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Club history

About Us

About Ballisodare Fishing Club

Historically, the Ballisodare River was never known as a salmon river and records in relation to salmon catches prior to 1850 would indicate that less than 20 salmon were caught in the river system in any year. The simple reason for this was that salmon had to negotiate a waterfall in excess of twenty feet high right at the mouth of the river to reach the lower stretches of the river, and a further set of falls at Collooney barred their passage to the Owenmore River.


The fishing rights (All Species including Brown Trout) downstream of Collooney were originally owned by Sir Edward Crofton Baronet, but were purchased by Joshua Edward Cooper (Uncle of Edward Joshua Cooper) in May 1806. The Cooper family had extensive land holdings in the Collooney/Ballisodare area and, more importantly, were members of Parliament in London.

On June 30th 1837 the London Parliament passed an Act to enable Edward Joshua Cooper and his successors “to establish and protect a salmon fishery upon the lakes and rivers of Owenmore and Arrow and also within the bay of Ballisodare in the County of Sligo in Ireland”.

The Act known as the “Cooper Act” allowed for the construction of salmon ladders and the purchase of any other existing fishing rights and it gave the sole and exclusive fishing rights to the Cooper family and their successors for salmon and all sea going fish, including eels and sea trout for the entire system. The Crofton Cooper transaction of May 1806 is referred to in the Cooper Act which means that Ballisodare Fishery still retains the sole rights of all species (Including Brown Trout) downstream of Collooney.

The salmon ladder at the Ballisodare falls was completed in 1852 and was the first of its type in Europe. This allowed salmon to access the upper reaches of the system on the Lough Arrow side. The numbers of salmon caught started to rise as salmon began to spawn in the streams and returning numbers steadily increased.

In 1854 just 179 salmon were caught but by 1859 that number had risen to 2,000 and by 1863 the numbers caught had risen to 6,000 salmon.

Two significant additions were made to the system which further increased the returning numbers and which helped to develop the fishery into a significant commercial business.

A second salmon ladder was constructed at the Collooney falls including a resting pool and this allowed salmon to access the Owenmore system right up to the spawning beds in the Ox Mountains beyond Coolaney. The streams in this area where the Owenbeg rises are located within a few hundred meters of similar streams that are the feeder streams for the River Moy, another prolific salmon river. Initial brood stock was taken from the River Moy and Lough Gill.

The second significant addition was the construction of a salmon hatchery in 1883 and brood salmon were brought from the Tay in Scotland, the Edne in Norway and the Rhine in Germany. The hatchlings were brought to spawning beds at the extremity of the system in an attempt to further increase the returning shoals of salmon through the spring and summer. It has been claimed that the most successful brood stock were those taken from the Rhine.

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By the end of the 19th Century annual catches in excess of 10,000 fish were the norm making the fishery a considerable commercial success. Ice from the North Atlantic was brought to Sligo and packed into caves or “ice houses” in the Ballisodare area. As the season progressed between May and September each year, peaking in June/July, salmon were netted on the tide. The salmon were then packed into long timber boxes with rope handles, three fish per box, lying on a bed of ice and topped with more ice before being closed. The boxes of fish were brought to the train station and transported to Dublin, and from there by ship to England arriving at the London fish market within 24 hours of being caught.

This successful business continued well into the twentieth century. The Fishery went into decline from the 1950’s due to a variety of reasons and was eventually sold to Ballisodare Fishing Club, the current owners, in the mid 1990’s.

Catches are mainly taken in the Ballisodare area, on safe beats both above and below “The Falls” at the river mouth. This high-quality sport fishing is enjoyed by fishermen from all over the world. Plans are currently in place to enhance the fly fishing facilities further upriver. The area between Cooloney and Ballisodare Bridge provides excellent fly fishing pools, and this is the area in particular that has been earmarked for development/enhancement.

Working with Inland Fisheries Ireland, an electronic counter has been installed in the ladders at the lower falls and gives an accurate count of all fish that migrate into the system. As a result of the development work on spawning beds, the period from 2003 to 2013 enjoyed a significant increase in salmon numbers returning to the Ballisodare system. Unfortunately, the average over the past 10 years has been on the decline. However, the current board of directors and staff are committed to major reinstatement of spawning areas and are determined to increase the numbers of salmon returning again into the future

Water quality is hugely important for salmon eggs, salmon parr and smolts to thrive and eventually migrate to sea. Water quality in the Ballisodare system has deteriorated somewhat over the past 20 years, but it is still of reasonable quality. Ballisodare Fishery has engaged in a collaborative relationship with Sligo County Council, Sligo Bay Rivers Trust, Atlantic Technical University, LAWPRO and other interested parties in order to improve water quality in the future. Electronic water quality sensors are currently installed in the system, providing a constant data feed on water quality. Plans are underway to install further sensors in conjunction with Atlantic Technical University. Areas of concern will be identified, and measures will be put in place with the relevant parties to alleviate sources of pollution.

Our Collaborators

Atlantic Technological University Logo
Sligo County Council Logo
Inland Fisheries Ireland Logo
Local Authority Waters Programme Logo
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