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The Loughs Agency has made the decision to retain salmon carcass tag numbers for licence holders for the 2022 season in line with the previous year’s policy.

The Agency introduced the interim policy for the 2020/2021 season whereby the number of tags issued with a game angling licence was reduced to a maximum of one blue tag (1st March to 31st May) and two black tags (1st June to 31st October).

The principal objective of this measure is to carefully manage salmon in the Foyle system due to concern from within the Agency over conservation levels of the species. Based on the information collected in 2021, it appears there were fewer total fish in the Foyle system in 2021 than in 2020, and consequently a precautionary approach had to be adopted.

After careful evaluation, it was decided to maintain the previous position while introducing in-year reviews of the salmon runs based on fish counter data, annual angling returns and run strength.

Loughs Agency has undertaken a review of legislation and has come to the following conclusion: “It is the view of some stakeholders that the Agency should manage carcass tags on a catchment-by-catchment basis. The use of real-time figures can be beneficial in informing decision-making on the number of tags to be distributed per year, and how many tags can be given out for angling in each catchment.” This viewpoint is to be considered in regulatory changes once actions from the review can be implemented.

In the majority of rivers throughout Northern Ireland and in many locations globally, catch and release is now mandatory for salmon angling due to the pressures on sustainable populations. In these areas, no carcass tags are issued, and anglers are forbidden from retaining any fish. It is encouraging that most anglers in the Foyle area are aware of these pressures, and now voluntarily practice catch and release.

Loughs Agency also recognises the value of anglers on the rivers and their contributions towards sustainability. Considering this, the Agency has agreed to a compromise while still fulfilling obligations under the Habitats Directive. Salmon are a selection feature of Foyle Rivers that have been designated as Special Areas of Conservation.

In recent years this has led to the suspension of commercial salmon netting, while waters under the jurisdiction of Loughs Agency have subsequently been declared as catch and release only.

If you have any concerns over illegal fishing or pollution within the Foyle or Carlingford catchments, please contact the 24hr Loughs Agency Response Line on +(0)44 2871 342100.

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The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Eamon Ryan TD, has approved legislation that will govern the wild salmon and sea trout fisheries in 2022. These will come into effect from Saturday, 1st January 2022.

Minister Ryan said: “81 rivers will be available for salmon and sea trout fishing in 2022. This will allow careful management of this important natural resource, for which conservation is paramount. 45 of the rivers will be fully open, with a further 36 available on a ‘catch and release’ basis. Improvements in stocks can only be achieved collaboratively over time and are entirely dependent on everybody redoubling our conservation efforts in the face of environmental, climate and human impacts.”

To inform the legislation for 2022, Minister Ryan received management advice from Inland Fisheries Ireland in relation to over 140 genetically individual wild salmon stocks in Ireland, which was supported by individual scientific assessments. The assessments were carried out by the Technical Expert Group on Salmon (TEGOS) – an all-island independent scientific group comprising experts from a range of bodies.

This advice was also made available as part of a statutory public consultation process. 100 written submissions were received from stakeholders during this process.

Management advice, based on the TEGOS assessment of rivers/estuaries/harbours, is that:

  • 45 rivers to be open, as a surplus of fish has been identified in these rivers;
  • 36 rivers to be classified as open for “catch and release” angling; and
  • 66 rivers to be closed, as they have no surplus of fish available.

Minister Ryan added: “Ireland is internationally recognised for prioritising the conservation imperative as fundamental to our salmon management efforts. However, it is well over a decade since we adopted our current conservation policy. I believe the time to review and improve this policy has come. Therefore, I intend shortly to publish two policy papers on salmon for consultation. The first of these will explore new options for salmon management with conservation, and how to do it better as the key focus.

“Environmental, climate and human impacts continue to place salmon and other species at risk. I am determined that we raise awareness of all of these challenges. We will develop policy to ensure that we are doing all we can in Ireland, and as far as we can via international co-operation, to improve the resilience of our salmon.”

