Specimen sea trout caught off Donegal
THE LARGEST sea trout caught off the Irish coast has been landed by a Co Donegal fisherman.
John Cunningham, of Killybegs, hauled an 11 lbs 1 oz whopper, more than five times the average sea trout in Ireland, from the shore off the Erne estuary in Ballyshannon, Co Donegal.
A record Irish sea trout, 16 lbs 6 oz, was landed in the Shimna river in Co Down in 1983 but 48-year-old John believes his is the biggest one caught at sea, instead of in the rivers or lakes.
The trophy trout will be officially branded a specimen fish by the Irish Specimen Fish Committee. For a sea trout to become a specimen it must weigh over 6lbs. Most sea trout caught in Irish waters weigh an average 2 lbs. Sea trout visit inland lakes and rivers to spawn and then return to the sea.
John, a father of four, said: “For me it’s the fish of a lifetime. I couldn’t believe the size of it.
“The biggest sea trout I ever caught before was about 3½ lbs, and that was off the estuary in Ballyshannon also.”
John, who works a heavily restricted pelagic fishing season seeking mackerel and herring from a Killybegs trawler and who also is an employee of the Marine Institute, Galway, spends the remainder of his time as a sports fisherman. He often leaves home at 5am seeking the best waters and returns as late as 9pm
He said: “I’m out there fishing morning, noon and night at every opportunity. The other day I was fishing on the Glen River at Carrick until after 9pm and then I was up again at five o’clock to try the waters off Ballyshannon.” His prize sea trout was caught at the edge of the Atlantic within sight of old Wardtown Castle outside Ballyshannon.
“Most of the fishermen around there use sand eels as bait for sea trout. I used the white belly of a mackerel and fished with a long beach caster rod. I have been testing and trying different things as bait and I found the mackerel belly was best.”
It took him up to eight minutes to land the fish after hooking it. At 72 centimetres long, it was 32 centimetres over the limit to retain and it had to go back into the water for conservation.
The sea trout is described as a “very gamey” smaller cousin of the salmon. But whereas salmon remain in fresh water once they run a river, sea trout may run in and out a number of times.