LOCAL anglers are being encouraged to provide accurate “catch returns” for the forthcoming fishing season, in a bid to assess trout and salmon stocks.
The appeal, instigated by Loughs Agency this week, is seen by some as a way to avoid the closure of local rivers or the implementation of a catch and release system, due to a falling fish population.
Catch returns information is regarded as a more precise means of recording fish numbers in a river, more so than fish counters and the recording of ‘reds’, the beds that salmon clear in which to spawn.
“There has always been a request for catch returns and there is also a legal requirement to make a catch return on any licence,” local fisherman Barney Winters explained.
“Why Loughs Agency are urging this is because it’s one of the best ways for them to try and recording how many fish are in the river and it gives them an idea of the population.”
He continued, “If there is a very poor return given by anglers Loughs Agency could take it that there is not enough fish being caught. I would argue that we’re lucky here that we do catch a lot of fish on the Mourne.
In the absence of those returns there is a possibility they could implement legislation for catch and release.
It’s very important that anglers put in an accurate catch return.
“Anglers for whatever reason have been reluctant to say how many fish they have caught or where, and in some cases in the south healthy rivers have been closed or legislation has been implemented for catch and release.”
John McCartney, director of Conservation and Protection at Loughs Agency said, “This is really important information because it enables our scientists to understand how many fish are caught, taken or returned back to the river and how much time anglers put into catching those fish.
“It provides an indication of how well stocks are doing and if we need to take any action should catches take a turn for the worst.”
For more information log onto www.loughs-agency.org