Finn Angling Club Confirms Voluntary Conservation Measures for 2013

Finn Angling Club confirmed at its recent AGM that its waters on the River Finn will close to angling on 30 August and on its waters on the River Owenkillew on 30 September 2013.

These voluntary conservation measures will help put more fish on the redds and support the collective voluntary efforts by clubs on the Foyle system to improve stocks for future seasons.

FASTA Response to the Loughs Agency Consultation Document on Angling Regulations 2013 for Foyle & Carlingford (abridged)

Submitted 10 January 2013

At FASTA’s invitation, on 12 December 2012, FASTA affiliates met with Mr John McCartney, Director of Conservation and Protection, to discuss with him the reasons for the introduction of yet another set of angling regulations, namely the proposal that anglers be restricted to retaining no more than three fish in a calendar year or declared fishing season and the consolidation of previous regulations.

After a short presentation, there followed a question and answer session which was enlightening. It seems that the main reason for this reduction in retained fish from twenty-five to three was the fear that, because the number of retained fish had been reduced in the DCAL area of Northern Ireland, there was a danger of a major influx of anglers from east of the province and therefore fish stocks could become depleted. The figure of three retained fish seemed to be arbitrary and not based on any scientific formula. (The latest DCAL letter to licence distributors appears to confirm this “one size fits all” approach across the Province.)

This reasoning left the audience perplexed as the restrictions on the number of fish that could be retained in the DCAL area had been in place a year previously without an invasion of anglers from that area. Clubs in the Lough Agency’s area do control the number of visitors to their waters and, where necessary, the number of fish that can be taken.


The FASTA Perspective on the Proposals covered by the Consultation

This matter was discussed by the FASTA affiliates and the organisation was charged with preparing a collective submission as a unified response on behalf of its membership. The names of the affiliates appear at the end of this paper.

Key Points

  1. FASTA totally rejects the regulation of retaining no more than three fish. It supports the reduction in retained fish from twenty five to ten. This number is to be made up of eleven tags in total, i.e. two tags for spring fish, eight tags for grilse and one tag (ideally a different colour) to cover the possibility of a failed C&R but only used when all other tags have been exhausted. That’s an average of just over 1 fish per month over the angling season.
  2. It is also proposed that the number of tags be issued in one batch at the beginning of the season.
  3. It is also proposed that anglers have the option of exchanging unused spring tags for summer tags if they wish.
  4. The number of tags that should be made available to three-day and fourteen-day licences is proposed to be three (one black, two blue) and ten (two blue, eight black).
  5. The number of sea trout over forty centimetres is minimal and should not be subject to tagging at all. In fact, the inclusion of sea trout in the proposed regulation is irrelevant as that population has effectively crashed. The failure of the Agency to introduce restocking to kick-start that species is an indictment of the senior management of the Agency.
  6. It is the FASTA view that this regulation should be reviewed on a regular basis subject to an accurate assessment of salmon stocks. The review should be conducted in conjunction with anglers and their representatives at least annually and as soon as possible at the end of each season, and revisions made without delay as mutually agreed.
  7. FASTA views with increasing concern the use of statistics by the Agency in coming to certain conclusions as to the state of the system. These statistics are deeply flawed. The fish counters are deeply flawed. The Sion Mills counter is not fit for purpose. The counter at Corrick has not worked for three years. The two counters in the Omagh area are demonstrably not fit for purpose, having shown conflicting information on the same dates.


The attempt to reduce the number of retained fish to three is unworkable as it will be honoured in the breach. It cannot be policed and is unnecessary for a number of reasons, including the following:

  1. Anglers, in conjunction with FASTA, have taken a number of self-imposed, voluntary conservation measures and initiatives to enhance the number of fish reaching the spawning beds.
  2. Castlederg anglers agreed to catch and release from the first of September and also to stop issuing visitor tickets from 1 October.
  3. Omagh angling club agreed to reduce its salmon catch to six per member for the season/adopted catch and release throughout the season and closed their fishery on 10 October.
  4. The Finn anglers closed its fishery on 31 August.
  5. Baronscourt Estate return all hen fish and restrict the number of fish that visitors can take.
  6. The Dennet anglers delay the start of the season to allow the smolts to clear the river.
  7. The Feddens Association allows one spring fish and two summer fish to be caught per day and then angling must cease even if practising C&R.
  8. FASTA encouraged all anglers to adopt catch and release with some very positive results. The Agency’s own figures indicate that over thirty per cent of the fish landed were returned to the river in the 2012 season, and that the average number of fish retained to be circa 1.4 per angler.
  9. It should be noted that there are credible reports of an excellent redd count on most if not all of the head-waters as well as anecdotal evidence of a healthy run of fish on the Mourne system as well as the Finn catchment.
  10. At the FASTA meeting on 12 December 2012, Mr McCartney declined to give either a figure or estimated figure of the number of salmon being illegally netted in Lough Foyle. Whether this is hundreds or thousands, it is a major leak of returning fish which, if they were allowed to continue their journey, would have the Foyle system in even better health. These ‘lost’ fish have to be taken into account in the reckoning as they appear to be completely ignored for this exercise. It also highlights the need for the poaching problem to be tackled with a fresh approach and additional resources.


