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Fishermen cast their lines as Northern Ireland eases angling restrictions

Some anglers had to raise their voices to shout along the lakeside due to social distancing.

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Alan Chowney, 64, said members of his Belfast angling club took to the lakesides again on Monday (Ian Allen/PA).

Alan Chowney, 64, said members of his Belfast angling club took to the lakesides again on Monday (Ian Allen/PA).

Alan Chowney, 64, said members of his Belfast angling club took to the lakesides again on Monday (Ian Allen/PA).

Some pensioner fishermen were able to see their friends for the first time in weeks as angling was permitted in Northern Ireland on Monday.

They had to raise their voices to shout along the lakeside due to social distancing but savoured casting fishing lines anew as coronavirus restrictions were eased.

For many used to spending days indoors it was a relief to enjoy the pristine water conditions of the Craigantlet hills near Belfast.

Alan Chowney, 64, said: “A 78-year-old said, ‘it was nice to see my friends’.”

It gets people out of the four walls of their house which they have been looking at for quite a long timeAlan Chowney

He is honorary secretary of Belfast Anglers Association.

The club is the oldest in Ireland and celebrates its 132nd birthday this year.

Its 90-strong membership stretches from Donaghadee to Lisburn.

Mr Chowney, a retired civil servant from Lisburn with more than four decades service, said the Association fished loughs near Holywood which have already been stocked with fish, rainbow and brown trout.

“It was in brilliant condition.”

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Alan Chowney said a lot of club members were quite elderly and the sport was about socialising (Danny Lawson/PA).

Alan Chowney said a lot of club members were quite elderly and the sport was about socialising (Danny Lawson/PA).

PA

Alan Chowney said a lot of club members were quite elderly and the sport was about socialising (Danny Lawson/PA).

He said a lot of other lakes were suffering from weeds and algae growth, but savoured a trip on Monday morning to the hills overlooking Belfast.

“The water is very clean and the fish are in good condition.”

He said a lot of club members were quite elderly and the sport was about socialising.

“It makes an awful difference.

“It gets people out of the four walls of their house which they have been looking at for quite a long time.”

Despite social distancing measures his members are able to talk to each other with a raised voice.

The season at the higher-level lakes in the Craigantlet hills usually begins in earnest in April.

Mr Chowney added: “Today is the first day of our fishing season for 2020.”

He said environment minister Edwin Poots had made the right decision in giving his hobby the go-ahead.

“Angling is a solitary sport in terms of the individual fisherman distancing from other fishermen because you need clear space to fish.”

He said a strong case had been made to Government by the fishing clubs.

“Our sport is such that you are not in a crowd and a group so it is quite easy to do.”

PA