An Irish Anglers World

Lough Muckno Gets the Green Light.

Lough Muckno, adjacent to Castleblaney, Co. Monaghan is a coarse and pike angling destination steeped in tradition. Concra Wood, Toome Shore, White Island, Black Island, and the Belfast Steps, have witnessed the capture of many specimen fish and been the location of match winning hauls for anglers of both National and International renown. Vast shoals of bream, roach, hybrids, and perch, swim beneath its surface, these in turn act as fodder for pike which grow to enormous size within the lake. It is this winning combination of variety, size, and numbers of species which has historically built the reputation of Lough Muckno as an angling destination, and still does to this day.

Dick Caplice coarse fishing on Concra Wood, Lough Muckno, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.

On Tuesday the 10th March 2009 I was introduced to Dick Caplice, then (Irish Coarse Angling Team Manager), by Carrickmacross based angling guide Peadar O’Brien, to discuss the feasibility of developing Lough Muckno as an International Standard Coarse Angling venue. It became apparent that Dick and I shared a common view as to how coarse fishing should be marketed in this country. Since the highs of the 1970’s and early 1980’s tourist coarse angler numbers, in particular from the United Kingdom, had been diminishing. All sorts of reasons were put forward as to the decline ranging from currency fluctuations to the removal of the English close season, improved water quality to the rise in popularity of carp fishing.

All the above and more could stake a claim for the decline, but when analysed what stood out above all else was the increase in managed coarse fisheries throughout Great Britain. The UK tourist angler had gone soft. At home they could drive to a local fishery, park the car beside or close to their peg or swim, unload their mountain of equipment and fish. No more heart attacks, negotiating Irish fields, hedges, and ditches to get to that popular swim, the boys could just fish away catching large weights of stocked fish at their leisure. Ireland to the modern coarse fisher had become hard work, a drudge. The key to halting the decline was obvious, create access.

Dutch angler Christiaan Kooloos coarse fishing Lough Muckno.

Lough Muckno has been described as the “Killarney of the North East” and the “Jewel in the Crown” of the Cavan/Monaghan Lake District. Muckno circa 2009 was a sleeping giant that given the right development and management plan could be awakened to benefit the local economy both socially and financially. An initiative based on angling could create a momentum that ultimately would have the end result of creating a recreational tourist destination capable of attracting both national and international visitors. It was the above premise that formed the basis of what was to become known as, The Lough Muckno Project.

An ambitious undertaking, creating angling infrastructure with the ultimate aim of hosting, The World Coarse Angling Championships, the idea in principal was backed fully by Josie Mahon and Paddy Green of the Eastern Regional Fisheries Board. More importantly the plan was given the green light locally after a meeting of stakeholders in Castleblaney Enterprise Centre. Arising from that gathering a steering committee was formed headed up by Dick Caplice and I, after which plans were formulated accordingly.

All Ireland match fishing, Lough Muckno, Co. Monaghan.

It was recommended that 350 permanent and numbered Angling Pegs be opened up on a variety of shores to include Concra Wood, Toome Shore, Black Island, Yellow Island, and White Island. The laying down of, and or upgrading of, new and existing tracks with hard core would create access suitable for vehicles. Lay byes would be built at intervals to allow the dropping off of equipment and provide limited parking. Pegs (15’ in width approx) and 12 metres apart would be cut through the existing vegetation and laid with chipped stone. All works and materials used would take account of and be in keeping with the natural environment. On completion a management plan would be put in place with inputs from Monaghan County Council, An Garda Siochana, and various stakeholders, which would be overseen and operated by the local community.

To enable a successful outcome it was important to get all the major stakeholders and landowners onside. A series of successful meetings with Monaghan County Council, the ERFB, Coillte (the state forestry board), and Concra Wood Golf Club met with positive approval for the visionary plan and a willingness not only to cooperate, but to offer manpower, expertise, and in the case of Concra Wood Golf Club, their facilities as a future event headquarters.

By late May 2010 Erich Humphrey’s, Welsh coarse fishing team manager, in his capacity as a C.I.P.S technical inspector ran the rule over Lough Muckno and the proposed plans. His final report put a seal on the vision, The Lough Muckno Project was now about to become a reality. Erich’s final report while making it quite clear that infrastructural improvements needed to take place, recognised the potential of the venue and the surrounding area in terms of accommodation, etc to host a major championships.

A Dutch tourist angler match fishing on Lough Muckno, Co. Monaghan.

Quotes from Erich Humphrey’s C.I.P.S inspection report, 2010 are abundantly clear:

  • This is indeed an impressive and prodigious water, capable of hosting the biggest events when the required infrastructural work is completed.
  • I wish you well in your proposed development and look forward to visiting Lough Muckno as a fishing centre of true international prominence in the future.

Throughout the summer, autumn, and early winter of 2010 the project gathered momentum, an important cog in the wheel now being Dympna Condra, tourism officer with Monaghan County Council. A cost benefit analysis was completed along with an EIS.  The final outcome being a “Letter of Offer” issued on the 17th January 2011, for the overall Castleblaney/South Armagh Rural Regeneration Project under Priority 2, with Lough Muckno being allocated £519,519 sterling as part of this programme.

A brace of hybrids, Lough Muckno, Co. Monaghan, Ireland.

A tender process is due to begin shortly with works expected to commence in June/July 2011 and finish by early spring 2012. In anticipation of completion a number of key events have been penciled in for 2012 to include “The European Police Championships”, The Irish Pole and Feeder Championships Finals respectively, and the “Think Pink Cancer Awareness Irish Charity Event Final”, while the World Feeder Championships have been provisionally scheduled to take place on Muckno in 2013. Recent competitions on the venue have produced staggering catches in particular of roach, with average match weights topping 60.lbs.

While Ireland is going through a rough time economically at present, it is wonderful to report on a success story that started as a vision and has culminated through drive, belief, determination, and community support across all sectors, in the realisation of a project that will raise the bar in terms of coarse angling facilities not just in Ireland, but across the United Kingdom and Europe. By 2012 coarse angling in Ireland will have its Croke Park, and Lough Muckno with the correct marketing will become an International standard venue of renown, benefitting the north east counties of Monaghan, Cavan, Louth, and Armagh. Well done to all involved.

Ashley Hayden © February 2011