Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A triumphant Peter McHugh holds aloft the first catch of the 2020 salmon season in Ballina

by Paul O’Malley

News that the first salmon of the season had finally been caught on the Moy in Ballina was greeted by local anglers with a mix of joy and relief.

The fishing season opened on February 1 and usually a fish is reeled in by the second or third week of February but this year proved very different, indeed, as weather conditions conspired to create the longest barren period ever for anglers in Ballina.

The lucky fisherman who caught the elusive first salmon of the 2020 season, Peter McHugh of the Ballina Salmon Anglers Association, explained that the poor weather in the first few months of the year made the job a little more difficult for the Ballina anglers.

“Everybody in the club has been trying since the season opened. The Moy has been fished fairly well and it took until the end of April to catch the first fish.”

“The river was in flood in February and for most of March, at that stage it was unfishable.”

The salmon, which weighed 11 pounds, was caught at 7.30 last Thursday morning. It is the first to be caught since the close of the last season on September 30, 2020, meaning a full seven months passed by without a single salmon being officially caught on the Moy. It must surely be the longest barren spell in the history of the famed river.

Ballina has a rich association with angling as the Salmon Capital of Ireland and when the fish failed to show face, it baffled local fishermen.

Peter said he was proud of finally landing the fish, a mutual feeling among Ballina fishermen.

“Normally you’d have the first caught by the second or third week of February, so we’ve been waiting a long time. There was a measure of relief all around. It got to the stage where nobody cared who got it as long as the first one was caught.”

The old saying goes ‘give a man a fish and you feed him for a day’ and with his freshly caught salmon, Peter fed the whole neighbourhood.

“It went down a treat! It went to eight houses, it was cut and shared around with friends,” said Peter.

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