Northern Ireland has numerous renowned destinations for Atlantic salmon fishing. The majestic rivers, historical woods and breath-taking landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for anglers seeking an unforgettable fishing experience whilst surrounded by rural tranquillity.
1. The Rivers
Northern Ireland boast numerous rivers that once where teeming with Atlantic salmon returning annually, with some still having decent runs.
Some of the most famous ones include:
- Mourne River
- River Bann
- River Faughan
- River Foyle
- Bush River
- River Roe
- River Derg
- River Maine
- Agivey River
- River Strule
- Moyle River
- Six Mile Water
- Clady River
For many years these rivers have provided ideal habitats for salmon, with their clear waters and abundance of food sources guaranteeing their return.
2. The Seasons
Atlantic salmon fishing in Northern Ireland is seasonal, with different rivers having different peak times and open seasons. The fishing season generally starts in early spring and runs till autumn. Angling is not permitted during the closed season which is vital to the salmons reproduction.
Spring is an exciting time as the salmon (springers) return to the rivers after spending several years at sea. The summer months offer excellent opportunities for fly fishing, while autumn is known for its spectacular runs of large, mature salmon.
3. Fishing Techniques
Anglers can employ various techniques when fishing for Atlantic salmon Some popular methods include:
- Fly Fishing: This traditional method involves casting artificial flies usually in the pattern of a shrimp and suited to each river and location to entice the salmon.
- Spin Fishing: Using spinning lures like flying C's , Copper spoons and Toby's to mimic baitfish can be effective in attracting salmon. [not allowed on some rivers / check local rules & regs]
- Bait Fishing: Blackhead worms are usually the best option with prawns being allowed on some beats. [not allowed on some rivers / check local rules & regs]
Each technique has its own unique appeal and can yield great results depending on the conditions and preferences of the angler.
4. Licensing and Regulations
Before embarking on an Atlantic salmon fishing adventure in Northern Ireland, it is essential to familiarize yourself with the local licensing and regulations. Different rivers may have specific rules regarding permits, catch limits, and fishing methods. Always Fish Legal with rod licence and appropriate angling area permit.
It is crucial to respect these regulations and practice sustainable fishing to preserve the salmon populations for future generations.
From birth, eggs and juvenile Atlantic salmon (par & smolts) face threat from hungry predators such as other fish, birds and invasive species.
The lucky ones that get to mature will face many man made obstacle's (dams and weirs) and of late, numerous agricultural pollution disasters at an industrial scale.
These fish will leave the rivers, heading out to sea were they will feed, grow and mature returning when nature calls on them to lay and fertilise their own eggs.
Whilst at sea they face similar threats of man made pollution and disease from commercial salmon farms alongside the rapid growing presence of invasive species and predators.
Commercial over fishing / bycatch being one of the biggest threats to Atlantic salmon and most specimens in decline.
6. Catch & Release
Catch and release fishing in general has becoming more popular here in Northern Ireland with most anglers being of a conservationist mindset returning most specimens, even at sea.
This could be the influence of social media images were individuals demonstrate proper fish handling and return methods whilst getting a quick photo for proof rather than a dead fish every time.
On stretches where bag limits are allowed by the local authorities, may it be the Loughs Agency, D.A.E.R.A or Local Club, limited tags for salmon and sea trout carcasses are handed out annually when purchasing an angling licence. Anglers tend to harvest the more mature fish in these scenarios.
6. Hiring a Guide
For those new to Atlantic salmon fishing or unfamiliar with the rivers and surroundings, hiring a knowledgeable guide of the area can greatly enhance the experience. A skilled guide can provide valuable insights, assist with technique selection, and increase the chances of a successful catch and release.
Additionally, guides are well-versed in river etiquette and conservation practices, ensuring a responsible and enjoyable fishing trip for everyone.
Atlantic salmon fishing in Northern Ireland still offers anglers one of many incredible opportunity's to connect with nature and pursue the elusive king of freshwater fish.
Whether you are a seasoned angler or a novice, the rivers, seasons, techniques, regulations, and guides available will contribute to an unforgettable fishing adventure.
If visiting Northern Ireland to fish, Don't hesitate to contact us on the email provided below so we can help plan your trip with some sound info and advice.
[Many thanks to our returning customer and top angler Paddy Dunne for the image* and his mighty catch taken at the River Roe in the 2023 season.]
*Image may be subject to copyright
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