Well-known local angler Bill Likely landed the 7.5lb salmon on the River Drowes on Tuesday 30 January. The sea-liced fish was taken on a Black and Gold Rapala from the Point of the Meadow Pool shortly before 1pm.
Water levels on the river were high at the time, as they have been at the fishery for the first month of the season, but have been decreasing in recent days.
Sean Kyne, Minister of State with responsibility for the inland fisheries sector, congratulated Likely on this achievement.
“To catch the first salmon of the year is an accolade prized among anglers and marks the return of the fishing season every January,” the minister said. “Using the event to support a worthy cause such as hospice services puts the iconic salmon at the heart of the angling as well as the broader community.”
“Protecting and sustaining our salmon resource as a vector for development and tourism in peripheral rural areas is among my top priorities.”
The first fish, as is traditional, will be prepared for a tasting event to benefit local charities — and on this occasion, the North West Hospice, which ‘provides specialist care with compassion for those living with life-limiting illness in our community’, will be the beneficiary of an event at the Foxes Lair Bar & Restaurant in Bundoran tomorrow Friday 9 February from 8pm.
To mark the catch, fishery owner Shane Gallagher presented the Drowes Perpetual Cup to a delighted Likely, who works on the fishery and is familiar to local anglers, well known for his generosity with advice and local insights.
Ciaran Byrne, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI), said: “Official confirmation of the first salmon catch of the year is always a key event. Last year, the first salmon was caught in the Careysville Fishery on the Munster Blackwater in Cork on February 1st.
“IFI staff have confirmed the appearance of spring salmon on a number of Donegal fisheries over recent days. The board of IFI is concerned about the declining abundance of salmon and urges all salmon anglers to practice catch and release angling on all open salmon waters even where there is an available quota.”
Byrne continued: “We have a wonderful fisheries resource in this country that doesn’t just benefit anglers but offers rural communities sustainable tourism and job opportunities outside of the traditional tourist seasons.
“Inland Fisheries Ireland continues to work with these communities to develop our angling infrastructure and improve access, through extensive funding grants and sponsorship, with a view to increasing angling participation and growing local economic growth as a result.”
Anglers looking for fishing information in Ireland in 2018 can visit the Fishing in Ireland website for the latest news and fishing reports.
For those looking to try out fishing for the first time, IFI will run a number of education and outreach initiatives throughout the year with all information posted on fisheriesireland.ie.
IFI is also inviting the public to help protect and conserve the fisheries resource during the year by reporting incidents of illegal fishing, water pollution and invasive species to its confidential hotline at 1890 34 74 24 or 1890 FISH 24.