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An in Depth History of Irish Angling

n the 1700s, the fishing industry in Ireland was bleak. A significant number of fish species were exploited, such as herons and salmon.

Freshwater fishing was generally a past time activity for the rich. Some of the most prized rivers were private ownership. This led to large amounts of poaching.

The poachers used spears of differing types to catch eel and salmon from these rivers illegally. Eel fishing was generally legal, but spearing salmon was illegal and often took place at night using a light.

Traps made of wicker or netting were set in rivers to catch fish. Poachers also used snares and large hooks called stroke-hauls to catch salmon or trout. As licenses were hard to obtain, the poaching became more frequent until the rivers were further regulated and protected.

After some time, when the poaching had decreased significantly, many fish species flourished. This created a large diversity of species in Ireland.

Ireland is on the western extremity of Europe and has been viewed as one of the worlds most exceptional angling destinations.

Ireland has fabulous saltwater fishing. Although, more recently, Ireland has provided outstanding freshwater pike fishing.

Irish freshwater fish

Trout: Freshwater trout can be found almost everywhere within Ireland. Freshwater fisheries are stocked with trout weekly. Anglers will take regular visits to these lakes to catch them. Most rivers have trout within them, up to 20lbs. Although, the average river trout weighs 2lbs or less. There are two main types of trout in Ireland. Rainbow trout and brown trout. Rainbow trout have a purple/red stripe and black spots. Brown trout have black, red and orange spots. A great rod to tackle a brown trout would be the Sougayilang 2.7m fly fishing rod.


You can fish for salmon in rivers within the season in Ireland. Depending on the river, the salmon season starts around January and lasts until September 30th. They are the most sporting game fish and are swift, acrobatic and ready takers of a well-presented fly or lure.


Pike can be fished all year round. Pike are the largest of all freshwater predators in Ireland. Ireland has thousands of lakes and several thousand kilometres of rivers and canals for pike fishing. Pike can reach above 20lbs in weight. Pike have multiple rows of ferocious, jagged teeth; they prey on small baitfish such as roaches.


This fish species is native to Asia and Europe but has been introduced nearly everywhere globally. There are various carp types such as the common carp, the mirror carp, the leather carp and the grass carp. Mirror carp are the most recognisable with their distinctive scales. Mirror carp grow to massive sizes. The world record currently is 108lbs.

Irish saltwater fish

Cod :

Cod are large white fish that has a barbule protruding from their bottom lip. Fishing for cod can be tricky. Therefore, it is recommended only intermediate beach casters attempt to fish for them. Cod can be found throughout Ireland and the UK. They are viewed as a cold water species and are more common between Autumn and Winter.

Conger Eels:

Conger eels are giant eels that reach over two metres and hide in rock crevices. In July 2013, a diver was attacked by a conger eel in Killary Harbour, Ireland, at a depth of 25 metres.


This slender and elegant shark species are often found close to shore all around the Irish coasts and can grow up to 6 feet long. Tope feed on a variety of fish species but will also take crustaceans if the opportunity arises. Tagging studies have shown that Tope can travel massive distances, and some individuals tagged within the UK have later been found as far away as the Canary Islands!

Freshwater fishing locations


Some of the last remaining limestone lakes in Europe remain within Ireland. These lakes include Lough Corrib, Mask, Carra, Conn, and Cullin. They have outstanding trout fishing in them.

An honourable mention for trout fishing is Lough Fadden fly fishing and Kilgad fishery.

Some of the best pike fishing in Ireland is on Upper Lough Erne. The green landscape is a stunning backdrop for the massive lake that regularly produces pike in the 20 to 30-pound range. Other various species include sea trout, brown trout, perch, and salmon.


The Moy is Ireland's famous salmon river, with anglers catching salmon every day of the season. Spring salmon come into the river April through June, averaging nine to ten pounds. Common styles for fishing on this river are fly fishing, spinning, and bait fishing. There are specific stretches of water that are more suitable for each method than others.

Saltwater fishing locations

The Dingle peninsula is one of the most spectacular locations along Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way. It is located in the far southwest region of Ireland.

These include sea bass, blue shark, and several ray species, including stingray that grow to more than 50 pounds. Mullaghmore to Glen Bay, Donegal Bay is an excellent location for a variety of species. Bluefin tuna have been caught in Donegal Bay. Other species caught frequently are pollack, ling, coalfish, spurdog, gurnard etc. It would be best if you fished from September to December for bluefin tuna. July to October for blue sharks and May to November for all other species.

Finishing Notes

Overall, it is clear that Ireland has a massive selection of choice for any angler. The vast terrain allows for many species of fish to flourish in their natural habitat. Both freshwater and saltwater fishing in Ireland has grown over the years. This has created communities that come together to share their passion, interests and happiness centred around the topic of angling

by Daniel ONeill

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