Published in Angling
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Connemara’s first salmon of the year has been caught on the Delphi fishery, as Covid-19 restrictions keep many anglers away from their favoured riverbanks.

Delphi fishery manager David McEvoy was only angling for ten minutes when he hooked and landed a 6lbs 3 oz salmon in the “Waterfall pool” on the Bundorragha river, using a Willie Gunn tube fly.

Within an hour, the Delphi estate manager Michael Wade also caught a 6lbs fish in the river’s “Rockpool”.

Both catches recorded on February 1st – the first day of the season on the Bundorragha - have now been verified by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI).

There is usually keen competition in January to hook the first salmon, and the Drowes in Leitrim - which is one of the few rivers to open earlier than February 1st - has been claiming the honour in recent years.

However, Covid-19 restrictions on travel beyond five kilometres from home have kept riverbanks relatively quiet early this year.

The Delphi catch was the first to be hooked “on the fly”, while a 9.5 lb salmon was landed on rod and line on the Laune in Co Kerry on January 30th by Stephen Jordan.

IFI records the first fish which have been released and doesn’t tend to confirm fish caught which have been killed.

Mr McEvoy explained that as his was a ranched fish, it was killed, while Mr Wade’s fish was wild and was released.

All wild fish are released at Delphi, while ranched salmon – as in fish reared in hatcheries and then released - are removed.

“There is a saying that if the first fish landed is small, there will be a good season, but I think that is a bit of baloney,” Mr McEvoy said.

However, he does believe there will be a good spring run this year for a combination of reasons.

Wild salmon returned in record numbers to rivers in the west last year, but salmon expert Dr Ken Whelan cautioned that “one good salmon season” does not necessarily suggest a positive trend.

“We will really only know what is happening after scientists from Norway, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland meet in the autumn,” he said.

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Eamon Ryan T.D., Minister with responsibility for the Inland Fisheries sector has approved legislation that will govern the wild salmon and sea trout fisheries in 2021. These will come into effect from Friday 1 January 2021.

Minister Ryan said, “We are opening 83 rivers for salmon and sea trout fishing in 2021. This will allow careful management of this important natural resource, for which conservation will be to the fore.

In a positive trend, forty-nine of the rivers will be fully open, an increase of 20% on 2020, with a further thirty-four available on a ‘catch and release’ basis. Continued movement in a positive direction is only possible over time and is entirely dependent on everybody redoubling our conservation efforts in the face of environmental, climate and human impacts.”

"In a positive trend, forty-nine of the rivers will be fully open, an increase of 20% on 2020"

To inform the legislation for 2021, Minister Ryan received management advice from Inland Fisheries Ireland in relation to over 140 genetically individual wild salmon stocks in Ireland, which in turn was considered in the light of individual scientific assessments. The assessments were carried out by the Technical Expert Group on Salmon (TEGOS) an all-island independent scientific group comprising experts from a range of bodies.

This advice was also made available as part of a statutory public consultation process during which 33 written submissions from stakeholders were received.

Management advice based on the TEGOS assessment of rivers/estuaries/harbours is that:-

  • 49 rivers to be open as a surplus of fish has been identified in these rivers;
  • 34 rivers to be classified as open for “catch and release” angling; and
  • 64 rivers to be closed as they have no surplus of fish available.

Minister Ryan said, “Ireland is internationally recognised for prioritising the conservation imperative as fundamental to our salmon management efforts and our contribution to the continuing global initiative that is the International Year of the Salmon 2020 has been second to none. Environmental and climate change and human impacts continue to place salmon and other species at risk. I am determined that the innovations of International Year of the Salmon, which continue to bring people together to share knowledge and raise awareness, will endure. This is key to ensuring the resilience of salmon in Ireland and in the entire North Atlantic”.

New Wild Salmon & Sea Trout Fisheries Legislation in 2021

Wild Salmon and Sea Trout Tagging Scheme (Amendment) Regulations S.I. No. 667 of 2020

These regulations provide for, the quotas of fish that can be harvested by commercial fishing engines and rod and line from those rivers identified in Schedule 2. The Regulations also provide for the use of brown tags in specified (low surplus) rivers which are identified in Schedule 4.

