Spring Salmon Fishing
Pre the 1970s the Slaney was one of Ireland’s great spring salmon fisheries. In addition to the rod fishery, the river also supported an extensive commercial draft net fishery in the estuary with up to 75 draft nets licensed to operate. In the post war period salmon catches peaked at 3,000 rod caught and 6,500 draft net fish in 1966. It is reasonable to assume that these figures under-reported the actual catches. In line with the common practice of the time virtually all rod caught salmon were killed and many were sold on the commercial market. The photo below shows legendary ghillie and angler Tom Foxton with 10 fish caught on the 4th of March 1955 – all of them destined for the fish market.
In 1966 there was a huge run of salmon on the Slaney but disaster hit with the outbreak of UDN resulting in very large numbers of fish dying covered in the white fungus often associated with that disease. The impact of UDN, the creation of a major high seas commercial fishery off Greenland following the discovery of the Irish spring salmons’ feeding grounds there, environmental change and local over exploitation of the stock all contributed to a disastrous decline in the number of salmon running the river culminating in the closure of both the rod and commercial fisheries in 2007.
The salmon and seatrout rod fishery was re-opened in 2008 on a catch and release basis with a reported catch of only 175 salmon despite what appeared to be good spawning performance in that year. In 2009 and 2010 the salmon rod fishery was again closed reopening on a catch and release basis in 2011. The salmon rod fishery was closed for a third time in 2017 ironically coinciding with the best run in many years and widespread poaching.
You can see a Channel 4 / Dick Warner 1980s video of fishing on the river below. This was made in the days spinning was still allowed. Salmon fishing above Enniscorthy Bridge is now strictly fly only. You can get a feeling for how the draft nets worked from this 1992 video of netting at Marys Point, by that stage even the nets we not doing well.
The 2020 seeason was adversely impacted by the first Covid 19 lockdown but the general impression was that there was a reasonable stock of salmon in the river and this was supported by the level of spawning activity on the redds.
Subject to the overriding impact of the current Covid 19 regulations, the river is currently open on a catch and release basis for a restricted season starting on 1 April 2021 and closing on 30 August 2021.
Grilse and Sea Trout Fishing
Traditionally the Slaney was primarily viewed as a spring salmon fishery with the bulk of angling activity taking place between the 26th of February and mid May. There was a seperate focus on the run of seatrout from late June to mid July.
Perhaps because most were caught by the draft nets in periods of low water, there was little attention paid to the grilse run which, with the nets now off due to catch and release regulations, can produce exciting fishing when the water is right.
Good fishing for small wild brown trout is also available on the river particularly above to Baltinglass. There are occasional trout up to a pound. Dry fly, wet fly and nymphing can all prove successful.