There is still no word on cause of recent fish kills

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I would like to inform readers that this column will not be appearing for the months of November and December.

I am eternally grateful to those hundreds of great people who have made the column possible and hope they will be able to continue their great work when the column resumes next year.

I need hardly tell you that if you have any item you wish to see included in Rod and Gun for October 31 you had better get the information to me before Wednesday, October 28.

By the way, I thought our Environment Agency was pretty cute in making it known that it had not got the correct equipment to analyse dead fish – and we have had plenty of those recently.

Clearly, if you haven’t got a spade you cannot be expected to dig so people like Tyrone angler Tommy Conlon can just hold their wheesh until someone tells us what has been killing fish in lake, river and salmon cage.

Cushendall conservationist Seamus McKillop has not given up his fight against the presence, in its existing form, of the salmon farm in Red Bay in North Antrim.

In a letter to Mr David Jackson, Chief executive of the Causeway Coast and Glens Council in Coleraine which was on the agenda for the Council’s October meeting. Seamus wrote: “I would be grateful if you would advise members of the CCGC of the serious situation which exists in Red Bay in relation to the salmon farm.

“In spite of paving the way for this development, Moyle Council failed abysmally to insist that the authorities monitor the environment and protect indigenous fish stocks. The dismissive and complacent attitude of some council members was appalling to say the least.

“During the council meeting of October 2014, members couldn’t even agree to send a token letter of concern to the Departments involved about the huge expansion of the Red Bay farm which, incidentally, was licensed initially for four cages confined to an area of 25,000 square metres. The licensed area has now been increased to 312,000 square metres containing 24 cages.

“The fact that the Department of the Environment which issues the discharge licences has threatened to prosecute the salmon farm company for breaching the licensing conditions, would appear to be irrelevant.’

“It is beyond argument that DCAL is presiding over the destruction of salmon and sea trout stocks. It has ignored Recommendation 42 of the findings of its own committee which carried out the inquiry into inland fisheries.

“Salmon stocks in the River Bush have plummeted from 30 per cent returns (of outgoing smolts) to a mere 5 per cent. The River Bann is now a shadow of its former self and stocks in many of the Glens of Antrim rivers are probably beyond recovery. Research has shown that migrating smolts from these rivers now run the gauntlet of lice-infested Donegal and Scottish salmon farm before reaching their feeding grounds.

“Grilse and adult salmon returning from their feeding grounds to their mother rivers keep to the middle of the Channel, then go to the Maidens on the East Antrim coast before heading back towards the Antrim coast as they seek their natal rivers. All North Eastern stocks have to pass the Glenarm and Red Bay salmon farms which are situated directly on the run of returning salmon.

“There has been an outbreak of IPN (Infectious Pancreatic Necrosis) at Glenarm and Red Bay. There has, so far, been no cure for this disease. Incredibly, the salmon company appeared to neglect to comply with DCAL conditions to eradicate this disease and some time ago the company was granted a licence by DCAL to transfer the salmon for human consumption.”

I note that Seamus says that some rivers in the Glens have very few or no salmon stocks. At least one exception is the Carey river near Ballycastle where, on Sunday, one well known conservationist counted 15 salmon in a relatively small stretch of the Carey.

Now another problem has arisen in a Co Tyrone river where there are concerns about the ‘infestation’ of rainbow trout in the River Mourne. Apparently this has been an ongoing problem but this season it reached epidemic proportions. 

Keen Tyrone angler Eric McKee writes: “Thank you for your weekly articles in Farming Life, which I look forward to reading every Saturday. May I say that I mostly agree and empathise with your common sense views on agriculture and field sports, particularly on the problems of raptors.

“I write to you hoping that you can help in some way with the problem of “alien species” invasion in the lower reaches of the Strule and Mourne. I refer to the release of large numbers of farmed rainbow trout in these stretches of the rivers.

“This has been an ongoing problem for some years but this year it is worse than ever. These fish are swarming in some of the best pools, making it nearly impossible to fish for salmon. These invaders are so voracious that as soon as a fly is cast into a pool or run, it is seized by one of these smallish rainbows.

“It is commonplace to catch 20-30 of these rainbows while fishing down a pool or run. I took up this problem with the Loughs Agency last year and again this year, but nothing seems to have been done about it.

“The Mourne and Strule used to be good water for brown trout, but since the advent of ‘rainbow invasion’ these seem to have disappeared.”

I raised the question some months ago of farmed rainbow smolts appearing in the landlocked Altnahinch dam at Loughgiel in North Antrim. But I have had no official explanation about how the smolts got into the dam.

The question of whether hatcheries and stocking have a role to play in restoring salmon stocks will be discussed at a conference in the Ballsbridge Hotel, Pembroke Road, Dublin on Saturday November 21

The conference will investigate the potential of stocking and how or, indeed, if it can be used to help restore Ireland’s dwindling stocks of Atlantic salmon. 

Speakers will include Dr David Solomon, consultant on salmonid fish and fisheries; Professor Carlos Garcia de Laeniz, University of Swansea; Dr Mick Millane, Inland Fisheries Ireland and Dr Stephen Marsh- Smith, Wye and Usk Foundation. The conference will begin at 11am and end at 5pm.

The Home International Coarse Fishing Championships started yesterday on the O’Rourke’s coalyard stretch of the Newry canal. The championships will end today with teams from the four home countries doing their best to take the title.

Anglers can fish for the country of their choice if they have been resident for five years or more in that country.

On Tuesday keen angler Oliver McGauley watched the four teams in action during practice sessions .

He said all contestants were going well but he was particularly impressed by former world champion Alan Scotthope. Oliver said he expected very big crowds of spectators at the final session.

At Craigmore cold mornings have been keeping the fish down but bloodworm damsels and buzzers have been working. When the temperature gets up in the afternoon dark olives and red dry flies have been catching fish.

Cashel’s annual competition will be held today.

Nancy Hearne of Angling Ireland reported that the NCFFI Junior All Ireland Feeder Champion title was won by Aaron Hutchman from the East Belfast Coarse Angling Club with a weight of 3.780kg.

The Portumna September festival saw good bream from the river Shannon.  Dave Brooks took first place with 128lb 5oz.

Weights were reasonable but up on last year at the Waterways Ireland Shakespeare school coarse angling competition. Fifteen teams of four fished on the river Bann near Portglenone.

Coleraine Grammar school won the gold medal. Erne Integrated College took silver and Bangor Academy, bronze.