Ireland 'best for 30 years'

Could fishing in Ireland be back to its former glory?

That’s the suggestion from several key figures this week after a bumper 2013 for fishing in the Emerald Isle, which has seen it billed as ‘the best for 30 years’. Roach, roach-bream hybrids and perch have been feeding in huge numbers and more visiting anglers are now returning to its shores.

In recent weeks there have been some incredible individual catches. A practice match for the King of Clubs event saw UK fishery owner Kev Johnson bag 450 perch for 80lb at Gulladoo Lake on a 4m whip to hand. Meanwhile, the biggest one-day weight in the World Pairs Angling Championship was 88lb of hybrids to overall competition winner Cathal Hughes from Upper Lough Erne. In fact this five day competition saw an average catch of 26lb per man per match over the 124 angler field. And there were several 70lb-80lb catches of entirely roach from Lough Muckno during its own pairs event last week. 

So why is Ireland fishing so well in competitions in 2013? More big competitions organised and more development work to fisheries is partly responsible, according to Dick Caplice, a former Irish National team manager and now chairman of the Irish Angling Development Alliance. At Lough Muckno in Castleblaney, a lakeside road and parking spots have allowed access to 220 pegs which have fished brilliantly for roach this year.

“The fishing here is currently the best I’ve seen for 30 years,” said Dick. “Government and the tourist board are now promoting angling again after the economic downturn. They’re spending money wisely in developments, protecting the sport for the future and there’s more interaction between politics and the angler on the ground in general. We’ve got access to more venues and pegs and we’re now getting prominent UK anglers turning up on our shores for the first time. I think there has been a shift from continental angling in Holland and Sweden back to Ireland and there has most certainly been a move from commercial fisheries back to Irish angling,” he said.

Francis McGoldrick is a popular angling guide and owner of the renowned Angler’s Rest guesthouse in Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan, and he said the fishing is currently the best he has seen in his lifetime.

“I wouldn’t say the anglers are flooding back just yet, but there has been a marked improvement this year compared to the last five or six. Visiting anglers are now realising that they can’t catch bream like they used to because the venues are so clear now. The bream are still there but you need to fish at dawn or dusk to catch them. The best day time fishing now is for the hybrids which are dominating everywhere. They feed all the time, a bit like F1s in England, and they fight very well for their size,” he said.

So what do visiting English anglers think? Former World Champion Tommy Pickering stopped going to Ireland in the early 1990s, because in his words he got ‘carried away’ with commercial fisheries which were taking over at that time. But he finally returned last year to fish the prestigious Classic event he once won and, after another four visits in 2013, he admits he has fallen in love with the place again.
“I started going again originally for the benefit of my position in the world feeder team, because it’s a special kind of feeder fishing over there with braid. But I’d just forgotten how beautiful Ireland is and how magical the people there are. The fishing is never going to be as good as it was in the 70s and 80s with those 100lb catches of roach and when I went last May sport wasn’t great because the fish were migrating. But the fishing in September has been fantastic. In the World Pairs my partner and I averaged 35lb of silver fish a day and we still came 23rd! I’ve had a bite every single cast for a week. The two most important things I’ve suggested to the organisers have been to get car parks near the pegs and to spread the pegs apart by 20m each. They are listening to this now and I think the anglers will soon be back for sure,” he said.

124 The number of competitors
16,278.7lb The total amount of fish caught
26.2lb The average catch per man per day
88.6lb The highest individual daily catch