My theory is that most of the late-running fish are worthless except for the crop of peal or grilse they yield, and only breed fish that in their turn run late, coming up heavy in spawn at the close of the open season. I believe that an excessive capture of spring fish may turn an early river into a late one. I consider the spring fish the most valuable spawners. For the last four or five years Lord Warwick, Mr. W. G. Jameson, and other tenants of the Careysville fishery have paid £500 a-year to have the killing hatch in Lismore Weir kept open for February, March, and April. This must have let up a large number of spring fish; but, in spite of it, we do not get them above Fermoy in any quantity until May. I am quite unable to account for this. Hatcheries have been established. One, at Lismore, has been working some years. It is doubtful whether they have done any good. The Duke of Devonshire is now taking the Lismore Fishery, nets and weir, into his own hands. It used to be let to the Messrs. Foley. I hope the Duke will work it with a view to the general good of the river; but I cannot tell."
Mr. George Montgomery, Howell, Tavistock, Devonshire, who owns a goodly upper stretch of the Blackwater, and has known the river for fifty years, thinks that the great increase of sea fishing, the extra length of herring nets, and steam trawlers along the coast must scare many salmon from the estuaries.
Mr. George Carleton Foott, Carrigacunna Castle, Killavullen, has emphatic opinions. He writes :-
"When we Magistrates have inflicted fines on poachers, whose characters are well known to us, after carefully inquiring into the charges made against them, and they having been ably defended by solicitors, on an Appeal to the Dublin Castle authorities the fines are considerably reduced, which is an incentive to further crime. Police, to my knowledge, were badly beaten, which is very disheartening to them; also bailiffs were badly beaten, and the inspectors. Some Justices of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenants know this, but will not confess."
The Suir, rising on high land in the north of Tipperary, and falling, after a run of 114 miles, into Waterford harbour, has a chequered history. Lord Stanhope says that netting at the mouth has caused a " very considerable " deterioration. Writing more particularly in behalf of Lord Donoughmore, Lord Stanhope, and Lady Margaret Charteris, as well as for himself, Mr. William Rochfort, Cahir Abbey, who owns a mile of this great river and has been fishing since 1882, says that sport was at its best between 1882 and 1886. After that there was deterioration until 1903, when there came a change for the better, which Mr. Rochfort attributes to the activity of the Inspector of Fisheries. Lady Margaret Charteris has recently installed a hatchery near Cahir, from which, it is hoped, many thousands of salmon fry will be turned out every year.
Colonel Mansergh, Grallagh Castle, Thurles, furnishes me with a lively and able statement:-
" Very few people have any idea of the capabilities of the Suir. It was evidently intended by Nature to supply food to many of the inhabitants of the counties of Waterford and Tipperary. It would do so if it were protected and its resources husbanded. The wealth derived from its fisheries would be enormous. Salmon at two shillings a pound soon 'run into money.' At present there is very little attempt at preservation. Lack of funds is the chief, but not the only reason. The spawning beds are almost completely unprotected, and not one salmon in twenty spawns. Most of the fish are killed by poachers. The spawning beds, apart from the main river, are over two hundred miles in length. To protect them properly would require nearly one hundred bailiffs and the assistance of the Police. I think the funds do not allow for more than eight men on all the immense stretches. Thus, you may say that there is virtually no protection of the spawning beds in the tributaries. The main river protects itself; it alone, practically, supplies fish now. If the spawning beds of the tributaries were protected there would be 500 salmon in the river for every one that is in it at present. The salmon in the Suir never get a chance. They are persecuted, legally and illegally, day and night; how a single fish is left is a puzzle. From Clonmel to the sea nets are at work day and night. Below Clonmel the river is good for rod-fishing only on one stand, that which is known as ' Dudley's,' where many peal are caught between July and September. The water from Clonmel up to Holy Cross was all good some years ago; but latterly it has been so only in a few places where the fish rest on their journey to the upper waters. About thirty years ago the Conservators attempted to protect the river generally, and the spawning beds in particular, and were very successful; but, unfortunately, the work could not be continued. Lack of funds arose from the mistake made by the Conservators in buying a steam launch to protect the waters below Waterford, where there are some very narrow reaches, easily swept by nets at night. The launch was a costly failure. It has ever since prevented the protection of the spawning beds. The Conservators had to borrow the money to buy, repair, and keep the craft in order and in commission. In a few years the launch had to be got rid of. Had there been sufficient funds at the disposal of the Board it would have done much good in preventing poaching in the tidal waters. The launch, I think, was bought under the impression that the funds would increase; but, unfortunately, the country became unsettled, and many of the upper fisheries could not be let. During the last sixteen or seventeen years the fishing on the upper waters has become gradually worse, and now very few men care to fish at all. In my own case the drop in the number of salmon caught has been from thirty-one to none.
"There are various causes for the decline. The chief cause is the neglect of the spawning beds. The fish are killed as soon as they have gone up.