Northern Ireland Rivers

Northern Ireland offers some of the most magnificent fishing in the British Isles. In addition to the migratory game fish, salmon and sea trout, it also offers fine brown trout fishing, including some varieties of its own like the gil-laroo and dollaghan. It is also an area of tremendous coarse fish potential, especially the Bann, Erne and Foyle systems, although there is not the variety of species found in England. The native species are bream, eels, perch and pike, but latterly, roach have come to abound in Ulster, . Recently, too, some tench were introduced though their presence is interesting rather than significant at the moment.

The main authority for freshwater fishing in Northern Ireland is the Department of Agriculture, a body charged under the 1966 Fisheries Act (Northern Ireland) with obtaining and developing waters. Since the Act, the Department have made more than 60 waters available to the angling public on rivers, loughs and reservoirs and more are being added every year. Regulations covering fishing on these waters are reviewed each year and anglers are advised to obtain a copy of the current regulations from the Government Bookshop, 80, Chichester Street, Belfast.

To fish these developed waters, anglers must have a permit issued by the Department. For game fish, season, 15-day and one-day permits are available with a special season permit for youngsters under 15. For coarse fishing, an annual permit is issued, juveniles under 16 being exempt from this latter requirement. Permit distributors are available close to most of the Department’s waters and are named, where relevant, in the Fishing Guide section.

Rod licences are also required in Northern Ireland. For the majority of waters in the six counties, these are issued by the Fisheries Conservancy Board (FCB) for Northern Ireland. There are annual and 15-day licences covering game and coarse fish with a separate licence for the same periods for those who intend to fish only for coarse fish. The different licences are symbolised in this section of the Guide as follows:

FCB/G Game fish licence

FCB/C Coarse fish licence.

The exception to the above are the rivers which go to make up the Foyle system. For administrative purposes, these are controlled by the Foyle Fisheries Commission (FFC), who issue season and 7-day licences for salmon, sea trout and brown trout. Where these are obligatory the fact is signified in the Fishing Guide by the symbol:


In the Foyle catchment, no rod licence is required when fishing for coarse fish.

Anglers who wish to fish in the FCB area and that of the FFC can obtain a combined licence covering both at a slightly higher charge.

Licence distributors are to be found all over the Province but any angler who experiences difficulty or who wishes to obtain a licence before leaving for Northern Ireland can do so by writing to the FCB at 21, Church Street, Por-tadown, Co Armagh, or, in the case of the FFC to the Commission at 8, Victoria Road, Londonderry.

As part of its research programme, the Department of Agriculture has tagged fish in a number of waters. Anglers catching fish bearing these coloured plastic tags are urged to send them to the Department with a scale from the fish and details as to its length,. weight, date, place and method of capture. The tags should be sent to the Fisheries Laboratory, Department of Agriculture, 38, Castleroe Road, Coleraine, Co Londonderry. All anglers cooperating with this scheme will receive £1 per tag. An exception are tagged salmon on the River Bush. These tags should be sent to the Fishery Office, Bushmills, Co. Antrim.

Finally, it should be added that there are many more waters, especially still waters, in Northern Ireland than are mentioned below: not only are they not controlled but most have never even seen an angler on their banks! The late Cyril Inwood, the great Northampton angler who loved fishing in Northern Ireland more than most, once said: ‘There must be more waters of potential here just waiting for anglers to try them than anywhere in the British Isles’. The answer in such cases is simply to ask for permission. No angler of our experience has ever been refused.

Free fishing

In addition to waters individually listed in the Northern Ireland Fishing Guide sections of this guide, the Department of Agriculture, under its Urban and Rural Improvement Campaign, has developed a large number of free fisheries. These are mostly coarse fisheries and no ticket or permit is required, though anglers of 16 and over be in possession of a Fishery Conservancy Board coarse fishing licence.

These fisheries are privately owned and are only available because agreement has been readily granted not only for fishing but for access. Visitors can recognise these waters by notices posted at them, now a common sight at rivers and lakes all over Northern Ireland. It should be remembered, however, that under the agreement between the Department and the owners, the latter have the right to close access at any time. This is usually done on a temporary basis on the grounds of public or animal health. As these waters are free and do not demand the obtaining of tickets or permits, they are not the subject of indi-vidual Fishing Guide entries. ?