Belfast Telegraph

Troubled waters for Irish anglers as not one salmon caught so far in 2017

By Allan Preston

Fishermen have expressed concerns after it emerged not a single salmon has been hooked in Ireland this year.

Vic Thomas, angling correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph and Sunday Life, said it was a worrying state of affairs.

"No fresh run salmon from the Atlantic have been caught," he said.

"The River Liffey and the River Drowse (in Co Leitrim) are among the first two rivers in Ireland to open for salmon fishing every year on January 1. This is the longest period in the past 10 years that no salmon has been caught on rod and line.

"After 26 days, it is worrying. Are the fresh fish going to come in later in the season or not at all? It's puzzling.

"About five years ago the first fish was always caught on the first day in January - it is unusual."

Shane Gallagher from the Drowse Salmon Fishery said a couple of fishermen came agonisingly close yesterday to bagging a salmon.

"We had two anglers that lost fresh salmon today (Thursday), so hopefully the first one will turn up sooner or later," he said.

"One guy had one on the line for about seven or eight minutes and the hook just came out. He said it was a nice silver fresh fish, about 10lb-plus, so he's absolutely sickened at the minute."

While poor weather has been blamed for a low salmon count in recent years, Mr Gallagher said it was "very concerning" that, with ideal conditions this month, the situation was getting worse.

"My family has been at the fishery for 40 years now. For January the average would have been around a fish a day," he explained.

"Nobody really knows for certain why. Marine survival rates for salmon have reduced sharply in recent decades, maybe because of climate change or changes in conditions at sea affecting their feeding behaviour.

"When we catch the first salmon it will be a short sigh of relief, (but) one salmon doesn't make a season.

"There has to be some work done on behalf of marine scientists at Inland Fisheries."

In Northern Ireland permits for salmon fishing in the River Bann are typically granted in March.

Edward Montgomery, secretary of the The Honourable The Irish Society, which oversees the fishery, said he was not starting to panic.

He estimated between 600 and 700 salmon were caught and released last year in the Bann out of 16,000 passing through, the best run on the river since 1997.

"I don't think there's a great concern yet. One of the things I've learned over the years is that in different river catchments the fish seem to arrive in different numbers, there seems to be so many factors at work, and it's very hard to draw rigid conclusions," he said.

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