Salmon fishing was practised
in Iceland from its earliest history. Official involvement
started with the law on salmon, char, and trout fishing from 1932. This law prohibited salmon fishing in the ocean,
and since then, the salmon has been considered a fresh water fish
although it spends a long part of its life in the sea. The law
also limits the fishing of running fishes to a certain season, the
type of fishing gear, and the number of fishing rods.
The office of the Administrator of fresh water fisheries in 1946
immediately started the documentation and registration of information
on the catch, and research has increased continuously. The state
operated the first salmon rearing facility in Kollafjordur until
private enterprise started developing in the field.
Iceland boasts of about 250 rivers, and eighty of them count
as salmon rivers. As a rule the salmon does not run far upriver
because of obstacles in the form of rapids and waterfalls. The
greatest distance it runs is close to 100 kilometres.
The Icelandic rivers are usually divided into three
categories, depending on their origin:
Glacial rivers, which cause the greatest sedimentation
the freighting of land. They are very dependant on
temperature fluctuations. During winter their volume is
smallest, but it increases gradually with the longer days, especially
after spring equinox.
They peak in July and August. Other forces of
nature, i.e. subglacial eruptions, the emptying of glacial lagoons
etc., are also important factors. The temperature of the glacial
water is close to 0°C at its source. It rises considerably over
long distances, especially in the lowland areas. During winter
these rivers usually freeze over.
Run off rivers
are based on the precipitation, mostly in the least
permeable areas, where the water runs off on the surface.
Usually the spring and autumn are their peak seasons. Their
water temperatures are usually mostly influenced by the air
temperature. During sub zero temperatures the ice developes from
the bottom up and blowing snow reduces their flow considerably.
Spring fed rivers
have constant volume and temperatures the whole year
round. As a rule, their temperature at the sources is 3-5°C, but
sometimes rises during summer the further away it is measured.
They never freeze over at the source.
This classification usually does not apply to a whole river
from its source to the estuaries. Most rivers are a mixture of
two or all above.
The country's mayor salmon rivers are located to the west of
glacial river Thjorsa, to the north along the west coast, and in the
north to river Laxa in Adaldalur. In the northwest (Westfjords),
the northeast, east (Eastfjords), southeast, and in the greatest part
of the south are few mentionable salmon rivers. The main reason
is too cold water.
The salmon is mostly netted (three glacial rivers in
Iceland) and angled. In spite of the ban on ocean fishing, there
Records of salmon catch are available since 1897, and some
vague information from earlier times about a few rivers. The
average yearly catch has increased tremendously: 1897-1909 =
5168; 1910-1950 = 15,000; 1970-1975 = 65,000. This increase can
be traced to more reliable records, better management, the opening of
new areas of rivers with ladders, and increased release.
The knowledge about the salmon's behaviour in the North Atlantic is
relatively limited, but a long experience of tagging should reveal
increased information with time. The main purpose of tagging
has, however, mainly been the return research of reared salmon.
The fisheries around the country have revealed very limited
bycatches of salmon. The greatest occurrances are of the south
and west coasts during spring and autumn.
The salmon runs upriver from May to October, mostly during
the middle of the period. The time limit is narrower in many
areas, where natural circumstances deviate, i.e. lack of water and low
temperatures. Hight tides and floods sometimes increase salmon
runs. Some rivers have automatic counters.
The salmon's spawning depth is 15-120 centimetres. Gravel
bottom, 60 cm, and minimal current are the most advantageous
circumstances. The hatching speed depends on the water
temperature and is measured in °/days. The size of the roes of
the Icelandic salmon is best explained by the quantity of one litre
per spawner, which is 7000-9000, depending on its body size.
The number of fries in Icelandic salmon rivers has been
research widely and eminently exceeds rivers of other countries.
After the fries have finished the feeding pouch, they feed on larvae
and chrysalis of insects.
The productivity of Icelandic rivers depends on their
volume, temperature and stability. Therefore one might think,
that many of them were limiting because of floods or lack of water,
which limits access to food. Birds, minks, foxes and seals also
take their toll, and other living creatures compete with the salmon,
when it comes to feeding.
The age of the fries is usually three years, when they turn
to sea, but can reach 5 years, when their size is 11-14 cm. The
salmon stays 1-3 years in the ocean, or until it reaches puberty.
The number of salmon spawning more often than once is various,
depending on rivers, between 0%-18,4%. Their weight after one
year in the ocean is between 1,5 and 3,5 kilogrammes, but 4-6
kilogrammes after two years. Larger salmon have spent more time
in the ocean. The theory, that the strength of each generation
does have something to do with this, is widely spread.
The first hatching station in Iceland was built on river
Laxa in Kjos in 1885. More followed, but were not successful
because of lack of knowledge and shortage of man power. The
Alvidra station was built in 1922 and continured for four decades.
The Ellidaar station started in 1932 and is still in operation.
The first attempt at rearing salmon was carried out in the
northeast during world war II, but was discontinued. In 1944 it
was attempted in Borgarfjordur, and in other places without any
mentionable results. In 1952 an open air rearing was added to
the Ellidaar project to produce one summer old fries for realease.
In 1964 indoor rearing was started there.
The Kollafjordur station started in 1961. Since then,
many have began with different results, and many went bankrupt.
The following were among the first: Ellidaar (1966), Laxamyri
(1972), Tunga (1965), and Oxnalaekur (1971). In addition there
were others, which concentrated on hatching (Laugarbakki near Selfoss;
2.000.000 roes yearly). In Laros (Snaefellsnes), fries were
released and left to thermselves until they swam to sea. Fry releases
were and are considerable, and gradually tagging has revealed the