The Lough Ree International Pike Festival and World Cup which is now in its sixth year has developed into the largest pike festival of its type in Ireland and one of the largest, if not the largest, in Europe. The festival was set up six years ago by Failte Ireland to encourage tourism to the midlands area and Athlone in particular and they ran it for a four year tenure. Once their involvement came to an end the local angling clubs stepped in and along with generous sponsorship from Westmeath Count Council that have not only kept the competition going but have developed  it so much that it was completely booked out last February with many boats having their entry to the festival declined as the maximum allowable entry of eighty boats had been reached.

113cm pike
Raimund Petscharnig proudly displays the 113cm pike with with he and his friends Christian Nerat and wolfgang Geisler won the competition for the single longest pike in the Lough Ree International Pike Festival and World Cup.

The festival is unusual in that prizes are awarded based on the length of the fish and not the weight and each boat at the start of the competition is given a measuring board on which they must photograph the fish and the fish is then released unharmed back into the lake. The camera memory cards are handed in at the end of each day and the judges, who are inspectors from Inland Fisheries Ireland, use these photographs to decide the winners.

The festival attracted anglers from all over Europe with anglers travelling from Austria, Germany, England, Scotland as well as the USA to take part along with anglers from Northern Ireland and counties from all around Ireland. It takes place each year in mid April and is run over three days with over €5000 in daily prizes to be won on each of those days and on the final night two extra prizes of €1000 each are awarded to the single longest pike caught and for the World Cup which is worked out by adding the longest fish caught in the boat each day to achieve the greatest overall length.

The boats launch each morning from Coosan Point and it is a sight to behold to see that many boats heading off in search of long pike. The competition on day one was very close with three boats tying for the lead when they each caught pike of 102cm each of which would weigh just over twenty pounds. The presentations take place each evening in a different venue and on each night they were packed to the rafters. This year the venues were the Coosan Tavern, The Bounty Bar and the Shamrock Lodge Hotel and the organisers change the venues every couple of years in order to spread the business around. The craic and the banter each night is fantastic and a lot of very good friends have been made over the years with many anglers returning each year to take part most notably, Joerns Heidthe, who has travelled each year from Germany since the festivals inception and always brings a group of friends with him.

The second days fishing was perhaps not as good as day one but despite this it was local men Robbie and Michael McCormack who topped the leader board with a fabulous pike of 107cm and was in fact the only pike caught over 100cm that day but they now held the outright lead in the competition for the single longest pike. Day three dawned and a lot of tired anglers turned up on the shoreline after two days hard fishing but still determined not to give up just yet and it was to prove to be and amazing days fishing. In fact it was to be a record setting day as all the fish in the prizes, of which there are ten each day, were a 100cm and longer which is the first time this has happened in the competitions history!

The winning pike which was a massive 113cm was caught by the Austrian trio of Christian Nerat, Raimund Petscharnig and Wolfgang Geisler who had taken a week’s holidays to travel to Ireland especially for the festival. The left it late in the day to make their catch as there was just one hour and five minutes to go in the competition when the delighted trio hooked into their monster pike which earned for them €1000 as the top pike on the day and another €1000 as the top pike of the festival and they received a rapturous ovation from the assembled anglers that night in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel as they were presented with their prize.

Lough Ree International Pike festival and World Cup – Wednesday 15th April 2015
Jnt 1st – John Corcoran and Alana Corcoran – 102cm – €833
Joe McDermott and Jason McDermott – 102cm -€833
Thomas Killion and Thomas Killion Jnr – 102cm – €833
4th – Alan Pickford and Christy Pickford – 100cm – €600
5th – Peter Farrell and Paddy Farrell – 99.75cm – €500

Lough Ree International Pike festival and World Cup – Thursday 16th April 2015
1st – Robbie McCormick and Micheal McCormick – 107cm €1000
2nd – Frank Heidthe and Johnny Fitzmaurice – 99.5cm €800
3rd – Martin Campbell, Paul Holdroyd and Kevin Gannon – 97.5cm €700
Jnt 4th – Michael Flanagan and JJ Flanagan – 97cm – €550
Jnt 4th – Stephen Gibbons and Willie O’Brien – 97cm – €550

Compliments of Athlone Angling Association

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