I have been fishing for salmon (and trout, and any other species I can fish for legitimately) for most of my life. I’m not particularly good at it, but most years I get a few salmon on the fly. For the past 15 years or so, I’ve returned all of them.
Salmon fishing in Ireland has changed substantially since I started. When I was a child it was common for friends of salmon anglers to get a present of a wild salmon for the table. Those days are long gone. More Irish salmon rivers are closed than open, and equal numbers are open for catch and release only. Any salmon that are taken must be tagged, sometimes with multiple (brown and blue) tags depending on the district. These conservation measures are sensible and practical, as long as the Fisheries Board have adequate resources to police the rivers and implement the regulations.
This year I have been salmon fishing once. Ireland experienced a lengthy heatwave, like a lot of Western Europe. During June, daytime temperatures peaked at 32C, the point just below where Irish people can spontaneously combust.
The result of the heatwave has been far, far lower water levels in my local salmon river than I have ever experienced. For many salmon rivers, for most of the season, angling effort dropped to near zero. This has significant impact on local economies due to a reduction in tourist revenue, but also exposes the rivers to increased poaching. In addition, the high temperatures and low oxygen levels increase stress on fish in the rivers. It will be some time before we know how that will impact spawning and the next generation of salmon.
In total I’ve spent a lot of time on rivers across the country, and have always appreciated the beauty and the magnificence of wild salmon running the river. With the changes in temperature this year, following on from previously dry summers, I’m genuinely concerned that my children’s children will inherit a world where salmon no longer run in Irish rivers. While there will always be those who deny climate change (even as the world burns), Irish summers certainly appear to be getting hotter and drier, and this is impacting people, agricultural and natural resources (such as water and its inhabitants).