"Caerlaverock -
where the unique balance of agriculture, wildfowling and conservation brings people and wildlife together for the benefit of both."

Haaf Netting at Caerlaverock

Fishing & Haaf Netting

Loch and river fishing on the estate remain mainly private for the time being but there are other opportunities for fishing at Caerlaverock during the appropriate season.

Sea Fishing

Sea fishingSome of the best sea angling in Scotland for flounder and plaice can be found at Glencaple on the Nith at the start of the estuary. We are fortunate in that the preferred habitat for these two species - shallow sandy mud- is exactly what you'll find here. Flounder, a chunky flatfish with eyes on each side and plaice with its distinctive red spots, can be caught at close range along with the occasional mullet with its huge scales and large round mouth.  Other species such as sea bass, dogfish and thornback wrays can also be found further into the estuary, around Carsethorn.

Where to Fish

The best place to fish at Glencaple is generally considered to be off the pier end, just beside Caerlaverock's Tea Room and Shop.  The river edge south of the village is also popular. Unlike many fish, flounders can be predictable. They like to stick to the line between beach and sand and accurate casting can result in an excellent catch.

Be aware

Sea Fishing as outlined here is free but anglers are advised to seek advice from the Caerlaverock Tea Room and Shop on the pier end before they get going. We advise everyone to check tide times before fishing. Quicksands and our fast flowing tides make it all to easy to be caught unaware and get cut off. Great care must be taken to avoid this.

Sea fishing can be done at any time of the year but the best time to fish is in the spring through to autumn on an incoming and ebb tide. Fish tend to be smaller and fresher in April but by September/October time, much heavier fish arrive in larger numbers. Recent reports of between 20 and 30 flounders caught in one tide are not uncommon

Hooks

Generally, smaller hooks are ideal (size 2 and 4) although with larger bait a 1/0, for example, may be better. Any sprung rod or beach caster will do the job, however, the continental long rod/fixed spool is becoming fairly common.

Bait

Recommended baits in this area are mackerel, lug worm, ragworms, shrimps, mussels, cockles and fresh peeler crabs. Frozen bait can be bought at the shop on the quay.

Flounder tramping

Flounder tramping is an old tradition which is still performed in the Nith by Glencaple at low water - a great way for all the family to spend an afternoon!

Tasty Tip!
Both flounder and plaice, gently fried with breadcrumbs, are a delicious choice amongst sea anglers!

Haaf Netting

Visitors to Caerlaverock who stroll along the banks of the River Nith, will often see 'haaf netters' fishing together in small groups and will perhaps wonder what exactly they are doing! For the uninitiated 'haaf netting'  where fishermen wield large, wooden, netted frames to catch the fish, is an unusual site yet it has been taking place on the Solway for over 1000 years since the Vikings introduced haaf netting to the area. (Haaf is the ancient Norse word for channel).  It's an ancient technique demanding great strength and patience.  People used to make a decent living from haaf netting but the days of the professional haaf netters are long gone.  In the 1960’s, the Nith Estuary held 200 haaf net licences. Only 55 are issued now and this is attributed to low salmon prices, low fish numbers and exceptionally wet summers. Despite all this the sport still fascinates people.   

Romantic as it may sound, haaf netting can be very dangerous. 'Haafers' stand, sometimes  neck deep in fast, treacherous tides holding their huge nets which are raised to the surface aided by the current when a salmon, sea trout or flounder hits his net. The Nith has a powerful tidal current with neap tides rising 11 feet and spring tides to 23 feet covering the marsh areas. The head of the tide can have an impressive but dangerous tidal bore of 3 feet travelling 10 knots spanning the river; quick sands, soft mud and monthly changing tides make  local knowledge is a necessity.

The haaf netting season runs from 25th February until the 9 September inclusive but with no weekend fishing. This helps to conserve fish stocks. Some haaf netters volunteer to use soft string nets to ensure that returned fish are not marked. Salmon caught before 30th April are returned and all sea trout over 3lb are released from the net unharmed and returned to the river.

Each haaf netter contributes money to a hatchery scheme run by the Nith Salmon Fishery Board to restock tributaries with salmon and sea trout fry.  Haaf netting  remains part of Caerlaverock's heritage and continues to be a skilful, tightly controlled, strenuous way of fishing by enthusiasts which will hopefully continue for another 1000 years.

 


Photographs - © Robbie Cowan

 


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