The 2013 Waterways Ireland Classic Fishing Festival kicked off today on the shores of Lough Erne, with a very respectable entry of 216 anglers casting their lines in the hope of landing a good catch and possibly a share of the £20,000 plus prize fund.

Following another cold winter, the Festival organisers are hoping that the recent slight increase in temperatures will encourage the fish to feed, so that catches will match up to last year’s results.

The leader board at the end of day one is made up mainly of seasoned Waterways Ireland Classic regulars.  Today’s top weight of 14kg 500g was caught on the Ely Lodge section by Manchester angler Steve Priestley, who also netted £500 for his efforts.  Second was the lone Fermanagh representative in the top four, Lisbellaw angler Gareth Williams with 10kg 450g from peg 11 on Lough MacNean.  Following closely in third place was Mick Vials from Rotherham who landed 10kg 250g, also from Lough MacNean.  Completing the top four was yet another Classic regular, Mike Taylor from York, with 10kg from the newly introduced Crom Boathouse section.

Unusually, few local anglers have made it into the higher placings.  Apart from Gareth Williams, the only other leading local is Enniskillen angler and tackle shop owner David Burleigh, who occupies tenth place.  However, previous Classic winner John Potters from Lisbellaw is not far off the lead with a first day total of 7kg 410g.

The action continues on Tuesday with the first day of the King of the Erne event and the next Classic fishing day is on Wednesday.  The organisers are hoping that the weather will warm up and that catches will improve as the week progresses.  All the anglers will line up again at the draw box on Wednesday morning, hoping to reel in the top prize of £5,000 and the Crystal Chalice, Diawa fishing tackle, or some of the many other cash prizes and trophies on offer.

The Classic is sponsored for the eleventh year by Waterways Ireland and is organised by Fermanagh District Council, in conjunction with the Inland Fisheries Division of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.

For further information contact Katrina McGirr, Waterways Ireland on +353 (0) 71 95 50560 or Eddie McGovern, Fermanagh District Council on +44 (0) 28 6632 5050