Why are we waiting – and who’s counting?

Frustratingly, the Loughs Agency website fish counter information has not been updated since 1 March 2010 and while main runs are not yet upon us this vital information is eagerly anticipated as it becomes available. Last year, this information seemed to be published in fits and starts and often several weeks after the date the readings were taken. In the absence of any other information we can all only speculate why this should be so. So in the coming weeks the FASTA website will be publishing a counter monitor report highlighting any delays in publishing this important data.

Major Environmental Threat to Salmon Stocks from Hydro sponsored by Omagh District Council on Foyle Tributary

The following article has been submitted by Mr Terry Smithson, Secretary, Omagh Anglers’ Association

In January 2007 we were informed that the Planning Office had granted planning application for a Kaplan hydro scheme on the River Camowen. After initial investigation, it was found that the Loughs Agency were aware of plans but at the time they believed it was for an educational project; they also had permission to have the scheme temporarily closed down during the smolt run. We, Omagh Anglers’ Association, were not at all happy with this and called a public meeting in the Silverbirch Hotel in February 2007 attended by representatives from the Loughs Agency, EHS, FASTA, ourselves and two local councillors, Mr Mc Elduff and Mr Buchanan. I delivered a presentation at the meeting and expressed our dismay at the mere thought of a hydro scheme on a river that had 25% of the brood stock of the Foyle system.

The meeting did not go too well but it did highlight the level of support we had. Peter Close of the EHS said that he would grant an abstraction and impoundment licence if the Council met all criteria. The two councillors were of little help. On the night of the meeting they both said that they were unaware of the scheme but on reading previous council meeting minutes, it became apparent that this was indeed not the first time they may have heard of this scheme. Following this meeting, we and FASTA had several meetings with Omagh District Council’s Chief Executive Danny McSorley who appeared to be ready to ride roughshod over the top of us. However, we held strong and succeeded in encouraging him to attend meetings where I gave a talk and presentation to the councillors in the council chambers. The lack of knowledge within the council chamber about salmon and their habitat was quite evident.

Eventually the council came up with the idea to alter the plans and develop an Archimedes screw-type turbine which is supposed to be fish-friendlier. We, however, could get no assurances on this despite having sought them since the September meeting. Two members of Omagh Anglers’ Association and Mark Gough from FASTA accompanied local councillors to the River Dart in England to see one of these turbines in operation.

After many emails seeking information and being told that a meeting would be forthcoming in March 2010 we found to our disbelief that the Council had once again applied for planning permission without letting all interested parties know of the final submission. The site has already been cleared of trees; the Planning Office wrote to me on 12 May 2010 saying that they could see no problem with the site being cleared. It has also come to light that they must also produce an Environmental Impact Assessment which we are now awaiting.

To date (20 April 2010), Omagh District Council, under the leadership of Chief Executive Danny McSorley and his assistant Alison McCullagh, have still not contacted any stakeholders regarding their future plans for the Camowen. The Loughs Agency are also quiet on this front and, as a body charged with conservation and protection in the area, their silence on this matter is deafening. In my opinion, the Executive of the Loughs Agency should be forcing the Council’s hand in this to find out exactly what is happening to a river that holds 25% of salmon brood stock of the Foyle system at a time when salmon stocks are already at a dangerously low level.

Please note: Presentation to be uploaded soon.

Know Your River – Even Better!

Below is a series of downloadable documents of river status reports published by the Loughs Agency. They give invaluable information on water quality, electro-fishing results and redd counts and should be of real interest to all environmentally-aware anglers as these key quality measures really affect our sport.

Mourne Report 27 May 2010

Mourne No real change to report on the Mourne. Bright skies, cold nights and a north wind returned on Monday to make life difficult for those willing to fish. Still, the odd fish is being landed at Lifford Bridge and Sion Mills. Not surprisingly I have yet to hear of anything caught upstream of the weir at Sion.

Derg No change, no water, no fish!