Angling Bye-law No. 982 of 2020

This Bye-law prohibits the use of any fish hooks, other than single or double barbless hooks, and also prohibits the use of worms as bait in angling for all species of fish in the waters specified in the Bye-law. This is to avoid the use of hooks and baits which are not conducive to fish survival and to ensure that the objective of C&R fishing is not frustrated.

Conservation of Salmon and Sea trout (Bag Limits) Bye-law No. 983 of 2020

Provides for an annual bag limit of 10 fish being either salmon or sea trout (over 40 cm) per angler and provides for a season bag limit of 3 fish in the period 1 January to 11 May, a daily bag limit of 3 fish from 12 May to 31 August and a daily bag limit of 1 fish from 1 September to the end of the season. The Bye-law also provides for the use of single or double barbless hooks and prohibits the use of worms as bait once the specified numbers of fish have been caught in the specified periods.

Conservation of Salmon and Sea trout (Catch and Release) Bye-law No. 984 of 2020

Provides for catch and release in respect of salmon and sea trout (over 40 cm) in rivers that are meeting at least 50% of their Conservation Limit as mentioned in the Bye-law. The Bye-law also provides for the use of single or double barbless hooks and prohibits the use of worms as bait in angling for salmon and sea trout over 40 cm.

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout (River Suir) Bye-law No. 986 of 2020

This Bye-Law provides for catch and release in angling for salmon (any size) and sea trout (over 40cm) in the River Suir (including the waters of the Rivers Clodiagh, Lingaun and Blackwater) and also prohibits the use of worms, prawn, shrimp or any other crustacean, or artificial forms thereof, as bait and any fish hooks other than single or double barbless hooks during the period 17 March to 30 September.

Conservation of Sea Trout Bye-law No. 987 of 2020

This Bye-law provides for a daily bag limit of 3 sea trout (less than 40 cm in length) and provides for the use of single or double barbless hooks and prohibits the use of worms as bait once the specified number of sea trout have been caught.

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout (River Slaney) Bye-law No. 985 of 2020

This Bye-Law provides for catch and release in angling for salmon (any size) and sea trout (over 40cm) in the River Slaney and also prohibits the use of worms, prawn, shrimp or any other crustacean, or artificial forms thereof, as bait and any fish hooks other than single or double barbless hooks.

Conservation of Salmon and Sea Trout (Closed Rivers) Bye-law No. C.S. 331 of 2020

Prohibits the taking or attempting to take by rod and line salmon and sea trout (over 40 cm) in the rivers specified in the Bye-law.

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Lack of sufficient planning and lack of adequate emergency communication were factors in an incident where two of three men on a sea angling trip lost their lives off the Donegal coast over two years ago.

“Restrictive” procedures with the Emergency Call Answering Service (ECAS) also meant the men on board the vessel were in the water for five hours before the alarm was raised, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board (MCIB) report has found.

Two drafts of the MCIB report were circulated as part of a comprehensive investigation into the deaths of Gerry 'Malin' Doherty, who was in his sixties, and Thomas Weir (16) off Portronan, north Donegal, on July 17th, 2018.

A third man who is in his late 40s, survived after he clung onto a buoy for five hours before being spotted and brought to safety. He was the only one of the three wearing a personal flotation device.

The three had set out on a 5.9m (19 ft) glass-reinforced plastic craft from Port Ronan pier around 9 am that morning, and fished for over an hour. They were unable to restart the engine, and a wave washed over the hull and capsized it.

The report finds that seven factors contributed to the severity of the incident including the fact that the boat was anchored from the stern, making it more susceptible to being swamped in “any type of sea”.

The MCIB report notes that a crew member tried to make an emergency call on a British mobile phone, but as the call was being put through the phone fell into the water. There was no VHF radio onboard.

The emergency call was received by the ECAS centre but the report says that “restrictive procedures” were “not sufficiently flexible for a situation which required the ECAS operators to be more proactive in transferring all the information available to the Coast Guard”.

