The trout fishing season begins and ends at the wrong times
ON SUNDAY we found ourselves in Boyle, but unfortunately missed our trip to Lough Key Forest Park.
This autumn, with its mild weather and comparative lack of wind, has dressed the trees in a wonderful array of colour, and a visit to the forest would have been nice.
But by the time the affairs of the day were completed darkness was drifting in from the east, and there was just time to let the kids loose in the town playground, alongside the river.
Even though the Boyle River is the upper part of the Shannon river system it is still a decent water flow.
Sunday was a particularly fine day for fishing. I could see all the spots where trout would be hovering in front of various obstacles – rocks, bridge stanchions and the like. Given the chance I would have indulged, but the season has ended and I must wait for February.
I am still of the opinion that the trout fishing season begins and ends at the wrong times. The traditional dates are just that – traditional. A little careful river watching would surely incline the minds of legislators toward the notion that trout are spawning progressively later in the year, and not recovering from their nuptial exertions as early as they once did.
There are two triggers that get the trout in the mood for loving. One seems to be daylight length. That hasn’t changed, obviously. We get the same amount of daylight as we ever did.
The other trigger is water temperature. We were brought up with the erroneous belief that no spawning would take place before the first frosts of November. I know differently now, but all the same, while it might not take sub-zero temperatures to take the trout to the redds, they do need the temperature to drop substantially to get them active.
Whether we subscribe to modern theories about global warming or not, it is a fact that our waterways are appreciably warmer than they used to be. Hence, spawning activity is often delayed.
Over the last few years I have seen trout spawning in January and sometimes into February. It is not inconceivable that the occasional pair are still at it when the fishing season begins on the February 15, or even March 1, depending on where we are.
February trout are mostly in poor condition, thin, undernourished, soft-fleshed, with barely a flap in their tails. On the other hand, October trout are well fed and fat, with a lovely autumn sheen about them. I would much rather a late fish than an early one. It makes sense for the species, too.
Remember, those of us who took out salmon licences are obliged to return them by the end of this month. Last year we saw one or two prosecutions of anglers who had been negligent in this regard. I suspect that this year we shall see a good few more. The records gathered, while immeasurably inaccurate, are still of value, and it is surely no great drain on our resources to make our catch returns. When we purchased our licences we knew we should have to do this small thing, so lets get it done.
Hopefully, between the end of this season and the start of the next we shall learn that the drift nets have been suspended, if not permanently removed, although it appears that the government are reluctant to contribute toward any compensation scheme for the commercial fishermen. If the nets do come off I may buy a licence next year. If not, I probably won’t bother. I didn’t get a salmon this year. I hope that the one I could have caught will soon be spawning successfully, and make some contribution to the resurgence of an overthrown population.