• salmon;
  • Salmo salar L.;
  • Scotland;
  • catch data;
  • long-term

Abstract Using catch data, changes in salmon, Salmo salar L., sea-age and seasonal return time were compared between several Scottish east coast rivers over the last 150–200 years. Parallel long-term trends were found, suggesting common influences affecting salmon at sea. Long-term associations with marine environmental factors were investigated by literature review and comparisons with an index of Icelandic sea-ice abundance. Apparent associations were shown to exist since about 1900, although the cause was not demonstrated. However, over a longer timescale, the same associations were not apparent. Unique gradual marine changes since 1900 may have resulted in perceptible associations with salmon data which may otherwise be imperceptible when short-term marine environmental variability is greater than long-term variability. Marine factors must affect salmon, but the complexity of the marine environment and controls on age at maturity and time of return mean that a retrospective analysis cannot be expected to identify the causal factors.