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The Shannon River

The Shannon River is the largest and longest river in Ireland and Great Britain. The source of the river is ascribed to the Shannon Pot in the Cuilcagh Mountains on the Cavan-Fermanagh border. The Pot is 152 m above seawater. The fishing rights of the entire river are vested in the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) whose essential role is to maintain and preserve the Atlantic salmon and European eel.

The Shannon catchment area, including the sub-catchments of the Inny, Suck and Fergus is the largest in Ireland, occupying some 15,000 km or about 17% of the total area of the country. The River Shannon is broad and slow flowing for much of its 344 km (214 miles) from its source to Loop Head where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, discharging 6 cubic kilometres of water each year into the sea. Its tributaries lie in 12 counties, expanding to form some of Irelands largest lakes-Allen, Ree and Derg. In its first 14 km (8.7 miles) to Lough Allan it drops 104 meter and then only about 12 m in the 185 km (115 miles) between Lough Allen and Killaloe. In the final 29 km (18 miles) to Limerick it drops a further 30 m before entering the estuary, which runs a further 83 km (52 miles) to the open Atlantic, which is tidal.

Wildlife of the Shannon Basin

Although the Shannon River wetlands harbour many interesting forms of wildlife such as otter and wild geese, swans, waders and gulls. In winter, the numbers increase with white fronted geese from Greenland and golden plover from Scandinavia. In spring the waters are invaded by local breeding birds, the redshank, snipe, lapwing and blacktailed godwit. Permanent residents include, the coot, moorhen and little grebe or dabchick. Ducks, mallard and tufted duck are the most common. Teal, shovellers and red-breasted mergansers are less common The gray heron is also plentiful. In the reeds are found the abundant bunting. Summer visitors include many species of warbler, the corncrake, swifts, swallows, house martins, and sand martins. Although there is not much love lost between the anglers and the cormorants, the devils black pigeon they have little impact on fish stocks.

The most sought after wildlife however are the game and abundant course fish. The game fish:- salmon and trout can be found, but since the construction of the hydro-electric station at Ardnacrusha in the 1920's only an occasional salmon is caught and a licence is required to fish for Salmon. Char (or charr, Salvellinus alpinus) a 'glacial relict' is a species which occurred in Ireland during the cold condition of the Ice Age can only be found is a few places. The Char is extinct in the Shannon system, and an endangered species, but is being reintroduced and farmed in Lough Corrib. Many other fish live in its waters, which provide some of the best course fishing in Europe. The big waters of Lough Allan have a richness of fish. The shallow narrow Lough Allen canal and Acres Lake have a plentiful supply of roach, small beam and some tench. Lough Derg stocks golden coloured rudd, which are a shy fish. At the confluence of the river Suck and Shannon the deep water is the home for specimen rudd-bream hybrids. The fish found in the Shannon River are outlined below. Pike, perch and bream are important anglers fish in the Shannon and its tributaries. Trout and coarse fish (pike, perch and bream) have been introduced to the river by man. The Normans introduced pike in the 12th century and the most recent arrival, the roach entered the Shannon from the Inny. The river also holds stock of freshwater crayfish and many smaller fish species e.g. minnow, stone loach, sticklebacks, gudgeon and lamprey as well as pollan in Lough Ree and Lough Derg a silvery herring like relative.

Fish of the River Shannon.

Salmon-An 'anadromous fish' one which breads in freshwater but goes to sea to find the greater part of its food and returns to freshwater to breed.
BrownTrout- (Salmon trutta)Large fish found in the lakes rather than the river. Predators of the brown trout include the pike.
Eels- (Anguilla anguilla)Common throughout - the Eels are a migratory species, females measure up to 90 cm: males to about 40 cm. They stay in fresh water for about 20 years, feeding on invertebrates and sometimes-small fish.
Pike- (Esox lucius)Fast growing and long lived fish eater, but also feeds on frogs and water birds.
Perch- (Perca fluviatilis)A handsome fish found in slow moving rivers, lakes and large pools. They congregate in shoals and feed on small fish, insects and shellfish.
Rudd- (Scardinius eerythrophthalmus)Very colourful fish, normally 15-30 cm long, which interbreeds with bream or roach to produce hybrids. They eat beetles, water snails, larvae and plants.
Bream- (Abraamis brama)

Last updated 06:40 on 9 May 2024

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