" The numbers of fry turned out are as follow :-
First year of working.
High floods ; could not get fish.
Expect to have over one and a half million.
"My opinion is that the rivers in Ireland are over-netted, and that all nets in fresh water should be removed."
The Glyde, in County Louth and County Meath, seems to be in an anomalous condition. Sir Henry Bellingham, Bellingham Castle, is not a fisherman, but he has a general knowledge of how things stand. "The fishing I let annually for netting purposes," he says, " has been very good of late years, especially the last two, and I have had an increased rent. I do not myself think the laws against poaching and pollution are sufficiently enforced." On the other hand, Mr. W. B. Thornhill, Castle Cosey, writes:- " My cousin Sir Henry Bellingham has given me your letter as to the Glyde. For many years I have taken much interest in this river, which for its size and length is, or rather was, a very good salmon river. You can cast across it practically anywhere with a trout rod. The drainage works during the famine time, some fifty years ago, turned what was a pleasant stream into a canal with weirs; only a few stretches or pools of fishing water were left. Some thirty-five years ago on a little stretch of the fish-able water one rod killed from 70 to 80 fish in the season; now 20 is a good basket for that period on the same water. The fish as a rule are large. Spring fish are seldom under 16 lbs., and 25 lbs. is a common weight. Fish from 30 lbs. to 32 lbs. are considered big. Fish up to 40 lbs. have been caught in the nets. There is in the tidal portion a weir so constructed that except at high tide fish cannot get up. A normal summer tide does not bring enough water. The river is overrun with pike and eels. There being no coarse fish for the pike to live on, you frequently see a school of salmon parr going down to the sea in the spring being taken toll of every fifty yards, until few are left. Fish seem to spawn fairly well; but I fancy that few young fish ever get to the sea. Last season and the season before were certainly improvements on the previous five or six years. Few fish of the normal weight, however, ran up in the spring; their place was taken by 8 lbs. salmon. Over-netting at the mouth is, in my opinion, the chief cause of the falling-off. Few fish have a chance of getting up. The Glyde is an easy river to drag, being free of rocks, and having a level bottom and shelving banks. The river is 'cared for' by bailiffs and others, as it has always been; but prosecutions for poaching are few and convictions fewer. Want of funds prevents the Conservators from paying sufficiently high wages to procure good men. With judicious nursing by lessening the net-fishing at the mouth and in the sea just off the mouth, by combined effort to turn in fry, and by riparian owners taking more interest in the matter, a very few years would show considerable improvement. Poaching is rampant when fish are running, and unless the Government steps in and allows the Police and Coast Guards to act as bailiffs little can be done to stop it. The money now wasted on bailiffs could be paid over to Government and used for river-guarding purposes. The river opens on February 1, but often there is a considerable run earlier."
The Owenea rises in a mountain lake about sixty acres in extent, and runs, through more or less mountainous land for twenty miles, into the Atlantic near Ardara. Lord Conyngham owns a fishery worked by drift nets at the mouth of the river, and records of the takes at this fishery for the last ten years show a falling-off of about twenty per cent in the last five years. The decline is principally to be attributed to the great increase of drift-net fishing in the sea between Malin Head and Donegal Bay, which began extensively in 1900. No less than seven tons of salmon were landed in that year at one harbour twenty miles to the north of the mouth of the river. The drift nets are worked four or five miles from land, are very long, and overlap one another in the path of the salmon, which travel from east to west. Poaching has been on the decrease, partly because the falling-off in the stock of the river has reduced the temptation, and partly from other reasons. Nine years ago the late Marquis put up a hatchery, and about 200,000 fry have been turned out every year since; but so many circumstances have to be taken into consideration that it is hard to say how far the hatchery has benefited the river. If one may judge from the very much larger decrease in the number of fish in the neighbouring rivers, it is probable that there has been considerable advantage. The angling, of course, has suffered along with the net-fishing.
The Gweebarra rises in Lough Barra, and runs into the Atlantic about fifteen miles north of the mouth of the Owenea. Lord Conyngham owns the south bank of the river for about six of the eight miles of its course. The lease of this river having but recently expired, accurate information is not available. It is not doubted, however, that there has been a considerably larger falling-off in the number of fish in the Gweebarra than in the Owenea. The probable reasons are drift-net fishing, more poaching, and the absence of a hatchery. In these mountain rivers the period and the amount of the rainfall affect the angling so much that returns would only mislead. The netting methods having remained the same, the commercial returns over a fair period give a trustworthy indication of the number of fish in a river.
The Bann, in County Antrim, which once yielded good sport from Lough Neagh to the sea, has come into evil days. A Justice of the Peace resident at Dunmurry, who himself, unhappily, has been prevented by illness from seeking sport during recent years, writes:-
"My sons have been fishing in the river, and have reported to me from time to time. There are three causes from which fishing in Ireland suffers: poaching in season and out of season; pollution and poisoning of rivers; and soft-headed Lords-Lieutenant, who invariably remit any fines which the Magistrates impose on law-breakers. The rivers in the north are every year poisoned by flax water for about two months, more or less, according to the state of the streams; those in the south by lime and bleaching powder. In England, I believe, crime of this kind is punished by confinement and hard labour; but in Ireland impositions of fines suffice, and fines, as I said, are remitted by the Viceroys. The Inspectors of Fisheries are not sharp enough. There is one fishery at which a factory is driven by a turbine. A grating prevents the smolts from getting into the wheel; but as the water runs down in the tail race the salmon are left behind, and are picked up by the workers at night and at meal hours. This could be remedied by putting a fine grating to prevent the fish from getting into the tail race, and keeping them in the river until a flood should allow them to go over the weir into the main river."