The illegal introduction of pike into lakes near Oughterard, an act of “environmental vandalism”, is threatening the survival of wild salmon and trout stocks in Lough Corrib, according to the Western Regional Fisheries Board.
The board is now investigating the “deliberate introduction” of pike into several lakes on the Owenriff river system, near Oughterard, Co Galway.
Several anglers contacted the WRFB after they discovered pike in Loughs Boffin and Agraffard which are both acidic lakes and never had a pike population before. Following the board’s own investigations, a significant number of juvenile pike were found, indicating that not only had pike been introduced but they had already successfully spawned. These lakes are a significant distance upstream from Lough Corrib but the system was protected from pike by a large impassable waterfall.
The Owenriff river system is also a special area of conservation, and is one of the most important spawning and nursery catchments for trout and salmon in the Corrib system.
The wild brown trout hatched in the streams above the lake and grow for up to two years in the lakes and streams before descending to Lough Corrib to join the existing trout stocks. Unfortunately these lakes now have significant and rapidly expanding pike populations which have only juvenile trout on which to feed.
Pike are a predatory species, which can have a major impact on stocks of trout and salmon, formerly the dominant species in these lakes.
According to a WRFB statement “the illegal introduction of pike into these lakes is nothing short of environmental vandalism and will seriously impact on the ability of these lakes to produce large numbers of wild salmon and trout for Lough Corrib.”
Condemning the pike introduction the WRFB has described “any such stocking to be highly irresponsible, as well as illegal”.
Yesterday, the board warned that anyone caught transporting live fish and introducing fish to lakes is liable to prosecution, however, those responsible for this latest incident have not yet been identified.
Anglers have been advised that the movement of fish from one water body to another is both illegal and highly dangerous.
The board further explained that this Corrib catchment area, which is one of the better spawning rivers, has been “compromised by the reckless activities of a minority”.
The board now face significant costs in its efforts to restore these lakes to their original status as required under the EU Water Framework Directive.
Staff have begun to use gill netting and electro-fishing to stun and remove the pike.
The stock of fish in the lakes will be assessed over the coming months.