Management plan confirmed for the western lakes

Lough Melvin’s 41st open trout angling event; and recalling the splendid Gerard Regan

Following a formal request by the Department of the Environment Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has confirmed it is to develop a medium to long-term management plan for the western lakes.

Proposals relate to the development of an evidence-based management plan for the seven lakes and follows detailed discussions with the said department and advice from IFI. Timelines are to be submitted by the end of September.

The projects office and research division is being tasked with the development which is likely to include catchment surveys to identify fish populations, salmonid habitat deficits as well as water quality pressure points.

Where feasible, habitat restoration and development projects will be carried out including vegetation management on land and water adjacent to the lakes.


Management of invasive species, such as various coarse fish and curly waterweed, will also be an important feature of the plan. An emphasis on stakeholder engagement between State bodies, public representatives, angling clubs, conservation groups and local communities is also expected to be a key component.

The seven lakes within the western lakes groupings are: Corrib, Mask, Carra, Cullin, Conn, Sheelin and Arrow.

IFI chief executive Francis O’ Donnell said the plan will primarily focus on key areas such as biodiversity and whole ecosystem conservation as the basis for the protection and development of wild salmonid stocks in particular, such as wild brown trout.

“From our research to date it’s clear that the western lakes are under threat. And we must take action underpinned by best available scientific data to protect and conserve the unique status and importance of these salmonid waters in the long term.

“The new management plan should inspire a positive vision for the future and serve to protect them as they are topographically distinct waters in terms of salmonid habitat. These lakes are among some of the last remaining wild brown trout fisheries in western Europe, so it’s critical that the plan is subject to rigorous environmental governance and that it takes ecological and socio-economic impacts into account.

“IFI is now looking forward to developing the detail of the plan and delivering the actions outlined, working in close partnership with the department and all relevant state agencies and stakeholders.”

The art of fly fishing

Lough Melvin Anglers’ Association celebrated its 41st Open Trout Angling Championships in fine style last week with five days of fly fishing on one of Ireland’s finest wild brown trout fisheries.

Due to Covid-19 last year’s competition was cancelled and instead this year an extra day was added to keep numbers at a lower capacity. Indeed, pandemic restrictions still prevailed with contact numbers compulsory and temperature check on entry to club-house car park.

The small but picturesque village of Garrison, situated close to the lough, came alive as some 300 home-based and cross-channel anglers enjoyed the hospitality of its townspeople.

Fishing conditions were far from ideal throughout the four qualifying days with soaring temperatures and little wind. However, some anglers did manage to entice a fish or two to merit weigh-in. Conditions improved somewhat on final’s day resulting in a “healthier” scoreboard.

In Thursday’s heat, Aiden Heffernan from Dublin paid scant attention to the sweltering heat. Fishing close to the shoreline with three Diawl Bach nymphs he caught a ferox trout of 1.645kg (3.6lb), sufficient to win the heaviest fish prize over the five-day competition.

Melvin has the distinction of being home to six species of game fish, that is the gillaroo, brown, ferox and sonaghan trout, salmon and char. But it was the sonaghan we had come to catch.

These relatively small sub-surface feeders are found in open deep water where they feed on planktonic (daphnia) organisms. A fish of 0.5kg is considered a good size.

The overall winning duo of Trevor McClearn and David (Davy) Watson were rewarded to share two 19’ Foley Melvin Boats plus two pieces of Galway Crystal. Not bad for two day’s fishing!

Congratulations to the hard-working 19-strong committee led by chairman, Terry McGovern. The team is always extremely pleasant and cannot do enough to make the visiting anglers feel at home. A shout out too to the ladies who gave their time to provide the sandwiches and tea/coffee.

1 T McClearn/D Watson;
2 G Smith/M Fahy;
3 A Heffernan/C McAndrew;
4 N Greene/J Fegan;
5 S McCart/K Fleming.
Best lady angler: A McWilliams.
Best junior angler: J Parkyn.
Best overseas angler: J Collins.

In memorial: Gerard Regan

On a sombre note, I was saddened to learn that club president and stalwart Gerard Regan died in June. He was always the first person to welcome me to Garrison with a hearty Céad Míle Fáilte.

A former principal at St Mary’s local school, he once said: “I taught most of today’s teenagers from the village and, indeed, the adults too. I get on great with them all.”

He is sadly missed, and will never be forgotten. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.