THE BOYNE is back - and the local fishermen are landing the evidence to prove it!
The biggest salmon being recorded in Irish waters this year are swimming up the Boyne, sparking hopes that next year will see the fishermen return to the waters after years of being involved in a catch and release system to conserve and record stocks.
Draft fishing has been part of the river Boyne for 1,100 years but some six years years ago, due to dwindling spawning salmon numbers, the decision was taken to ban draft netting, impacting on the lives of 50 local people who had licences to ply their trade.
36 of those subsequently left the game, leaving just a handful in Mornington and Drogheda.
When they lost the right to catch and keep their prey, they came to an agreement with the Inland Fisheries Ireland to take part in a scientific experiment that tags fish caught in the nets, under the eye of fishing inspectors. They are then released, allowing them to head back upstream.
'We are catching the biggest fish in the country on the Boyne, some 16 to 18lbs are common,' Leo Boyle from the fishermen's group stated.
One day alone last week saw 24 salmon plucked from the waters in a few hours, despite the rain and dirty water.
' The run up the river won't start until this week really but the fish will go right up to spawning grounds in the Mattock and as far away as Rochfortbridge,' Leo explained. ' The salmon are prime examples of the best you can get anywhere. They are very healthy. I don't know if it's their feeding grounds off Greenland, but the Boyne salmon are unbelievable at the moment.'
It is estimated that up to 18,000 salmon will return to the Boyne this season.
'One day alone last year we landed 114 salmon. That was a remarkable number,' Leo added.
With a fish counting system in place at Blackcastle, numbers can be judged electonically and by next February the Boyne fishermen should know if they will truly return to the waters and the wild in mid 2013.
'We are more optimistic than ever now in the six years we've been off the river in terms of keeping fish. The numbers are great and there's only 14 of us left in this business and if and when we return we'll be subject to a quota.'