THE anglers of North Down share the concerns of the wider community about the future of Portavo reservoir at Groomsport.
It is one of only three public fisheries in an area where thousands of sport fishing enthusiasts have their homes.
Membership of the borough’s game angling clubs is often on a ‘dead man’s shoes’ basis and can prove to be expensive even for those lucky enough to inherit footwear. The picturesque little reservoir is regularly stocked with rainbow trout by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs providing affordable and accessible fly fishing for for all who are willing to purchase a reasonably priced licence and a permit. It is suitable for anglers with a disability and offers a degree of safety for youngsters which is not found at more remote waters.
The loss of this reservoir as a fishery would deny many anglers many hours of pleasure, hours they were happy to share with responsible ramblers and dog walkers. But this has not happened.
Northern Ireland Water has made its decision not to appeal a High Court ruling about the sale of the place and this must be respected. Such an appeal could have wasted a great deal of public money with little prospect of success.
NI Water has the right to sell and developers have the right to buy but planners have much power over the future of the place and public opinion plays a key role in the economics of any proposed investment.
Some local politicians are now making war like noises which are more about the hunger for votes that respect for the law or pursuit of the public interest.
This is not helpful.
What would be helpful would be for all interested parties to convene a meeting about the future of the place and to set out their positions and constructive proposals in a proper manner for the public record. Those who wish to purchase the reservoir and its surrounding land could contribute by giving some outline of their plans. Those who believe the area should remain open to the public should make a detailed case and recognise this could come at a considerable price which might be added to the domestic rates bill.
Everyone should wait and see what the future holds instead of stoking up tensions.
Meanwhile Martin McGuinness, the late Deputy First Minister, was a passionate fly fisherman who caught his first salmon in Donegal on a Curry’s red shrimp. It broke the rod and he was forced to jump into the river to secure his catch. He told journalist Eamonn Mallie of his admiration for fishing rods made by Hardy of England. In some small way the Good Friday Agreement may owe its existence to the sport of salmon fishing. The Canadian head of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, general John de Chastelaine, was also a passionate fly angler with many Atlantic salmon to his credit.