Scale force: citizen scientists reel in data on salmon and sea trout

Angling Notes: Salmon scale project aims to use information to help conserve fish stocks

The Minister of State with responsibility for inland fisheries, Seán Canney, is seeking assistance from anglers to become citizen scientists for the National Salmon Scale Project. The initiative aims to collect information through scales from salmon and sea trout which will contribute to the conservation of wild salmon stocks.

“As we celebrate international year of the salmon, this project will help researchers understand the challenges which salmon are facing today,” said Mr Canney, who is Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development.

Scales – even just one scale – can reveal a huge amount of information including age, how many winters spent at sea, how many times spawned, growth rate, feeding pattern and how long spent in the river before going to sea.

Anglers are asked to take a scale sample by gently scraping and removing approximately 20 scales using a clean knife and posting samples to Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) in envelopes provided (see below).


Scales can be removed from harvested and catch-and-release fish; however, sampling of fish for release should be handled carefully, with fish only briefly removed from the water and every effort made to avoid injury or stress.

We can compare how factors such as climate change are impacting survival

Information gleaned from scales is used in setting conservation limits based on the proportion of salmon who have spent one or multiple winters at sea. The “conservation limit” represents the number of spawning salmon required to produce the next generation, and this information helps inform angling regulations and management.

Dr Paddy Gargan, IFI's senior research officer, said: "A scale resource which includes different river systems in Ireland over several years is a great asset from a research perspective. We can compare how factors such as climate change are impacting survival by analysing today's salmon scales alongside those from many decades ago."

All scales collected will be added to the national salmon scale archive, which consists of a storage facility and associated database, currently holding 19,300 samples from 38 rivers representing 152 sampling years.

For more information and to request sample envelopes, visit

Ballycotton Big Fish tournament off

Due to circumstances outside of its control, the Ballycotton Big Fish tournament will not be going ahead this September. “It is a great disappointment for all involved,” a statement from the organisers said.

Should the competition be rescheduled, details will be announced immediately, giving participants the advantage of a longer lead-in time.

Good fishing in Mayo

East Mayo Anglers' Association reported that 10 spring salmon were caught on its water last week to complement the four caught since their season opened. "Fishing should get a lot better in May," according to club PRO John O'Connor.

Top of the trout fishing class in Balbriggan

The first course of the season with Dr Ken Whelan and Jason O'Riordan, entitled Introduction to Trout Fishing, was held earlier this month on Courtlough Fishery in Balbriggan, Co Dublin.

In between classes, participants managed to land 13 trout, with Donegal angler Barry Ramsay taking the honours with five well-conditioned rainbows including his best, a beauty of almost 1.5kg.

If you fancy a day or half-day on Courtlough, contact Bill at 01-8413096 or

The next course is scheduled for May 25th/26th on the river Erriff, entitled Successful Salmon Fishing. As this is a very popular course, please book early to avoid disappointment at

David Walsh memorial event on Lough Mask

Ballinrobe and District Anglers’ Association will host the David Walsh Memorial Cup competition on Sunday May 5th out from Cushlough Bay on Lough Mask, from 11am until 6pm.

This is a pairs competition with a three-fish-per-angler limit. Entry fee is €80 for non-boating competitor and €50 for boating competitor. Weigh-in, food and presentation of prizes at clubhouse.

A presentation will also be made to Corrib Mask Search and Rescue on the evening. Entries to club secretary Ray Broughton, Carra Cottage, Moorehall, Claremorris, Co Mayo.

If you have a report on game, sea or coarse fishing (with a photo or two) that you would like published, please contact me at the email addresses below and I will do my utmost to have same published in the Monday online edition of The Irish Times (other sports).