“Because the information in the recording of the emergency call was not transferred shortly after 10:16 hrs. the casualties were in the water for five hours,”the report says, and “this increased the severity of the incident”.

Marine communications are very different from land-based communications and the ECAS system is a land-based emergency call answering system with limitations for use at sea.

The MCIB report says that a mobile phone should not be relied on as the primary method of contacting emergency services and says that VHF radio as the primary means of contacting emergency services should be used by all boat owners in all instances, including in competitive sailing events.

The MCIB says that since the incident, the Irish Coast Guard has protocols in place for handling emergency calls and ECAS has also “updated policies.

However, it says that the Minister for Climate Action, Communication Networks and Transport should consider whether the Irish Coast Guard and ECAS “should have these policies, their implementation internally, and their coordination with each other, suitably reviewed and or audited”.

The MCIB report is here

Published in MCIB
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Alex Easton, MLA has called on the Department of Environment, Agriculture and Rural Affairs (DEARA) Minister to create Marine Protections Areas in Belfast Lough.

Belfast Lough is a long, wide, and deep expanse of water, virtually free of strong tides lying between County Antrim and County Down. The inner part of the Lough comprises a series of mudflats and lagoons, and the outer Lough is restricted to mainly rocky shores with some small sandy bays. The outer boundary of the Lough is a line joining Orlock Point on the County Down side and Blackhead on the County Antrim coast, giving about 30 square miles (78 km2) of open water.

The Northern Ireland Federation of Sea Anglers brings together all the sea angling people of Northern Ireland whether fishing shore or boat. Members recently met at Bangor Marina with DEARA Minister Edwin Poots, South East MP Paul Girvan and MLAs Alex Easton and Gordon Dunne. The meeting gave NIFSA the chance to highlight the federation's concerns, amongst which was the reintroduction of the Thornback Rays into Belfast and Larne Loughs, the setting of artificial reefs and the creation of Marine Protection Areas within the Lough.

Minister Edwin Poots (left) meets anglers Harry McKee (Secretary of NIFSA) and Barry Platt (right)Minister Edwin Poots (left) meets anglers Harry McKee (Secretary of NIFSA) and Barry Platt (right) Photo: NIFSA

Mr Easton has said "It is quite clear that commercial fishing in Belfast Lough over many years has decimated many types of fish and wildlife within the Lough. Having spoken to anglers, they no longer catch many of the different species they once did due to overfishing by commercial fishing."

He continued, "A clear example of this is the Thornback Ray which was once abundant in the Lough and is now extinct due to commercial fishing. I would love to be able to see these Rays reintroduced to Belfast Lough, but to do this we would need a survey done of the Marine life, the creation of artificial reefs to support and grow fish numbers and the creation of Marine protection areas around Belfast Lough that cannot be fished by commercial fishing".

Alex Easton intends to write to the Agriculture and Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, about these matters. He continued. "I believe we have time to fix and protect Belfast Lough in a way that we can reintroduce wildlife such as the Thornback Ray, which can be bred at our own Exploris Aquarium Visitor Centre in Portaferry and reintroduced to Belfast Lough. We can ensure that the area is sustained for anglers to fish, which ensuring we grow and protect our Lough but is done sustainably."

Published in Belfast Lough
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Wild Atlantic salmon are returning in “record” numbers to rivers along the Atlantic seaboard, according to fishery managers.

As The Sunday Times reports, Inland Fisheries Ireland regional director Francis O’Donnell says this year’s season appears to have “bucked the trend”.

Mr O’Donnell, who has responsibility for the western river basin district, said there were high numbers of healthy fish on Galway’s Corrib system, Mayo’s River Moy and Ballisodare in Sligo

IFI is deploying extra patrols to detect poaching, and inspecting premises ashore, he said. Fish are believed to be fetching between 50 euro and 90 euro per salmon.

Michael Mahnke - With a morning's catch from Mount Falcon river Moy July 2020Michael Mahnke - With a morning's catch from Mount Falcon river Moy in July 2020

However, scientific expert Dr Ken Whelan, director of the Atlantic Salmon Trust, urges caution on the numbers.

