Lough Sheelin shore fishing.

Almost all Lough Sheelin trout anglers catch and release more fish from lake – IFI survey

An Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) survey has found that 94% of anglers are now releasing more of the trout they catch back into Lough Sheelin than they did when they started fishing.

The IFI research involved 132 participants, and more than half of those had more than 25 years of experience fishing for wild brown trout in the lake.

Sheelin trout.

Lough Sheelin, bordering Westmeath, Cavan and Meath, attracts anglers nationwide and internationally.

Catch and release methods ensure that trout stock have a greater chance of survival within the freshwater lake.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of Research and Development at IFI, said: “The trends, over the four decades studied in the research, were mostly positive regarding the abundance and size of trout in the lake and its ecosystem.

“Respondents commented they now believe the lake is currently fishing well.

“However, some expressed concerns about threats to Lough Sheelin’s trout stocks, including pollution, pressure from angling activity, poor water quality, and protection of fish.

“This research highlights the growth in awareness of fish conservation among anglers. Seasoned fishers on Lough Sheelin have a deep understanding of the lake’s surrounding ecology that’s been developed through long-term interactions with the natural environment.”

The research used a method developed by IFI called Fishers’ Local Ecological Knowledge Surveillance Indicators.

It is designed to track environmental impacts and changes in fish stocks through local information sources by asking anglers about different aspects of the fishery now, compared to when they started fishing on the lake.

Engaging Ireland’s anglers as citizen scientists is now an important element of research programmes at IFI, added Dr Gallagher.

“Their important contribution can help us to fill gaps in knowledge about the history of fisheries, and to develop sound, evidence-based management strategies.”

The survey is here.

Researchers at Inland Fisheries Ireland have expressed their thanks to all local anglers who participated, and to the Lough Sheelin Trout Protection Association.