HUNDREDS of anglers who fish the waters of Loch Lomond have hit out at a ban that prevents them taking home any of the salmon they catch.

A prohibition on “one for the pot” fishing came into force on April 1 – after passing through Holyrood by a single vote.

But members of the Loch Lomond Angling Improvement Association (LLAIA) claim the ban was based on flawed research and had the potential to undermine the future of the group.

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The statistics that led to the ban were based on the rod catches for each fishery in the previous five years.

However anglers claim the survey figures are no more than a “guesstimate” and the formula is an imperfect method of calculating fish stocks.

Dick Dickson, who has been fishing the loch for more than half a century, said: “The only reliable scientific method of accurately calculating fish stocks is electronic fish counters strategically located on a river. It is very clear that the Government’s figures are flawed. Put simply, they do not have a clue how many fish run into Loch Lomond and its tributaries.”

The anglers were told the Government had decided that the Lomond fishery was to be designated as being in the lowest category, meaning anglers can still catch salmon but cannot not take the fish home with them.

Mr Dickson said there were questions to be answered about whether the ban could be fairly policed.

“Will this legislation have the effect of criminalising an angler who for example keeps a salmon which after being caught is dying and cannot recover?” he said.

“And could there be dire employment consequences for any angler who has been criminalised while participating in a hobby?”

He added: “This ban is draconian and this been rightly greeted with universal unease by the angling community. We are angered by the fundamental unfairness of it. Ominously for the government there are mutterings amongst anglers of non-compliance.”

Ominously for the Government, he said some anglers were even muttering about “non-compliance” with the ban.

Jackie Baillie, Labour MSP for Dumbarton and Loch Lomondside, said the Government had “rushed headlong” into a ban without considering the impact on angling clubs.

She said:“Everyone agrees that we should do more to protect salmon stocks, but we need a conservation strategy that is based on serious scientific evidence, not these half-baked measures forced through by politicians who want to be seen to be taking action.”

Last season Lomond anglers claim to have returned 70 per cent of the salmon and over 90 per cent of the sea trout they caught.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We remain confident that the science and the policy for these measures is robust, and certainly comparable to many other countries who have introduced similar measures.

“However, we do aim to improve the detail of the categorisation and will continue to listen and consider any additional information that might support a re-categorisation of a fishery district.

“We believe these regulations strike the right balance between conservation of the species for the benefit of future generations, and the interests of those who fish for salmon today.”

The origins of the Loch Lomond Angling Association go back to 1895 since when, for over 120 years, they have been the custodians of protecting the fish stocks.