Shadow cast over Irish pike fishing matches

Last week’s story about an angler forcing a 1lb lead weight down a pike’s throat in a sick attempt to win an Irish predator competition has caused outrage in the fishing world, with some claiming pike matches are to blame.

The culprit – who can’t be identified for legal reasons – left the fish to die after weighing in at a Loch Gowna competition in Ireland. Officials found the pike dead with a metal bar in its stomach and banned the man thought responsible from entering matches in the area.

Pike Action Ireland – a group concerned with the species’ welfare – claims ‘hundreds of pike die each week in these matches’ and wants a ban on unregulated competitions.

“Cheating has gone on for years and we’re outraged that no-one will be prosecuted for this incident.” said Pike Action Ireland’s Pat Green.

“We have funds and will take legal action, if necessary, under the Protection of Animals Act.”

Tim Kelly, president of the Pike Anglers’ Club, admits that such incidents are probably unavoidable: “It’s an inevitable consequence of pike matches with big prize funds – there’s a huge incentive to cheat and I expect the same kind of thing goes on all the time.

“The British Pike Society runs bank matches where everyone is a witness but the Irish ones are boat matches so, potentially, if someone is up to no good they can get on with it.”

Pike matches in Ireland attract large numbers of anglers due to the substantial prize funds and high-quality fishing.

The Lough Ree International Pike Angling Festival is being held in April and boasts a prize fund of €3,000 for the captor of the biggest fish.

Tournament organiser Dave Houghton has introduced a scheme whereby pike are photographed against a scale and anglers submit their camera memory cards at the end of each day so organisers can rate their day’s catch. This ensures weight isn’t a factor in the end results.

“A lot of anglers have embraced this and we’re very pleased with how it’s worked so far,” said Dave.