For a very long time salmon have been regarded as a valuable asset in Scotland and the right to fish for them has been closely protected. This right has principally been held by the Crown and large landowners, although it can be held independently of land ownership. The earliest laws regarding salmon date back to the time of King Alexander II (1214-1249). Many further Acts were passed in the 15th century and the value of salmon in those times can be appreciated from the severe punishment meted out for those caught poaching. For example, records show that any poaching at the Ness Islands, Inverness, between 1460 and 1488 was punishable by the poacher being nailed through the ear lobe to a wooden post, known as being 'luggit at the toon'.
Various methods have been used to catch salmon including different kinds of nets on the coasts and estuaries, traps, and (most famously), rod and line fishing in rivers. Fishing by rod and line supports a valuable part of the Scottish tourism industry and remains a major incentive for attracting visitors to the countryside where fishermen can test their skill in catching the 'King of Fish'.
The right to fish at many beats on productive rivers such as the Tweed and Spey are highly sought after and can be leased or sold for immense sums. As recently as 1997 the value of net and rod salmon fishing to the Scottish economy was valued at £450 million per annum.