Local man lands 21lb trout on Lough Ree

PHOTO: Stephen Turner last week posing with the 21lb trout that he caught.

A fisherman from Athlone last week caught, and released, what is believed to be the largest trout ever from Lough Ree.

Stephen Turner from Cartrontroy, who has been fishing for 40 years, was out on the lake last Saturday 10 July when he landed the 21lb trout.

“I want to break the Irish record so I have been targeting these larger fish for the past seven years,” Stephen told the Westmeath Independent.

“To my knowledge, and I would be in the know of local fishing, a fish of that size has never been caught locally in Lough Ree. Or certainly a fish of that size has never been seen, caught, photographed, measured and weighed.

“The Irish record is over 26lb and it was caught in Lough Ennell in the 1800s. That record has been standing for over 120 or 130 years.”

The trout he caught was a Ferox trout, which can be found in Lough Ree, Mask and Corrib, and looking at studies carried out in Scotland, Stephen estimates the fish to be 18-20 years old.

“They live the first three or four years in a river, and then move on to a lake when the food chain can’t sustain them. That’s when they really start to grow.

“That fish is its prime judging from both its length and weight.”

Stephen says that larger fish are caught on Lough Corrib “fairly often” but never in the Shannon system.

“I knew that if I went to the Corrib or Lough Mask and put the same time and effort in there that I do here, finding a fish like this would be easy done, but I wanted it from the local area.”

With technology available now, Stephen believes that the record can be beaten.

“Sonar helps catch a fish, but it doesn’t catch a fish! But tackle and lures are getting better every day so I do think the record will be beaten.

“You wouldn’t know where that record will be beaten. I’ve seen photos of fish caught on the Corrib, that if they were weighed properly probably could have broken the record

“They were caught by foreign anglers, and foreign anglers don’t go by weight, they go by length.”

Despite being an avid fisher who goes out fishing two or three times a week, Stephen cares about the welfare of the fish above all else.

“One time the policy in Ireland was catch and kill everything, but in the last 15 years or so people are getting more educated. For the last ten years I strictly catch and release, and the welfare of the fish is what is important.

“So the problem with breaking the record is that you’d probably have to kill the fish. In order to get a fish verified it has to be weighed on a certified scales like the one you find in the butcher. Even if I did break the record I wouldn’t kill it, I would just be happy with my own scales and I’d know in my heart that I broke it.”

He goes fishing two or three times a week, and says that catching larger fish take a lot of time and knowledge.

“You have to experiment with different systems to get results, and everybody sees the good days but nobody sees the bad days.

“With the good weather recently I haven’t gone out fishing much because the oxygen levels are too low for the fish, but I hope to get out again soon,” he finished.