If Emy Lough Could Talk

If Emy Lough in Emyvale County Monaghan could talk, many a historical story it would tell. One of these stories, below, is about Leo Mc Mahon and his family on the era of trout fishing on Emy Lough. As a young boy, in the late 1950’s, Leo Mc Mahon remembers the then Inlands Fishery Trust arriving at his family’s farmyard on the shores of Emy Lough. In 1957, the Inlands Fishery Trust had successfully negotiated a 99-lease agreement to take over the ownership of water rights from the Glaslough estate Leslie Family. The lease included an understanding that the lake would be developed as a Wild Brown Trout game angling facility. There was also written consent to the above agreement from all landowners who had lands on the lake perimeter. It was also envisaged and agreed with the help of the Inlands Fishery Trust, the local angling club and local voluntary anglers that all existing predatory fish stocks i.e. Pike, Perch and Eel would be removed and the lake to become a home only for Wild Brown Trout. All this came about because of great work by Monaghan Town Council officials. The council highlighted Emy from a tourism perspective – a fantastic game trout angling facility for the county – (like Lough Sheelin is for Co. Cavan). The county had already and continues to have an abundant number of coarse fishing lakes. It was recognised at the time that the Bragan Mountain stream, water feed to the lake via Emyvale village would be the natural source / supply of wild brown trout. Looking back, Leo says that one important point he feels is that the Inlands Fishery Board should of also took control of the mountain water stream as the lake and the river are interlinked. Over the years that followed, with a lot of hard work by the Fisheries Board, Monaghan County Council, the local Emy and District Angling club volunteers, and Leo’s late father who was Emy Lough’s water bailiff Pat Owen, the lake became very popular and indeed was recognised as one of the best for game fishing in Ireland both North and South. The government at the time were keen in developing game angling as a tourist attraction and encouraging cross border links and Northern Ireland anglers have been very good supporters of the lake and still come in large numbers to fish this wonderful waterbody.
The lake fished fantastically for decades but in the early to late 1980’s into the 90’s river dredging and clearance works on the mountain water stream removed all the natural gravel trout spawning beds and the wild brown trout population severely decreased. Pollution, over enrichment and siltation has also been a big problem for the lake and it’s wildlife; and predator population in the lake has increased and according to a netting survey undertaken by the Inlands Fishery Ireland in 2014 Pike and Perch populations are now the main fish species in the lake with Roach and stocked Trout the next species. The river has also never recovered, and a lot of work needs to be completed to bring the wild brown trout population back. In recent years, the lake has now become a mixed fishery and the local angling club must stock the lake in March, April, and May with thousands of farmed reared rainbow trout. Trout fishing is by fly only and fishing is permitted from March 1 to September 31 and from 1st October to end of February; Pike fishing by boat only is allowed. Gone are the days of the Emy’s famous Wild Brown Trout – a lost heritage one might say but as the saying goes – Time will tell ; hopefully this gem of a trout lake will rebound and in future years Emy Lough with its feeding mountain stream will once again become the jewel of game angling for county Monaghan and beyond.