Appetite for Catch and Release Is Tempered


Published: October 22, 2011
  • LEENANE, Ireland — After my years of faithfulness (well, almost) to the religion of catch-and-release fishing in the United States and Canada, I found it heretical to be told that the salmon I caught would have to be killed.


Delphi Lodge

The waters at Delphi Lodge in Connemarra, on Ireland’s northwest coast. Delphi, which got into the hatchery business in 1990, releases 50,000 smolts each year; perhaps 1,500 return.

For the first five days, I fished in continual rain at Delphi Lodge in Connemarra, on Ireland’s northwest coast, it seemed a moot point. One tap, perhaps, but no real strikes. Nothing to test my faith.

But then on my last day, in another steady rain, I had a solid hookup on a Willie Gunn, a tube fly tied with yellow, orange and black bucktail. Two leaps and 15 minutes later, a seven-pound spring salmon was netted by Dave Duffy, the ghillie who rowed me around Finlough, the smaller of Delphi’s two lakes on the Bundorragha River.

Once the fish was in the boat, Duffy was excited to see that it was missing the adipose fin. That meant it was a keeper, not because it was deformed, but because Delphi runs a hatchery and clips those fins off before releasing the smolts. And the fish have to be killed to prevent interbreeding with the smaller stock of natural wild salmon. Indeed, when the season ends each fall, the remaining hatchery fish are netted and killed; the wild fish are released to spawn and return to sea.

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