This is one of the largest salmon ever caught on the River Shannon, or indeed Ireland. It was caught by Fred Milburn at Doonass in 1903 and weighed 54Lbs. It also appears to be a hen fish, which may mean that it was the largest female salmon ever caught in these islands.
The photo and details were taken from Fred Buller’s book ‘Domesday Book of Giant Salmon Volume II‘. The picture had been reproduced from the Fishing Gazette of the 14th November 1903. The picture also appeared in the Daily Mail of 4th September 1904. Fred Buller says that “if it were in my power to award a prize for a photograph of the most beautifully proportioned salmon that I have ever seen I would chose Fred Milburn’s fish, because this salmon is near perfect“.
We may not see the 50 pounders again, but we can certainly do better than just meeting 2-3% of the conservation escapement target for the river!
There are still great salmon being caught on European Rivers – even those like those like the Ljungan in Sweden which has several dams and hydro schemes. However, we only have these old photos to remind us of what the Shannon once was. The Shannon was some river. In 1923 the Reverend Joseph Adams (from Fred Buller) wrote of the river at Doonass – “it’s a miniature Niagra from World’s End to Landsacpe. Above the falls and below them the Shannon is raging mad, racing, leaping, seething, foaming like a thing possessed“.
The waters of the Shannon are still there and the Lower Shannon can be managed sustainably. It is time to restore it again to be a centre point of our remaining cultural, aesthetic and natural heritage. Indeed it could be restored to much of its former glory with some modern and progressive management. The key things that are missing on the Lower Shannon at the moment are (a) lack of water and (b) adequate fish passage facilities. As we approach the centenary of the Shannon scheme it is time to start addressing these issues.
The River Shannon belongs to all of us, and it is vital to the economy of the Irish Midlands, our natural heritage and our history. ESB / Electric Ireland has made plenty of profits from the Shannon dams, and now they have a responsibility to repair the damage they have caused. We may not see the 50 pounders again, but we can certainly do better than just meeting a few percent of the conservation escapement target for the river! Less than 1,000 salmon now pass though Killaloe annually, on a river where there should be 45,000 passing upstream each year – the minimum needed to open the river again for angling! There are now more salmon passing upstream though Paris on the Industrialised River Seine – several hundreds of km inland and also above a hydro dam – than though Killaloe the River Shannon. This gives a blunt insight into the failure of the ESB/Electric Ireland’s fisheries management programmes on the River Shannon.
Does anyone have any photos of other large salmon caught on the River Shannon?