Commercial driftnet fishing for wild salmon in Ireland was banned in 2007, and license holders were offered a small compensation package by the then government.

“It’s not just the numbers returning this year, but the size and good condition of the fish,” Alan Maloney, owner of the Mount Falcon Hotel in Co Mayo, said.

The hotel has a two-mile stretch of the River Moy, and anglers caught 290 fish in July, he said.

Dr Whelan said that he was aware of the reports, but cautioned that “one good salmon season” does not necessarily suggest a positive trend.

David Morris playing his first ever fly caught salmon Mount Falcon River Moy July 2020David Morris playing his first-ever fly caught salmon Mount Falcon River Moy in July 2020

“We will really only know what is happening after scientists from Norway, Iceland, Scotland and Ireland meet in the autumn,” he said.

Read more on The Sunday Times report here

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For the second weekend running in August, anglers on the south shore of Dublin Bay have been taking a bountiful supply of mackerel on feathers, especially on the southern tip of the Bay at Dalkey Island where shoals of sprat on which the mackerel feed are plentiful.

Anglers are positioning themselves on the backs of both Dun Laoghaire Harbours East and West piers and also at Dalkey on the rocky outcrops at Coliemore Harbour, Bulloch Harbour and Killiney Bay.

There is also a fleet of small sea angling boats out on the Bay, primarily all using feather rigs and enjoying great catches.

A good catch of Mackerel on Dublin Bay Photo: AfloatA good catch of Mackerel from Dublin Bay Photo: Afloat

Published in Angling

Inland Fisheries Ireland has updated its advice regarding angling to reflect the latest Government and NPHET advice. 

As and from May 6th anglers may fish in a location less than or equal to 5 km from home. Further guidance is available here 

Open Fisheries

IFI owned/managed state fisheries are open with the exception of the Galway and Moy fisheries.

ESB fisheries are now also open.

The status of private and club run fisheries is a matter for the fishery manager/committee.

Inland Fisheries Irelands will continue to monitor the situation and make further updates as appropriate in line the Government's Roadmap for reopening society and business.

Updated guidelines where travel to fish is permitted

  • Fishing is permitted within 5km of your home
  • Maintain social distancing at all times, especially at car parks, access points and launch sites.
  • Anglers* should not share transport e.g. car/van when travelling to fish.
  • Limit contact with other anglers and providers.
  • Permit/licence sales online where possible
  • Max. 2 persons* in small boat for inland/inshore fishing
  • Angling businesses may only open once classified as an essential service and should only operate if they can provide online/contactless services.
  • Charter fishing or guided fishing may only operate where skippers/guides can guarantee compliance with social distancing measures.
  • Recommend no competition fishing
  • Facilities where anglers could gather to remain closed – lunch huts, etc.
  • Where such facilities at 10 above are essential fishery should remain closed.
  • Recommend anglers/guides/skippers to carry hand sanitiser and to use it after touching surfaces such as gates, stiles, pier railings, ladders, etc.

* Assumed to be individuals from different households.

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This week International Women’s Day is demanding a lot of attention worldwide. In the shipping industry, a campaign has been launched in the UK to achieve ‘gender balance in the industry’. Here in Ireland, sailing ladies have their WOW group – I like that description – for Women on the Water.

This week the State agency for inland waters, estuaries and angling has launched a campaign to introduce women to angling.

Angling is described as the biggest participant sport in Ireland and that includes the marine sector, my Podcast guest this week is Myles Kelly from Inland Fisheries Ireland. It has just launched its WTF project – ‘Women Try Fishing’ programme.

This will involve more than twenty events to give women the opportunity to try fishing. Renowned angler and one of the world’s leading fly casting instructors, Glenda Powell of Blackwater Salmon Fishery in County Cork will give training at various venues around the country between April and September of this year.

So, on my Podcast below Myles Kelly outlines why and how women are going to be given this exclusive opportunity – exclusive from men of course!

Published in Tom MacSweeney
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