2016 Ireland West Angling Review
South Connemara Fisheries- These are made up of the following waters :
parts of Boluisce system
Crumlin together with other small loughs scattered around the area to numerous to mention.
Following negiotations with Crumlin Estates Ltd , I leased the above fisheries for 2016. The various fisheries stretch from Furbo, outside Galway westwards to the Crumlin near Costello and offer a variety of angling from managed fisheries to loughs high up in the Connemara bog complex, filled with small wild brown trout, some of which have never seem an artificial fly. The managed or part managed fisheries are recognised salmon fisheries, the Knock system with a conservation limit of 132 to the Boluisce system with a conservation limit of almost 600 salmon. (Conservation limit refers to the minimum number of salmon that are required to return to a system and survive to spawn in order for the system to be self sustaining.)
The Owenriff( Inverin)system does not have a conservation limit but in times past had a run of salmon and sea trout but due to lack of management, poaching, pollution and introduction of salmon fish farming in mid Connemara in the mid 1980’s the runs of fish were decimated.
Lough Nualla has a large stock of free rising small wild brown trout although there is a stream leaving the lough and makes it way down to the sea at the local pub Ti Chulainn.
Although salmon angling opens on rivers on the 1st February in most places, both the Knock and Boluisce systems are closed and are likely to remain closed, for salmon angling, now and for the foreseeable future and quite possibly may never open again for salmon angling due to the declining stocks of wild salmon and our inability to-date to increase the amounts of spawning salmon in suitable habitat.
Trout angling begins on the 15th February but we are unlikely to see anyone wanting to go out fishing until late March or early April and it depends on weather conditions. If we get warm weather during March and April, then there will be some fly hatches and trout will be eager to feed after the long winter and anglers will be keen to learn the sport of fly fishing or continue with fishing after the long absence over the winter months.
So how was 2016 on the various fisheries.
I had some anglers out in late March on Lough Nualla and fishing from the bank, they encountered brown trout, small in size but eager to take the fly and with good stocks levels, this was how it fished throughout the year. I put two boats on the lough and I don’t think I had anyone come in with- out catching something. It is a good place for fly casting tuition for beginners and then by going out in a boat for an hour or two, putting the lesson into practise and catching your first wild brown trout is a great introduction to trout angling.
Weather conditions had cold winds from the North East during the early months with regular rain falls to keep levels up for most of the time until well into July.
Without doubt the highlight of the year was the unexpected catches of large sea trout on the Crumlin system. Although angling pressure was light into July, from late that month there was a large influx of many, good sized, sea trout, some in the 3-4 lb range and one beauty of 7 lbs caught by Cal Healy from Cork in early September. Given its size, the presumption was that it was a salmon but the experts confirmed though that it was a sea trout. Other anglers claimed to have risen and lost salmon but we now think that they also may have connected with large sea trout. Daily figures of 12-14 sea trout caught and released, in accordance with fishery regulations, were common during August and September.
We are all aware of the demise of sea trout in the Connemara area since the introduction of salmon cages in the mid Connemara area in particular.
Why do we have good stocks of sea trout in the Crumlin?
There may well be several reasons. A previous owner of the system, Patrick Helmore, put a lot of time and effort into improving the spawning beds with large amounts of gravel inputted some twenty years ago. South Connemara is some distance from the danger areas from the scientifically proven effects of lice from salmon cages killing the small salmon and sea trout smolts.
Drift netting halted in 2007 and in the past would have taken the larger sea trout but would not have publicly admit to this. Also this system was not fished by anglers for some 20 years so the stocks were allowed to flourish unhindered by attention from man.
In the past, the Owenriff( Inverin) system had a good run of grilse and sea trout but due to a number of factors, pollution, poaching and lack of management, these runs were decimated and totally wiped out. With more active management and assistance from Inland Fisheries Ireland, it is hoped to carry out improvements to the spawning beds and clear obstructions that are preventing fish moving up the system.
There are a number of loughs in remote areas that require a good walk over the bogs to get to them but they are beautiful places to spend time in and you are guaranteed at least a bag of sporting wild brown trout which will make a good breakfast and the walk will give you a bit of exercise as well. It is hoped to put a boat on the larger lough so that there will be a choice of bank or boat fishing.
The Knock system has a conservation limit of 132 salmon and because of limited spawning areas, the effects of forestry in the head waters, poaching and lack of a system management regime, there is only a small run of both salmon and sea trout.
Limited angling takes place on the system and it is hoped to put a small boat on Knockalough in 2017 more to try to gain some knowledge of stock runs of sea trout and salmon. This lough is a pleasant place for a day’s or evening’s fishing, not a big lough but enjoyable to spend some time on.
The Boluisce system is the largest system in South Connemara and has a conservation limit of around 600 salmon. While once a most prolific system a recently introduced fish counter at the mouth of the river is showing only small runs of salmon and electro fishing surveys carried out by Inland Fisheries Ireland are finding an absence of fry / spawning in the forested areas in the headwaters.
Inland Fisheries Ireland ( IFI) have increased protection measures and this has resulted in prosecution of a number of individuals for illegal netting both at the estuary and in river allowing greater numbers of salmon to spawn. This system is closed for salmon angling and the lack of a comprehensive management structure for the whole system is preventing the development of an important asset in the Spiddal and surrounding area.
So, looking forward to 2017.
Once again I have leased the afore mentioned waters from Crumlin Estates Ltd for 2017 and hope to have increasing number of anglers fishing in a sustainable manner so as to allow greater spawning escapement and to carry out developments works that will improve stock levels on a number of systems. I may be able to have fishing for sea trout opened on some parts of the Boluisce system that I am leasing, in a managed way but I would be concerned if salmon would be caught inadvertently and will have to give a bit of thought as to how this can be managed.
Looking forward to a great season ahead and to meeting many anglers from last year who enjoyed access to the many waters in South Connemara.
Brian E. Curran 24th February 2017.