How to catch Wild Irish Salmon

Draft net fishing

The Wild Salmon season always starts slowly in the middle of May, with the first of the wild salmon being caught in County Cork. The most of the wild salmon are caught in July and August.

As you might have been aware of, drift net fishing was banned in Irish waters from the 2006 season onward. It still is banned as far as the drift net fishing is concerned - long nets being towed by boats in the sea. The simple reason for that is that the number of wild salmon went down dramatically in Ireland. In other countries as well, but as far as we are aware of, Ireland is the one of the few countries to have acted on it.

There are, however, limited licences being given out to small fishery outfits. They are only allowed to fish a small number of wild salmon, and they basically do it by hand with simple nets. The season starts around the first half of May and ends in August. Fishing is only allowed on certain days.

FWild Salmon fishing Burren Smokehouseor 2011, we got our wild salmon from a few sources. One is a river in County Cork. The fishing takes place more than 5 kilometers upriver. This is important, as the wild salmon, on return to and in search of the river where they were born, swim into the river for a certain distance and taste the water. If they find it is not the native river of their origin, they turn back to look for the right one.

Another source is in County Kilkenny in the south-east of Ireland. Birgitta went there to do some wild salmon fishing on one of the river. There she was able to witness snapnet-fishing which is an age-old technique used to catch salmon in the rivers.

Wild Salmon fishing Burren SmokehouseThe picture shows a salmon fisherman with Birgitta in a flat-bottomed, wooden boat called Nore cot.

Snapnet-fishing is a time-consuming technique, but one that does not traumatise or stress the salmon. A net is drawn between two cots, and when movement in the net indicates that there are fish trapped in it, the fishermen haul up the lower end of the net in one swift movement. Fishing does not get any more sustainable and gentle than this!

After the introduction of the commercial drift net fishing ban in Irish waters in 2006, the salmon stocks have reached a much healthier level. For this reason, the Inland Fisheries Board asked local fishermen to fish small and clearly defined amounts of salmon for stock management purposes: after the conservation stock limit of salmon (i.e. the critical number necessary for the conservation of the species) lay their eggs in the shallow waters of the rivers, these "nests" would be greatly disturbed by too great a number of salmon coming up the rivers.

Here you will find more information on the life cycle of Wild Salmon.