Pike v trout feud rages on in Ireland and much more from the trout scene
HARD or soft borders may be the biggest Irish controversy of the moment, but one of the runners-up is showing no signs of abating. A bitter row concerning the place of pike in Irish waters has been stoked afresh with threats of court action, after a new byelaw was passed in the Republic of Ireland, protecting seven waters as ‘Designated Salmonid Waters’. The septet includes the country’s great western loughs of Corrib, Mask and Carra, as well as loughs Conn, Cullin, Arrow and Sheelin. At the eye of the storm lie provisions that broadly extend culling powers regarding pike in the designated waters. With those waters to “be managed primarily for the benefit of wild salmonid species”, in the wording of the byelaw, anglers may now kill up to four rod-caught pike of any size (two in the case of Lough Sheelin) per day when fishing is permitted. This quadruples the permitted kill under preceding regulations, which also required pike over 50cm in length to be released. The seven loughs may be no strangers to trout anglers, but the presence of pike in them arouses polarised emotions among anglers who pursue the two species. To trout anglers, pike are voracious predators that threaten the country’s iconic brown trout population, while pike anglers say that pike have been in Irish waters for so long that, were such carnage possible, it would have happened already. After a public consultation characterised by bitter recriminations between the two sides [Temperature rising in western loughs, TF503], the byelaw signed into effect by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action & Environment, Richard Bruton, has infuriated pike anglers, who claim that the new rules will leave pike stocks “decimated” and put the angling industry, employment, communities and angling tourism at risk. “Minister Bruton…[has] based the designation of the waters in question as brown trout waters on the scientifically flawed and discredited assumption that pike were introduced to such waters in relatively recent times when in fact it has been established that Ireland’s pike have shared the waters with brown trout for the past 8000 years,” said the Irish Pike Society, in a statement which also spoke of pike angling putting 102 million euros in tourism coffers in 2016. The statement accused the Minister of failing to seek advice from Inland Fisheries Ireland and ignoring scientific research which established that native Irish pike do not preferentially feed upon salmonid species, with roach constituting the overwhelming proportion of their diet. The statement alleged that political pressure exerted on the byelaw’s original sponsor, Seán Kyne TD, whose Galway West constituency puts him at the heart of the area affected by the new regulations, had allowed “an important national policy to be dictated not by the designated state authority, but by local interests.” As reported in the Connacht-Tribune, however, Kyne insists that the measures took necessary account of waters that he described as, “unique in terms of topography and trout habitat…” “[They] have long been managed as wild brown trout fisheries via established stock management programmes,” he insisted. “From that perspective, I considered that these waters are especially important.” Martin Kinneavy, chair of the Connacht Angling Council, expressed delight that his members’ “grave concerns regarding the future of wild brown trout stocks in western lakes” had been addressed. “There is now a sincere and genuine commitment to develop wild brown trout stocks in western lakes and a copper-fastened strategy to deal with the threat of predator pike,” he told the Irish boating magazine Afloat. “Our world famous Irish wild brown trout fisheries are now protected by law from pike and can reach their full trout angling potential.” This may not be the end of the matter, however. “The Irish Pike Society have over the past months engaged legal counsel and are fully prepared to challenge Minister Bruton in the High Court following publication of the byelaw,” said the society’s secretary, Paul Byrne.
A win for Irish brownies but pike anglers aren't happy.