The Munster Blackwater (or just Blackwater) is one of Ireland’s most famous salmon rivers, both today and historically, with accounts in the past of enormous runs and of enormous catches of salmon, mainly spring fish, written by anglers such as Augustus Grimble, in “The Salmon Rivers of Ireland”, and more recently by John Ashley-Cooper in his well-known book, “A Salmon Fisher’s Odyssey”. Moreover, the Blackwater was at one time also noted for its large fish. For example, well-known Dublin-based fisheries scientist Arthur Went compiled records of portmanteau fish (fish in excess of 40 lbs weight) caught in Irish rivers between 1874 and 1933. In this period, fifteen such fish were caught in the Blackwater, a figure beaten only by the Shannon’s catch of seventeen over the same time.
However, in the Blackwater, as in many other rivers, such catches and large fish are indeed things of the past. Nevertheless, since drift netting was abolished by the Irish government in 2006 the Blackwater has maintained a recorded annual rod catch of a little under 4,000 salmon and grilse, of which around 12% or so are spring fish. Another change from former times is that the runs are becoming later. Thus, over the last decade the average catch per month of spring fish has increased month on month through February, March and April, reaching its peak in May. Furthermore, typically and depending on water, the average catch per month of salmon and grilse taken together has continued this upward trend of increase month on month from June through to September, with the result that September is quite often the most productive month of the season.
The Blackwater is fortunate also in that it has a catchment area of over 3,300 square kilometres. This helps to maintain a sufficient flow of water in the main channel to make fishing possible under a wide variety of weather conditions.
These facts establish the Blackwater as currently one of the best salmon fishing rivers in Ireland and also as a major salmon river by European standards. This ensures that it is a major attraction to both local anglers and visiting anglers from abroad.
Lower Blackwater near Ballyduff.
Aerial view of the Lower Blackwater
There is a State agency in the Republic of Ireland responsible for the protection, management and conservation of its inland fisheries and sea angling resources, namely, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI). IFI has instituted various measures to control the total take of salmon and sea trout in any river or Fishery District and to collect the necessary data in order to determine the total take.
It is important for anglers to be aware that they need to purchase a State licence to fish for salmon, valid for the duration of their fishing trip, and that bag limits are in place. They should also be in possession of a log book to record details of fish caught (to be completed and ultimately returned to IFI) and an appropriate number of gill tags whenever they are fishing.
In particular, the Blackwater falls within IFI’s remit. Therefore, anglers interested in fishing the Blackwater should consult IFI’s website in order to familiarise themselves with the relevant regulations by going to this page as well as noting other conditions and regulations which may apply.
These strict conservation measures apply both to anglers and to commercial estuary netsmen in the Republic and are seen as a valid and important means of providing accurate catch figures such as those published by IFI. They give fishery scientists a means of deciding whether any river (i) has a run which can be harvested by anglers, or (ii) can only be fished on a catch-and-release basis, or (iii) should be completely closed to all angling. These measures are therefore the basis of a structure which can properly manage the salmon resource within each river or Fishery District, and this should help significantly to ensure that the runs of Atlantic salmon into Irish rivers will be conserved for future generations.
Finally, note that Sunday fishing is allowed and hence a fishing week in the Republic of Ireland means seven days.