THE scale of the decline in spring salmon runs across the north of Ireland has been highlighted by historic figures released by North Antrim Anglers. Only a handful of springers have been caught so far this year, including one by Bangor man William Rainey fishing on the river Drowse in Leitrim. The game fishing season opens on almost all waters on March 1 and catch statistics will continue to be closely watched by all those with an interest in the conservation of this famed sporting species.
Sadly the consensus of scientific opinion and angling evidence suggests the spring salmon run is now nearing extinction almost everywhere across the island and is particularly dramatic in the north.
On the Town Stretch of the Bush in Co Antrim spring salmon fishing was at a peak in 1957 when the beat produced 898 fish. By the spring of 1967 this number had fallen to 427 and by 1970 it had dropped to just 93. Springers are now very rare in the Bush and all salmon fishing is on a catch and release basis only.
Historically Lough Melvin has been Northern Ireland’s premier spring salmon fishery but there are no reports of any fish this year though angling opened on February 1. Peter McMullan, author of the angling memoir Casting Back, recalled glory days on the lough as late as 1968 when bags of several fish a day were common in the opening weeks of the season. At his home in Canada Peter recalled,
“We enjoyed spectatcular sport trolling with sprats and I am greatly saddened to learn of the decline in this wonderful fishing.”
Meanwhile the Great Fishing Houses of Ireland has extended an invitiation to businesses in the north to join the marketing campaign. The organisation has produced a new website of Ireland’s 10 premier game angling houses including a few which can still provide some carefully managed spring salmon fishing.
At the launch in the Lough Inagh House Hotel, Connemara, chairman Dominic O’Morain, revealed the top 10 as Ashford Castle, Ballynahinch Castle Hotel, Ballyvolane House, Camillaun Lodge, Delphi Lodge, Mount Falcon, Lough Inagh Lodge, Longueville House, Rock House and Screebe House and added,
“We extend an invitation to fishing houses to join us particularly those in the east and north.”
Each location offers access to superb fishing, some on private waters while others are located close to the great lakes of Ireland. Fáilte Ireland’s head of operations Fiona Monaghan, said,
“We won’t be found wanting to help find more distribution channels or new promotion platforms and giving whatever resources we can because it adds greatly to the tourism experience.”
The new website can be viewed at irelandflyfishing.com