Given the extent of conservation that anglers have embraced and the return to health of the system, there is absolutely no need to have such a drastic reduction in the number of fish to be retained.


FASTA Overview and Summary

The vast majority of anglers reject this regulation. It is not open to horse-trading. The consensus is that a total of ten tags plus one is fair and reasonable. As managers of their rivers, anglers are responsible and have a vested interest in ensuring that the system is healthy and remains so for future generations. It must be remembered that angling is a recreational pursuit. There is a danger that over-prescription will spoil that leisure pursuit. It is therefore incumbent on the Agency to bear these facts in mind this and consider very carefully before introducing regulations which have so little support among the stakeholders. It is ironic that those in breach of fishery regulations could find themselves with a criminal record. What other leisure pursuit has such a draconian regime?

This response is endorsed and supported by the FASTA affiliates which collectively represent an estimated 4,000 anglers made up from their membership and other visitors using their waters:

Baronscourt Estates • Finn Angling Club • Brookborough Estate • Omagh Angling Association • Castlederg Angling Club • Sion Mills Angling Association • Dennet Angling Club • Strabane Angling Association • Feddens Association

Signed for and behalf of FASTA

F. J. Curran



FASTA wishes to elect an able and articulate person to take on the office of Honorary Secretary after the retirement of the current office holder.

This is a rewarding, voluntary, non-salaried position which seeks to ensure the organisation’s administrative systems, general communications, web-site and regular meetings with affiliates and government bodies are properly serviced.

Most meetings are held in Strabane, however, the office holder can be based in any part of the province. They may also be required to travel on average 4 – 6 times per year as necessary (expenses will be paid).

This is a great opportunity to do your part for your sport by getting involved with a progressive, cross-community and forward-thinking organisation. There is much opportunity to make your mark!

If you’re interested, please send details to


Signatories urgently wanted!


See ‘Campaigns’ to download the letter of petition to the Minister of the Environment, Mr Alex Attwood MLA urging him to suspend without delay the operation of the hydro-electric scheme installed by Omagh District Council on the River Camowen.

Minister O’Neill visits Loughs Agency HQ

You may find it worth your while to read the article regarding the Minister of Agriculture Michelle O’Neill’s visit to the Loughs Agency headquarters:

Ministerial Visit

Yearly Summary Mourne/Derg Report October 2010

Mourne Early season fishing on the Mourne was poor due mainly to the prolonged dry spell lasting from the first week in April to the end of June extremely low water coupled with bright sun shine made for difficult angling. From late July into August there was a fairly regular supply of water with weekly floods or creeps bringing fresh fish off every tide. The “big run” we had all hoped for did not materialise, instead we got this steady re-supply on a daily basis of fresh grilse coming with each tide, certainly enough to give anglers a decent chance of a fish or two. The usual hot spots did well, Strabane and Sion Mills and above Victoria Bridge began to produce. It was during this period that “pluckers” came to dominate proceedings with fish regularly tugging, pulling and plucking but not taking whatever was offered. Fly patterns of all descriptions were tried: old patterns, variants, new patterns, secret weapons, sublime to the downright frightening were all tried but the “pluckers” continued unabated!

September saw the arrival of a mixture of coloured grilse as small as 1lb right up to big clean salmon in the teens and beyond coming off the tides. It did the heart good to see the river take on a distinct autumnal look with a good head of fish right up to closing day. High clean water dominated this period and at last the fish began to play ball. It was heartening to see so many fish being returned safely; unfortunately there are always the odd “fishermen” who continually try to justify the taking of late coloured fish. “It’s for the smoker! It’s a nice clean one! The hook was down its throat! It’s my first this year!” Heard them all before boys, wise up!!

Derg The Derg suffered from a lack of water and fish and can only be described as a shadow of its former self. The season on the whole, apart from the dry spell, was OK. It was good to see the legal nets suspended because it would have been a very poor year if they had been allowed to continue. It was good to hear of some fish being in the Glenelly and Owen Killew towards the tail end. It was heartening to see some proper salmon in the system including the 33½ lb springer caught at Lifford. It was by no means a poor year but then again it had plenty of scope to be better.

Mark Gough @NMTackle, Sion Mills

Tel:028 8165 9501

Fishing Report 10 June 2010

Mourne Nothing much has changed over the past fortnight. Lifford Bridge remains the best chance of sport and to a lesser extent below the weir at Sion Mills. A few grilse continue to be caught daily in both locations, some as small as a pound and a half. On Monday and Tuesday this week we had some moderate rainfall which put about two to three inches in the Mourne, a small frenzy of activity on the back of this small rise brought a few extra fish off the tide. With the weather outlook in the short term looking set fair and dry there is little chance of improvement in the coming week. Reports from the Foyle indicate a reasonable head of fish building up but also a sharp rise in illegal poaching.

Derg No fish yet.

Mark Gough @ NM Tackle Sion Mills.

Thought for June My biggest worry is that when I die my wife will sell my tackle for the price I said I’d paid for it!

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