Trout in the Spey and Brown Trout, which are part of the same family, are poorly understood and often overlooked. However, catch statistics show that the River Spey Sea Trout rod fishery has been one of the largest in the UK, with a 10 year (1992-2001) average annual catch of 4,590

The Spey Fishery Board has become increasingly concerned by the fall in the numbers of Sea Trout being caught. In August 2008 the Spey Research Committee reviewed the Sea Trout Conservation Policy in light of the reduced catch and recommended to the Board that the Policy be enhanced. These recommendations were unanimously supported by the Board and a revised Sea Trout Conservation Policy was adopted for 2009 which remains for 2010 and is as follows:

Finnock: Release all fish of 16 oz. / 35 cm / 14” or less
Sea Trout: Release all fish of 3 lb. / 50 cm / 20” or more
Bag Limit: 1 Sea Trout of takeable size per calendar day. Anglers are also encouraged to release their first fish and take the second of takeable size.
Unseasonable Fish: Release all unseasonable fish

The decline in Sea Trout numbers in recent years has been reflected in their numbers from most rivers throughout the Moray Firth and widespread concern about this has led to the formulation of a research project to identify the reasons behind it.