The Bush, in County Antrim, is not what it should be. Dr. Traill, Provost of Trinity College, Dublin, says:-
" I have the right of fishing in the river for three miles along my property, above the waterfall, which is about three-quarters of a mile above Bushmills. The rod-fishing along my lands is nothing like what it used to be, owing to a falling-off of fish in the river on account of occasional visitations of disease, and to the constant violations of the fishery laws on the lower portion of the river. To save a lawsuit in 1863, I took my grant under the several fishery, rather than proceed to establish my own rights. The several fishery now vests in Sir Francis and Lord Macnaghten. The agent, Mr. Douglas, constantly erects walls across the mouth of the river, so as to keep the fish down in pools, where they are drafted out by nets at every tide. They are also kept from getting far up the river on the open days, Saturday and Sunday. Then the fish are followed up the river. A boat with nets is brought up, and the fish in large quantities are taken out between the two bridges in the town of Bushmills. They are even driven into the nets by pelting them with stones. Large fish are thus kept from reaching the spawning beds. I have called the Fishery Commissioners' attention to these things, which are illegal even in the case of a several fishery; and on one occasion Mr. Roche came down, and at once ordered the obstruction at the mouth of the river to be removed. Sir Francis does not trouble himself, about the matter, and it is not pleasant to take proceedings against a neighbour with whom one is on friendly though perhaps rather distant terms. The proper remedy is for the Fishery Commissioners to be forced to look into these matters by having independent Inspectors constantly watching. Action should be taken by the Commissioners. The matter should not be left to private persons who do not want to quarrel with the owners of the several fishery."
The Foyle, in County Londonderry, has, I am told by Mr. Thomas M'Dermott, of the Fisheries Protection Association, considerably fallen off in recent years. The cause is excessive drift-net fishing in the sea at the mouth of the river and for many miles on the coast. The nets increased from 10 in 1870 to about 400 in 1905. They are on the average about 800 yards in length and 5 yards in depth-salmon swim high in the sea-and form an impenetrable wall against the passage of fish. There is good angling in the Mourne, the Strule, and the Derg, tributaries of the Foyle.
The Mourne, in County Tyrone, is under disadvantages that are common to many Irish waters. The Duke of Abercorn writes:-
" There is a decided falling-off in the stock of fish. I attribute it to the enormous amount of drift nets which are now being used on the West Coast, not only by local fishermen, but also, I regret to say, by an English Syndicate, who have put a considerable number of steam drift boats just outside the Government limit. I am informed that these catch salmon to an enormous number during the early part of the year. It is absolutely wicked that this should be permitted. It destroys all inland rights of fisheries belonging to companies and to private river owners. There is certainly no improvement on my river; nor do I think that the public realise in the least the importance of being aroused to the dangers of pollution and other injuries to the fish. Everybody in this country works for his own greedy self s pocket."
The Claudy, in County Donegal, has been declining for two or three years. Mr. A. Robertson, Gweedore, attributes this to the drift nets off the coast. "Last season we were obliged to charter a steamer for the purpose of patrolling the coast to prevent illegal fishing. Drift-net fishing is bound to injure all the rivers on this coast. With fair play the Claudy, though only five miles and a half long, is a good river."
The Teelin, County Donegal, is backward. Mr. Henry Musgrave, Belfast, writes :-
"We have found the salmon fishery at the estuary very unsatisfactory for the last five years. Since the practice of netting salmon in the deep sea was begun, the fish caught in the bay have become fewer year by year. I find that the salmon are much smaller; which shows that the large fish do not get to the river."
The Bunduff is not prospering. Captain C. R. Barton, Pettigo, County Fermanagh, who has for over twenty years superintended the fishery, writes :-
"The take fluctuates very much from year to year. There are many causes, some adverse and some favourable. The run of sea-trout and salmon is due in July. If there are a few wet days in each week in July many go up the river, which, the boxes having been done away with, is open. If there is very low water only a few get up. The waters run rapidly off the mountains, and the rivers come down drab-coloured, falling before it clears. Thus angling is precarious. In November and December, when seeking to spawn, most of the fish, if the water falls low, are gaffed; turf saturated with paraffin is used as a torch by the light of which to see them. If the weather keeps wet, however, many spawn before they are gaffed; if the rivers remain high they get away, and there is a good run of spring fish in June. If after a good spawning season there is great frost in February and March, most of the eggs are killed, or eaten by fish and birds; tame ducks enjoy salmon spawn. If the summer after a good spawning season is very dry, most of the fry are eaten by rats and birds and brown trout. If the summer is dry, and the wind moves the fresh water, which floats on the top of the salt water, from the Erne River along the south shore of Donegal Bay, all the fish, or nearly all, run on it as if they were hounds on the scent of a fox; and that fishery gets them. If there are floods in July, and the wind blows the Duff water towards the Erne and the Bundrowes, the fish come to Duff. We make a large or a small fishing as these different causes produce good or bad effects on Bunduff fishery. As one of the oldest Conservators of the Ballyshannon No. 13 District, I state that the salmon are becoming exterminated by drift nets, fixed draft nets, and winter poaching. I see no hope of preserving salmon, lake trout, or sea-trout. It is unpopular and impolitic to punish any one in Ireland for killing a man or a salmon."