FASTA Representative at protest in Galway city against new salmon farms


A number of FASTA affiliates recently travelled to Galway to show solidarity with anglers from all over Ireland in opposition to plans to build a major new salmon farm in Galway bay.


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.

No April Fool!

Mourne  Heavy rain on Wednesday night produced an immediate dirty flood mostly in the Derg by Thursday morning. Throughout Thursday the Derg steadily dropped and it looked like opening day on the Mourne would be OK.

Opening day arrived with the Mourne in good order with just a hint of colour and at a good fishable height for all methods. Angling effort was concentrated as expected mostly in Sion Mills and downstream to Strabane with the Gravenue, Woodhole, Blackstone, the Doctors and Gardens seeing the most angling effort. A number of kelts were landed throughout the day and thankfully returned safely but it wasn’t until about 4 o’clock that Omagh angler Jeffrey Hamilton, fishing fly in the Gravenue, hooked and landed the first legally caught salmon on the Mourne of 2011. I am informed this was Jeffrey’s first ever salmon. Local opinion has it Jeffrey will make a fine salmon angler as he kept his fly a closely guarded secret. Well done, Jeffrey, and may you catch many more!

Friday night saw more heavy rain which left the Mourne unfishable on Saturday. By Sunday the river had dropped sufficiently to allow a bit of spinning but it was still a bit too heavy for fly.

The forecast for the coming week is a real mixed bag with westerlies bringing rain. Expect the Mourne to rise and fall accordingly; this will help spring fish enter the river.

Derg  Nothing to report yet. 

Post 01/2011


Omagh District Council are proposing to build a Hydro-electric turbine on the river Camowen in Omagh. The Camowen is just about the most important river in terms of salmon-spawning in the whole Foyle system and any messing about with it could wreck it forever.

I’d appreciate it if you’d take 2 minutes to add your voice to those raising concerns about his project. I have already done so, but we need thousands of protestors to swing this around.Just a few words would suffice . e.g. I wish to protest against the proposed hydro-electric scheme on the river Camowen. I think an environmental impact assessment should be carried out before it goes ahead.

Here’s the link to the Council. If it doesn’t work, please copy and paste or type it into your address-bar.

Northern Ireland forced to change salmon policy

A Milestone for the Foyle: Entering a New Era where Abundance is the Target, not Minimum Levels

On 14 June 2010 The Loughs Agency, Foyle, Carlingford and Irish Lights Commission, announced that due to a collapse in the salmon stock of the River Finn, all netting in the greater Foyle river system area would be stopped for a minimum of four years to promote stock recovery. Angling would be permitted, but only on a catch and release basis, as a result of a previously agreed protocol requested by anglers to help guard against poaching and pollution, and agreed by The Loughs Agency. This represents a milestone in the development of salmon fisheries policy in the north-west of Ireland: the Foyle system is a cross-border river system administered on a joint basis by two sovereign governments, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. This change in policy has come about to protect stocks, but also because a failure to act by the Loughs Agency would have rendered the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom liable to infraction proceedings from the EU for breach of the Habitats’ Directive.

The history of salmon policy in the north-west of Ireland is not an advertisement for good government. It has been characterised in the early years by a bureaucratic neglect to the extent that when NASF asked the responsible senior Civil Servant to outline Government policy on salmon, he was unable to do so, simply because no policy existed.

In the face of falling stocks, through pressure from anglers led by NASF and others, government in time were forced to set out their policy on salmon – which amounted to neglect of duty. Instead of looking at the problem, government simply allowed mixed stock interceptory netting to continue largely unhindered. It is an interesting commentary on salmon policy in the north of Ireland that governments always end up doing what NASF and anglers tell them they must do, but there is a lethal time lag while they do what they can to hide the fact that their previous policies were in error. Saving face, it seems, is more important than saving the salmon.

When NASF told Governments in the early 1990s that we needed to stop netting and conserve the freshwater habitats, we were literally laughed at. We were told in fact that the Foyle salmon netting effort may need to be increased, “to make sure we don’t allow too many salmon to reach the spawning grounds”.  This is typical of the wilful refusal to look to the future that NASF has faced down the years. Time and again when NASF submitted plans to reduce or buy out netting, we were told it was not necessary, Government had everything in hand, all would be well, the bureaucrats knew much more about salmon than mere anglers in NASF. In fact, all was not well, and it now turns out that the anglers and NASF were right all along.

