We’d been told Danish salmon rivers were excellent, maybe even better than their Norwegian counterparts in a lot of ways. Surely not? Well we were going to find out for ourselves!
Much like the Norwegian rivers, the Danish rivers were near empty of atlantic salmon in the latter part of the last century. It wasn’t until til early nineties, 1993 to be exact, that a major re-stocking and river repair effort began. Many millions of Danish Kroner were invested and this led to new ways of river management, fishery management and education of the masses. After hearing about the success of their efforts, we were obliged to take a field trip down to the Skjern Å or River Skjern in West Denmark (one of just four rivers and the most successful in Denmark where they have now atlantic salmon runs).
The totally flat landscape where the river meanders is very different to our Norwegian rivers. This can be clearly seen in the picture above.
Our first evening by the river was a rather cold one. The autumn wind had reduced by air and water temperature to a chilling 7 degrees celsius. Despite our efforts in two hours before darkness, a strong and shaken pull from most probably a sea trout, the only sign of life.
The next morning inspired by stories told by one of our hosts, Harry Ejner Østergaard Jensen, the evening before, we arrived at the river with an expecting manner. No sign of fish and soon 11am, we left to keep our appointment at Dansk Center for Vildlaks (Danish Centre for Wild Salmon).
We were met by a very friendly and knowledgable Søren Larsen, who went on to show us the facility. He found time to give us a very informative presentation into the restocking and river management efforts going on today and their effects. We left impressed as to what they had achieved, and wanted to experience the results for ourselves. So after taking a trip to a couple of fishing shops that serves the general area (fiskenu in Tarm and Korsholm in Skjern) and seeing the Skjern delta estuary, we had a few hours to cast a line once again.
Our last day – a new day of new possibilities. A few hours by the river unfortunately seemed to be fruitless. We tried all that we could with the excellent guidance of Afiskeri Skjern Å Guide Harry, but to no avail. It wasn’t until the guide himself took over and showed us how it should be done.
It took no more than 5-6 casts and it stuck. I guess this is why he’s a guide! After a short fight, a magnificent cock salmon came to the net, much to everyone’s delight. It proved to be a fin clipped salmon that had returned from the North Atlantic feeding grounds back to it’s mother river after being cultivated at DCV. With the minimum of stress, it was returned to bear it’s genes further.
With our time with the Afiskeri.dk guys over, we said our thankful goodbyes to two wonderful people and headed for DTU (Technical University of Denmark) Aqua to speak with two of the world’s top salmon biologists Niels Jepsen and Henrik Baktoft about salmon conservation and Denmark’s success story so far.
They went on to explain the success of the mutual work together wth scientists, landowners, fishers and government. We were also shown the Ferskvandscenteret (The freshwater centre). This a centre for education both for the public, schooling establishments and professionals in the freshwater field. Here one could read, see, feel and hear about freshwater biology. A heaven for people like me!
We left Silkeborg and Denmark inspired and impressed. We could see how the Danish government had invested large sums into getting the salmon back, the effects of the government buying up all fishing rights and then it being centrally controlled by people in the know – the biologists. Most of the Danish fishers respected their quarry, and catch and release was practiced avidly and to great effect. It seemed that all were joined together for the better of the salmon, this leading to all being able to enjoy the spoils and something for the future generations to reap. Education, respect and amalgamation key words.
Well done you Danes!