Angling notes: Second-fiddle sea trout plays a big role in Irish fishing, says Minister for Natural Resources

Celtic Sea Trout Project findings to provide better understanding and management of sea trout stocks


‘WHILE the salmon has held its iconic status, the closely related sea trout has been described as a lesser species. However, this perspective has changed and the enigmatic sea trout is now regarded by many anglers as a fish which offers better sport than the salmon,” the Minister of State for Natural Resources, Fergus O’Dowd, said at the presentation to hear the findings of the Celtic Sea Trout Project (CSTP) in the Westcourt Hotel, Drogheda, last Tuesday.

Funded by the EU Interreg-4A Ireland-Wales programme, the project set out three years ago to establish “where sea trout go to at sea” and “what makes a good sea-trout river”.

Eminent speakers including Nigel Milner, Willie Roche, Katie Sumner, Paddy Gargan and Graeme Harris spoke of their findings to enable a better understanding and management of sea trout stocks in freshwater and marine environments.In order to achieve this goal, CSTP worked closely with anglers, fishery owners and marine fishermen throughout the six administrative regions bordering the Irish Sea to obtain biological samples and the required feedback to complete the project.

From sea trout scales a broad pattern of life histories emerged. This was of faster growth and more multiple spawners in southern Wales rivers; high survival but slower growth in northwest England rivers; and lower survival off the Irish coast.

The Currane system in Co Kerry was a notable exception with a high proportion of long-lived adult sea trout.

A genetic study found nine groups within the six regions, and significant differences in the areas these groups occupied during their marine migration. This was demonstrated by some migrants which were recorded up to 300km from their river of origin.

Sea trout consultant Graeme Harris pointed to the Irish failure to record undersized fish on the licence logbook. He said it left a “massive gap not showing captures of sea trout under 40cm and should be incorporated in catch return statistics”. Finnock (fish returning in the same year that they smolted) dominate the runs in most Irish rivers.

Meanwhile, Inland Fisheries Ireland is currently formulating a salmonid west project, based on the CSTP project, to extend from Kerry to Donegal and to take in parts of Northern Ireland. “Presently we are seeking stakeholders to finance the project. We hope to be up and running in 2014,” said Willie Roche.

Concluding his address, the Minister said that angling is hugely important to the tourist industry and the economy. A recent survey estimated that angling tourism spend is €750 million per annum, which supports 10,000 jobs. The survey also identified that more than 250,000 anglers in Ireland generate €470 million of the total spend.

Sturgeon alert
Sea anglers and commercial fishermen are being asked to watch out for one of the most unusual catches they may ever make – a sturgeon. It is one of the most protected fish in the world and the eggs of the beluga species are served as caviar.

The alert comes after one of two boys fishing near Pembroke Dock, South Wales, hooked one about a metre long. Records show that since 1792, 133 sturgeon have been captured. The most prolific year was 1972 when 30 were caught and the last reported was nine years ago by a trawler off Port Talbot, South Wales.

“It is illegal to retain sturgeon and anybody catching one should return it unharmed to the water and then report it,” said Steve Colclough of the Institute of Fisheries Management. “But before putting it back, note its length, overall condition, signs of damage or disease, tag data and [take] a good photo.”

Anglers should report any sturgeon caught to their local Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority or Inland Fisheries Ireland. Colclough would also welcome contact on 01634-686460 or

Reelin’ in Sheelin
Fishing close to Arley Point on Lough Sheelin last Wednesday, Oliver McCormack and Pat Sweeney managed three trout, two at 1kg and one cracker of 2.6kg (5.75lb) for Oliver on a Cock Robin.

Fruitful fishing
Last week proved fruitful as ever, with 13 rod days producing 17 salmon, said Kylemore Fisheries manager Nigel Rush. There are now 214 salmon landed for the season and with just one week left, Nigel is hopeful for an improvement on this figure. To book fishing, tel: 095-41178 or 087-9580702.