The collapse in the salmon stock of the River Finn must now mark a complete break from the misguided policies of the past as promoted by the Loughs Agency and supported by the two sovereign governments, the Republic of Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

The Lough Agency has used models based upon minimum spawning escapement levels instead of listening to the NASF call for a return to abundance and the creation of a stronger population base through greater numbers. We at NASF criticise the narrow focus on egg deposition targets because rivers need far more spawning fish than are necessary to satisfy meagre theoretical minimum levels. The practice of calculating backwards from juvenile habitat surveys to an estimation of required egg deposits is insufficient on its own, because it ignores the salmon’s need for the diversity and protection against threats that abundant numbers provide.  It also takes no account of the normal but highly variable occurrence of lethal weather, pollution and other events that inflict high egg and fry mortality.  There is good reason why salmon populations are prodigious when it comes to spawning.  The fish deposit large numbers of eggs because so few of their ova survive and every season is different in terms of the unpredictability of weather, damaging events and water levels.

It is not reasonable ignore these diverse factors and assume that a one-fits-all scenario can be safely constructed on a computer which does not recognise what mother nature has been very successfully doing for the last ten thousand years.  Given the current abysmally low number of adult salmon in many rivers, the only rational strategy is to maximize egg deposition from the current runs and to work simultaneously to re-establish the environmental qualities of the rivers.

In the Loughs Agency area, this milestone presents an opportunity which must not be squandered.

We are running out of time to save the salmon, we can no longer afford the lethal time lag while Government Agencies try to save face. We need a complete break from a sterile dependence solely on minimum Conservation Limit targets; while these may form a useful contribution to a management regime, we must no longer rely on the concept of minimum numbers as targets for spawning. 

We must firstly negotiate with the remaining netsmen to bring a permanent end to all netting in the entire Foyle area, with suitable safeguards on angling exploitation. Then we must embark on a long term programme of habitat conservation, protection, and enhancement, to maximise freshwater productivity. We must strive to achieve the NASF objective of abundance of salmon in our rivers, and to aim to achieve this every year. Only by doing this can we protect our salmon runs for the future.

Please note:

The North Atlantic Salmon Fund (NASF) is an international coalition of voluntary private sector conservation groups who have come together to restore stocks of wild Atlantic salmon to their historic abundance.

Email:   Web:

Slurry inflicts another devastating blow

Another devastating blow for anglers came in the rivers above Omagh with an 8-mile stretch of river totally wiped of all life from gudgeon, stoneloach, roach trout to salmon at various stages of their lifecycle. An organic spill was noted by an angler in the upper reaches of the Owenreagh river on the Monday whilst there was heavy rain on. This was reported to the Loughs Agency who very quickly were able to find the source and take the statutory samples necessary to be able to proceed with a case. It was pure slurry that had drained into the river and whilst not being poisonous to fish it had the effect of actually suffocating them. This plume of pollutant continued on its devastating flow towards Omagh and the Drumragh river very slowly all the while being monitored very diligently by Loughs Agency staff, especially Seamus Cullinan and his local officers. They deployed oxygenation pumps to the river in several areas to try and stave off the effect of the pollutant but could only watch helplessly as the slurry killed everything in its path. This was a very hard thing for the anglers to have to take in: not being able to do anything but watch. However, as the pollutant reached the main Drumragh river it became more diluted and had less of an effect and fewer fish died as it moved towards Omagh. We are praying for more heavy rain to wash the system out.

Unfortunately, this was not a lone event and within two weeks there was another incident on the upper reaches of the Camowen river but thankfully it did not have the same effect. We must all be diligent in these times of low water  as any spillages into the river can have a catastrophic outcome. The Drumragh has suffered this many times down the years: June 1985 saw a 6-mile stretch of river wiped of life due to slurry and again in June 1999 when the upper reaches of the Drumragh on the Seskinore side suffered a huge fish kill. And of course we also had the massive kill of over 800 adult salmon on the Strule back in August 2004, one of the worst for salmon on record.

Terry Smithson

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.

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.

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