Pike v trout feud rages on in Ire­land and much more from the trout scene

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

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.

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