Mark Gough, NM Tackle, Sion Mills

Mourne and Derg Reports 20th May

Mourne Low water continued throughout the week. A spell of rain on Tuesday night brought no significant change to the Mourne or Derg although water and air temperatures have improved with the winds moving to the milder south/south west. Small quantities of fish, mostly grilse continue to be caught at Lifford Bridge and upstream in Sion Mills, evidence of fish coming off the tides and slipping through the lower Mourne. Congratulations must go to local man Patsy McHugh who had the good fortune to land the fish of a life time at Lifford Bridge on Tuesday evening, a thirty three and a half pound springer. This enormous fish is the largest known rod caught fish on the Foyle system. A note of caution!  There is evidence of a number of diseased fish in the river; the Loughs Agency are keen to get a carcass of any fish showing signs of disease.

Patsy McHugh's 33.5 lb spring salmon

Derg Conditions on the Derg remain unchanged, no water and no fish.

Minister’s Unsatisfactory Reply on FASTA’s Proposal for Nets’ Buy-out

Salmon Fisheries in the Foyle Area Dear Mr Curran, Minister Lenihan has asked me to reply to your recent email regarding the above. As agreed at the meeting on 6 October 2009 which was attended by Mark Gough, of FASTA; Noel Carr, Federation of Irish Salmon and Sea trout Anglers (FISSTA); and Jim Haughey, North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASFNI), Minister Lenihan raised concerns over salmon stocks and the proposed buyout scheme of nets with the North South Ministerial Council. At the meeting of the Council, in the Aquaculture and Marine Sector, under which the Loughs Agency operates, Ministers agreed on 31 March last with the Loughs Agency’s view that the management regime, supported by appropriate regulation, provides for effective conservation of salmon stocks and that proposals for a buyout of commercial nets should not be pursued. In this regard, the Agency is at present bringing forward the Foyle Area (Control of Fishing) (Amendment) Regulations 2010, of which you may be aware following the public consultation exercise undertaken. It is considered that these regulations provide for a practical and equitable means of conserving salmon stocks in the Foyle system in compliance with the European Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC on the Conservation of Wild Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora). Insofar as your criticism of appointments to the Board of the Loughs Agency is concerned, composition of the Board is set down in respect of all North South Bodies in the British Irish Agreement Act 1999. I trust this clarifies matters to your satisfaction.  Yours sincerely, Aine McHugh, Private Secretary to Conor Lenihan TD, Minister for Natural Resources

Mourne Fishing Report 30 April 2010 Not much change on the Mourne, welcome rain on Tuesday night brought a 3/4 inch rise on the river on Wednesday morning with more heavy showers throughout Wednesday and Thursday that helped maintain the small rise. It was hoped this would be enough to encourage a few fish to leave the safety of tidal water and enter the river but it appears it did not have the desired effect. Having said that, a couple of fish were caught around Sion Mills in mid week. Most notable last week were the numbers of kelts still in the Mourne: please be careful and return them safely.

Mourne Fishing Report 13 May 2010 The river over the past week has remained desperately low, this coupled with clear, cold nights, bright sunshine and a bitter north wind has made angling very difficult. It is hard to recall when the river has been so low this early in the season. Since Sunday up to 5 or 6 fish have been caught daily, a mixture of springers and grilse have been landed at Lifford with a few more caught daily in Sion Mills. The last of the kelts have moved downstream and the smolt run is gathering momentum. Hopefully with the wind now westerly we might see some rain over the coming week which should bring a few more fish into the river Derg. The river remains low and without fish, but it is time enough.

Mourne Fishing Report 7 April 2010 This week started with the remainder of a small fresh from last week still in evidence, about two or three inches in all. Saturday to Monday saw three fish landed in Sion Mills with a grilse caught at Paddy’s Stream. The poor start to the season continues! Still in evidence this week was the number of kelts knocking around the lower Mourne, if you are unlucky enough to land one, please handle with care and return safely. There is evidence of this year’s smolt run starting with good numbers of well conditioned smolts moving downstream through the Mourne. Again, please return them to the water safely. The Derg remains quiet with little angling effort and no reports as yet.

Diseased fish found on the Mourne Take a look at the attached photos. One trout was found swimming around in a distressed state in the lower Mourne on Thursday, 14 May 2010. After photographing the trout it was left on a rock to be collected later and given to the Loughs Agency. Unfortunately a mink got it first. There was another case recently of a diseased salmon in the same pool, fresh run and sea-liced, but covered in scabs; this was photographed but returned alive to the river. The photos of the salmon are on the Mourne Reports website. Any anglers finding diseased fish should contact the Loughs Agency directly.

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