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Fishing: Ken your kelt.

Byline: SILVER WILKIE

YOU'RE out salmon fishing in early spring and just before your black and gold Devon minnow reaches the end of its swim through the current, something takes hold of it.

Is it what you've come for: a hard-fighting springer, the most prized fish in the calendar?

Or could it be a kelt, a spawned salmon, which is illegal to kill and should therefore be returned?

Chances are, if the fish doesn't put up much of a fight, it's a kelt, though there are exceptions.

A well-mended kelt can put up a terrific fight, and occasionally a fresh run springer has come into the river so quickly it's easily tired out in the strong current.

The only way to accurately tell is by visual identification.

But many inexperienced anglers don't know what to look for - some time over the next few weeks I'll get a Fish of the Week entry from a proud novice with a kelt he's killed because he doesn't know any better.

The difference between a kelt and a springer is unmistakable. The springer is firm fleshed, has a deep body, perfect tail and fins and its vent will be tightly closed.

The kelt, albeit often just silver, is so long and pathetically thin it makes its head appear to be huge and out of proportion to its body.

The kelt's fins and tail will also be ragged and its vent still open because its egg-laying tube hasn't had time to recede into its body after spawning.

There is another telltale sign. The fresh run salmon has wonderfully red gills, whereas the kelt's are paler and have loads of little maggots attached to them.

But beware! Gill maggots alone aren't a determining feature.

Sometimes springers which colour up after running early into the river, can develop maggots.

To make things more difficult, there is another salmon that is illegal to kill - a baggot. These are salmon which haven't been able to spawn and are full of eggs.

Often they look like a springer, and I've even seen them bearing sea lice. If its ovipositor is out, run your hand gently down the side and you'll not only feel it all flabby because of the eggs inside, but often they will bebe extruded.

If that happens your fish is a baggot and must be put back.

Likewise, any cock salmon caught in the spring with a huge hook-like kype on his lower jaw is unclean and must be returned.

Unhook your kelt, baggot, or kipper, carefully, preferably with the help of artery forceps. Don't hold them by the tail, but cradle them in your arms into the water and hold them there until they revive and swim away.

A fish left to its own devices that turns on to its side will almost certainly die - a tragedy, as it had a good chance of getting to the sea to get itself into condition.

Remember that the kelt of today is the summer or autumn's lovely fresh run fish and must be treated with respect.
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 28, 2005
Words:508
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