It’s salmon spotting season!

It’s that time of year when here at DCRT we start to get excited about the possibility of seeing salmon make their annual migration up our river systems to reach their spawning grounds in the upper reaches of the Don catchment. After an absence of 200 years, it’s the best time to see your very own king (and queens) of the river Don in generations. We’re asking people to submit sightings of salmon via our salmon recorder here.

Here’s a few tips for seeing salmon in your local river.

Where to look

Currently, migratory fish like salmon will struggle to get beyond Oughtibridge on the River Don, Staveley on the River Rother and Little Houghton on the River Dearne due to impassable weirs, though if you’re lucky, you may see them attempting to jump these weirs after a heavy rain fall! Look downstream of here for your best chance of seeing one in the water.

Bridges and raised riverside footpaths are your best look out point for a bit of fish twitching. To conserve energy, they like to spend most of their time in slower flowing, deeper areas often at the edge of the river.  

(Hint – I saw a number near Forgemasters, the Riverside pub and on Club Mill Road on the Five Weirs Walk/Upper Don Walk, Sheffield in late November last year)

What to look out for

Their large appearance – they can be on average around 70cm long but anywhere up to 1.5m in length! Although you can get large brown/sea trout, this sign can at least help you get it down to a salmonid fish.

Fungal spots – salmon that have been in the river for longer may have a number of pale fungal patches on them. Read more about this here.

Salmon carcasses – 95% of salmon die after spawning so don’t be worried if you see a dead salmon on the river bank. This is the best thing to find as we can collect a sample for the University of Sheffield to conduct eDNA research on to confirm identification. If you think you’ve seen one of these please contact us immediately.

If you’ve been fishing and caught what you think might be a salmon parr, click here to see how they compare to a brown trout.

Carcass of ‘Sumo’ the salmon
Salmon spotted near Forgemasters. Notice the fungal spots

When to look

Migration is triggered by Autumn’s heavy rainfall causing rivers to rise with spawning usually occurring November – December (though can occur any time October – late-February).

You can make salmon easier to spot by looking when there hasn’t been much rain fall in the days before as the water will be clearer. Also going on a sunny day will light up the river

What to take

You need very little to spot a salmon but consider taking the following:

  • Binoculars – these will give you a closer look
  • Camera – a photo will help us identify what you’ve seen
  • Polarised sunglasses – helps to take the glare off the top of the water

Salmon of steel trail

Find out more about this festival of the mind project here which includes rivery podcasts, fish art and University of Sheffield research also download our ‘Salmon of Steel’ trail – a walking loop in central Sheffield.