Irish Sport Fishing

Irish Sport Fishing – Fishing in Ireland

Some promising news, and some concerning numbers on the salmon front

The first salmon of the year was caught on the RIver Liffey by Declan Briggs fishing at Islandbridge, at 9.45am on new years day.

The River Liffey is closed for salmon fishing as fish numbers are not meeting conservation limits, however Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) opened the fishery on a catch & release basis for one day to the Dublin Salmon Anglers.

This week Derek Evans in his Irish Times article raised the question of the validity of the fish counter at Islandbridge as an accurate measure of salmon numbers. Should the possibility of opening the river on a catch and release basis be looked at further?

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One river where it seems inevitable that C&R will be implemented this year is the Mourne. As with the Liffey, the fish counter on the Mourne at Sion Mills is widely regarded as being unreliable. The Mourne is in nowhere near as bad a state as the Liffey, but conservation limits are not being met.

In a written statement to the Northern Ireland assembly, Minister Carál Ní Chuilín described the continued exploitation of salmon untenable,

“After careful consideration of all the available scientific research and data I have concluded that the continued commercial exploitation of wild Atlantic salmon and killing of salmon caught by rod and line in the DCAL jurisdiction is currently untenable. Authorising such exploitation would be inconsistent with the Departments obligations under the EC Habitats Directive and with NASCO guidelines. This could lead to significant infraction fines being imposed by the EC.

Consequently I am calling on stakeholders to support a range of voluntary conservation measures for 2012 to allow my Department to consult on how we can contribute to the long term sustainability of wild Atlantic salmon stocks. Current legislation does not readily enable the introduction of further restrictions on the taking of salmon in time for the opening of the 2012 fishing season, hence the call for voluntary action by stakeholders.

Departmental officials have written to the Salmon and Inland Fisheries Forum, on which the range of stakeholders is represented, to ask for support for a range of voluntary conservation measures to minimise exploitation of salmon stocks in 2012. Officials have written separately to all DCAL licensed commercial fishermen operating coastal and Lough Neagh fishing engines and have asked for a voluntary cessation of salmon fishing in the DCAL jurisdiction in 2012. Through the Forum the Department has asked for support for those measures and for voluntary catch and release for all recreational anglers in 2012. The implementation of such proposals within the DCAL jurisdiction would be consistent with steps taken by other jurisdictions on the island of Ireland and elsewhere.

It is hoped that stakeholders can find common ground in the interests of recovery of stocks and with the shared aim of a return to sustainability of all salmon fisheries, there will be a good level of support for the proposals. My Department will work with stakeholders to address any concerns and clarifications that they may raise.

With the co-operation of stakeholders the exploitation of wild Atlantic salmon can be minimised in 2012. This offers the Department time to consult on a range of options on the future of both commercial salmon fishing and recreational angling for salmon.”

The real issue on the table is the commercial nets. While there may be other reasons for the decline in salmon numbers such farmed fish spreading disease, everything else possible should be done in the meantime to ensure a healthy stock of wild salmon is maintained. The decision to remove commercial nets would be a big step forward.

As an angler, I think C&R of rod caught salmon in the short-term would be a small price to pay in return for the removal of nets. Hopefully it will not put true anglers off, as they will be needed to walk the river banks and keep an eye on things. Similarly I hope that fishery officers do not get bogged down checking for barbless hooks and permits etc, and can continue to allocate time to look out for offences with more serious consequences like poaching and pollution.

I mention The Mourne simply because I’ve been lucky enough to fish it several times over the last few seasons. Hopefully making the trip up north will be worth it again this year, and for many years to come.

John Haran releasing a Mourne salmon

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Another river I hold dear is the River Laune in Co. Kerry. The number of salmon this river produces is astounding, but the percentage that fall to commercial nets is alarming. In 2010 3,527 salmon were harvested commercially which accounted for 25% of the national harvest. This is in comparison to the 1,035 salmon caught by rod & line.

2010

District

River

No. of Salmon harvested

% of National Harvest

Kerry

Laune

3,527

24.90%

Limerick

Feale

3,454

24.40%

Cork

Lee

1,443

10.20%

Lismore

Blackwater

1,437

10.10%

Bangor

Owenmore

800

5.70%

One thing I have noticed when fishing the Laune is the number of anglers from different countries all enjoying their fishing in a wonderful part of the world. You have to ask what impact it would have on the local community if salmon numbers were to fall to such an extent that it would put these anglers off visiting. Surely it would make sense to err on the side of caution when implementing quotas.

A Laune salmon i had the pleasure of releasing last season

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