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Trout Species of Ireland

Trout Species of Ireland

Ireland Trout Species

Ireland Is home to three species of trout, one salmon and one char species. Brown Trout are the most common of these species and can be found in every corner of the country in both fresh waters and salt water estuaries. Atlantic Salmon are the next most abundant species and are found in many estuaries as they travel to and from the rivers to reproduce. The final three are the Sonaghan Trout, Gillaroo Trout, and Arctic Char. They occupy a much smaller area, the epicenter of which is Lough Melvin along the North Ireland and Ireland border along the western coast.

Fishing Lough Melvin

Trout Fishing Lough Melvin

Dawn on Lough Melvin

Ireland Grey Drake Mayfly

Lough Melvin is the centerpiece of the fly fishing in Ireland. It is the only location in the country where anglers can find all five salmonid species in the country. The lake is a geologic scar left from the retreat of glaciers millennia ago. It was during these glacial recessions that brown trout colonized the lake and the River Drowes. The unique Sonaghan and Gillaroo Trout diverged from the local population of brown trout as the began to occupy different niches within the lake. 

Lough Melvin is home to many significant fly hatches which can even bring the deepest dwelling trout of the lake to the surface to take advantage of the feeding frenzy. The most important being the Grey Drakes which can be accompanied by caenis mayflies, pale evening duns, and a handful of caddis species. Hatches can occur throughout the day, especially under the standard overcast skies Ireland is known for. 

The lake is also home to the Ferox Trout. This trout's classification is under much more dispute as the Ferox may be a subspecies of brown trout or simply a local colloquialism used for the large brown trout which roam the depths of the lake. Either way, these trout are impressive in size  and a worthy challenge for any angler. Late April through early June can find the Ferox trout utilizing the shallower water of the lake as the take advantage of the frequent hatches.

Jackie Mahon Fly Fishing Ireland

Ferox Trout of Ireland

Jackie Mahon is a long time fly fishing guide on Lough Melvin and a handful of other lakes in Western Ireland. He is a master of stillwater fly fishing and taught me a tremendous amount about the many tactics and methods during my short visit for in search of the Sonaghan Trout.

Sonaghan Trout

Sonaghan Trout of Ireland

Sonaghan Trout of Ireland

The Sonaghan Trout is the pelagic roamer of Lough Melvin. It feeds on roaming pods of daphnia, a small, zooplanktonous crustacean that drifts the middle water column of the lake feeding on phytoplankton. The Sonaghan will follow these clouds of daphnia in times of low insect activity. When hatches begin, they will shift their diet to emerging and expiring mayflies, caddisflies, and midges. Like many other of the brown trout relatives, the Sonaghan prefers low light conditions. High sun will push these fish into the depths of the lake.

Gillaroo Trout

The Gillaroo Trout roams the shallows of Lough Melvin and a half dozen other lakes nearby. The Gillaroo is typically a benthivore (bottom feeder) that roams the shorelines and island shoals of the lake in search of mollusks, small crustaceans, and insect nymphs. Like the Ferox and Sonaghan, the Gillaroo can not resist the easy meals that come with a mayfly or caddis hatch. Toward the western outlet of the lake, the gillaroo can move into the Drowes River where its feeding habits resemble the resident brown trout of the river. Smaller Gillaroo use this outlet to grow faster with less worry of predation.  Daily evening hatches se these trout move to the surface as the sun begins to fade over the hills.

Gillaroo Trout of Ireland

Gillaroo Trout of Lough Melvin

Brown Trout of Ireland

Brown Trout can be found in nearly every lake and river of Ireland. In Lough Melvin they can be found patrolling the shallows and hidden in the depths of the lake. In the outlet and the River Drowes the behave just like any other Brown Trout. Towards the small tidal effected creeks of coastal Ireland they can move back and forth from the salt in order to take advantage of food resources. 

Drowes River Brown Trout

Brown Trout of The Drowes River

Atlantic Salmon in Ireland

Atlantic Salmon make runs in a handful of rivers throughout the country. Their runs lead them through the rivers and loughs that lead them to their annual spawning grounds. These salmon look for rains to raise the levels of the rivers before they enter. When they leave the salt water estuaries for the river they tend to move fast. As the high tides move in these salmon will stage at the mouths. Once raised to a sufficient level, they will travel several miles upstream before staging in slower pools. On the Drowes and Lough Melvin, salmon will stage for several days or weeks before moving into the small streams where they were born. 

In the coastal estuaries juvenile salmon will feed on whatever food source is most abundant. During high tides they will cruise the shallows in small groups looking for a meal. Mature salmon will run just about every month of the year in Ireland with Spring and Fall being the peak seasons. 

Atlantic Salmon of Ireland

Juvenile Atlantic Salmon of Ireland

Drowes River Estuary

Drowes River Estuary

Arctic Char of Ireland

Several subspecies of Arctic Char are known to inhabit a dozen or so lakes of Ireland. These char dwell in the deep dark depths of the lake, only moving shallow to spawn in the late fall and early winter. Due to the closing of the fishing season and the depths they take refuge to during the vast majority of the year, angling for them is not feasible. They are however a valuable food source for the Ferox trout and other brown trout of the lake who are willing to dive down to retrieve them.

Arctic Char of Ireland

Arctic Char of Ireland

Learn more about the trout species of the planet in our articles on Trout, Salmon, and Char of the World, and Trout of North America. Our detailed articles on What Do Trout Eat, Fly Fishing a Hatch, and Fly Fishing Streamers will give you a great idea on how to target each of these species.

Drowes River Ireland
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