The sea trout, also widely known as ‘white trout’ or ‘Breac Geal’ in Gaelic, can be found in rivers, loughs and estuaries throughout Ireland. Sea trout are, in fact, brown trout that have developed a taste for going to sea because of the increased availability of food. Adult sea trout are hard fighting sporting fish which can be caught by all methods in rivers and in loughs, but give particularly exciting sport to the fly fisher. They range in size from small fish of three quarters of a pound known locally as ‘finnock’, to specimens weighing six pounds and over. They are popular with anglers because of their strong fighting qualities and the fact that they fight tenaciously all the way to the landing net. In most fisheries the first sea trout of the season are the larger individual fish which arrive in April. As the season progresses they are followed by shoals of smaller fish.
In recent years, fishing for sea trout in the sea, particularly in sheltered estuaries has grown in popularity. Larger estuaries such as the Moy in Co. Mayo and the Erne in Co. Donegal can be tackled by boat as well as from various shore locations. As sea trout never move far from the shore, estuaries and rocky outcrops make up the bulk of their feeding areas. If located they will readily take a fly or small spinner.
The current Irish record sea trout stands at 16 lbs. 6 oz. This fish was taken by Thomas Mc Manus in 1983 from the River Shimna in Co. Down. Currently a sea trout over 6 lbs. is classified as a specimen fish and many such fish are recorded annually from Lough Currane.
For conservation purposes there is a National bag limit for sea trout – anglers can catch 3 sea trout in a 24 hour period (in open rivers).
Behaviour and habits
Like salmon, sea trout take regularly when they first enter into freshwater but are less obliging the longer they are in the river or lake system. Nevertheless, they can always be spurred back into action by a rise in water levels. Sea trout can become active at night and the ideal conditions consist of a warm evening with no moonlight and a gentle breeze. Sea trout will take all night under these conditions.
A large number of Irish sea trout are taken during the day on the loughs that dot the Western coast. Sea trout (and salmon) will often hold in specific areas of these loughs. As such, a knowledge of underwater features such as ridges, rocks and sand-bars is essential to locating the fish. Often, the local guide or boatman’s knowledge of the lies and best conditions will be the difference between a blank and a red letter day.
Sea Trout Angling Methods and Tackle
For the angler in Ireland the main methods employed for game fish will be:
- Fly fishing
- Spinning and
- Bait fishing
All angling methods are subject to national and local regulation, which may be subject to change
When fishing for sea trout in rivers regular trout fishing tackle can be used. This consists of a 9ft rod with an AFTM rating of 6 or 7 and a floating line. Casts can consist of three flies but should be stepped down to two or even one when fishing at night. Fishing is usually down and across.
When fishing for sea trout on loughs, the same tackle can be used but many prefer to use a longer rod of up to 11’ with an AFTM rating of 7 or 8. Fishing is most effective from a boat and generally a team of three flies is used with a leader of about 8lb.
Saltwater fly fishing for sea trout has been growing in popularity in the last few years. It has been traditionally practiced on the Erne Estuary and has now spread to other areas. Generally a heavier rod of 9 to 9’6 is used with a line rating of AFTM 8 to 10 as this can facilitate casting into wind. Saltwater fly fishing can be practiced from either bank or boat.
The most effective patterns for sea trout include the following; Claret Bumble, Teal Blue & Silver, Watson’s Fancy, Black Pennell, Bloody Butcher, Bibio, Connemara Black in sizes 10 to 14 in freshwater. Flies for use in saltwater include the Baltic Special, Blue Tandem, Minkies and general baitfish patterns.
Boats enable the angler to gain access to water that may not be fishable from the bank. They also allow the angler to cover a greater area of water than when bank fishing. Boats can be hired at all the main angling centres.
Trolling is a favoured way of fishing the larger waters because so much ground may be covered in the course of a day and this method can be very effective for fishing seatrout, especially on Lough Currane, Co. Kerry. Artificial or natural lures may be used. When fly fishing, drifting broadside down wind is the standard way to fish. There are rules of etiquette to follow when doing this, as well as points of safety, and hiring an angling guide or ghillie is recommended particularly on the larger bigger loughs if the angler is unfamiliar with the water.
Remember when boat fishing;
- Do not cut across another boat’s drift
- If passing, pass port to port
- Do not motor up a drift but drive around
- Keep clear of all other anglers
An echo sounder is a useful aid on the larger loughs. The equipment is used primarily to ascertain depth, and to locate fish and the depth they are feeding at.
Please note the law requires that a suitable Personal Flotation Device must be worn in the following situations:
- By anyone on board an open craft that is under 7 meters in length.
- By anyone on deck on a craft that is under 7 meters length.
- By anyone under the age of 16 on board an open craft or on deck of any other type of craft.
Whilst not a requirement of the Regulations, it is recommended that anyone using a boat alone should wear a PFD at all times regardless of weather conditions or the size of the craft.