Brian Byrne (Fishery Bailiff) Kieran Murdock (Fishery Bailiff) and Mark Handsley ( with illegal nets found at Drumlona on the Dromore River system near Rockcorry.

Poaching rife on Cavan and Monaghan lakes

As rogue anglers continue to damage Cavan and Monaghan fish stocks, by netting scores of fish illegally, holding barbecues on lake shores and even cooking live fish, responsible fishing enthusiasts have formed a new organisation to stamp it out. It was revealed at last Thursday's meeting of the 'Lake Watch' group in Shercock's Sail Inn last Thursday that there are a number of organised poachers operating in Cavan and Monaghan presently. A bailiff from Monaghan, Brian Byrne, said he hoped that Lake Watch would play an active role, in conjunction with the Gardaí and Fisheries Board, in clamping down on these activities. He outlined some of the criminal and anti-social activities. He identified lakes being poached, including Gowna, Killeshandra, Belturbet, Ballybay, Rockcorry/Cootehill and Carrickmacross areas. Eastern European and Irish poachers are involved in the practice. Some are even camping on lake shores and dumping rubbish, which is causing consternation among farmers, particularly those who are in REPS. Irresponsible Irish and Eastern European anglers were accused by Mr Byrne of dumping rubbish. There was much consternation among Lake Watch members at Irish anglers littering. It was also revealed that whenever extra bins are placed at lakes, people arrive from neighbouring towns to dump their household refuge. The meeting was informed that anglers arrived down from Dublin with bags of coal and lit fires on a lake shore in the Carrickmacross area. Eleven fires were lit in two weeks. The idea of utilising small hidden cameras at various locations is to be explored by the group. They are also calling for vans to be seized, if it can be proved they were used in the commission of an offence.The joint chairman of the meeting, David Warrington told The Anglo-Celt that Lake Watch was an initiative driven by anglers, and that it is already gaining momentum in other counties. "It [poaching] is causing a loss of revenue due to the fact that law abiding anglers are not returning in the same numbers," he noted of the illegal behaviour. Some of the poachers travel to between a dozen and 20 lakes in one operation, laying out set lines, long lines and nets. They do a circuit of lakes and always vary the circuits. They have been spotted loading bream and tench into plastic bags, which are quickly transferred to vans, usually in lake car parks. They don't spend more than 15 to 20 minutes at a lake and the long lines can carry hundreds of hooks. At the meeting a Lake Watch co-ordinator was appointed for each county, Sean Markey from Cootehill for County Cavan, and Brian Byrne for County Monaghan. The meeting was jointly chaired by John Chambers, chairman of the Irish Federation of Pike Angling Clubs and David Warrington. The co-ordinators have volunteered to be available 24-seven, and their names will be included in the information displayed on posters and fliers and vehicle stickers. A list of volunteers willing to go out on patrols was also formulated at the end of the meeting and passed onto the co-ordinators. A comprehensive list of the water keepers (bailiffs) is also to be prepared and applications are in train to have new ones appointed. Fliers will be prepared for distribution to farmers and landowners requesting them to call their county co-ordinator, should they see any netting or poaching on lakes on their lands. Other fliers listing all fisheries offences and the relevant act or bylaws are to be printed and distributed at public locations, including garda stations. John Chambers said they will seek a meeting with the Garda Superintendents to outline their intentions. It was also agreed at the meeting that they will strive to lift the restrictions on water bailiffs only being able to carry out their duties on the waters named in their warrants. "We are working on getting all Ireland warrants," said Mr Chambers. "If you are qualified to work as a bailiff (water keeper) on one lake, you should be able to carry it out on all lakes you may encounter." Currently the name and address of the Bailiff has to appear on the warrant card and Mr Chambers believes this has the potential to cause trouble in the future. "That is a major problem, because if you are dealing with major cowboys, and they insist on seeing your warrant, they can make a note of your name and address. I'm not saying there has been intimidation of water keepers in this area up to now, but it could happen". He says it has happened in other areas and notes that gardaí would never give out their home address. Lake Watch is working with Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) to have this matter resolved and they may also aim to have authority for acting against littering, added to the warrants of bailiffs. Mr Chambers revealed that Fisheries Board officers and protection staff have retired in recent times and have not been replaced due to the embargo, causing staffing problems. This shortfall is affording more opportunities for poachers to surface and do "their dirty work". "We the anglers have to step up to the mark, play our part in the new Lake Watch organisation and fill this void." The contact number for the co-ordinators are, - Sean Markey (087)3667198 and Brian Byrne (087)3695401.