Fishy Tales from the Emerald Isle –

Twaite Shad

They are a lovely looking fish indeed

Twaite Shad

Inland Fisheries Ireland have been working on a project to survey Twaite Shad, a rare and localised species that run a handful of rivers in Ireland and the UK. They are a sea species, related to the herring family that spawn in freshwater in May-June. Survey netting of this protected species has had limited success, and it was suggested that perhaps an angling approach would be worth trying. Using an angler’s knowledge and skills, with selective capture of individual fish, would offer a relaxed method of study, allowing the fish to be handled carefully and returned alive. Especially important as Shad are listed on the European Union’s Habitat Directive.


I have a fair amount of experience with this interesting species, having caught several hundred on rod and line over the years, and was lucky enough to be asked, along with my angling mate, Mark Corps to participate in this worthy study.


Twaite Shad run in large numbers on the River Barrow, and gather at the weir of St.Mullins to spawn. This is well documented, but the I.F.I’s interests lie with other rivers that aren’t so well documented, and in particular, the Cork Blackwater and the River Suir. Both are well known and celebrated salmon waters, and to some respect, the Shad are somewhat over-looked, usually turning up in commercial salmon nets.


It was our mission to locate and capture Shad from these two rivers, where they could be expertly weighed, measured, sexed and have scale and fin samples removed for DNA analysis, before returned to the river.


Our first port of call was at the town of Cappoquin on the Blackwater. Initial efforts produced nothing, but after a little homework, we were soon on the right tracks, and it wasn’t long before a River Blackwater Twaite Shad was safely in the landing net. Jimmy King and Nicola O’Gorman were our science officers over-seeing the project and were delighted to see their first sample donors. Between Mark and myself, we landed thirty Shad, the perfect number for a scientific survey apparently, with all fish swimming away live and well, hopefully none-the-worse for the experience. I managed to land one over the magical 1.1 kilo specimen barrier, the first documented specimen from this river it seems.


Ariel Acrobatics – they must be related to the Tarpon! (they are)


My fist Blackwater Shad


They never give up!


With this success, we moved to the River Suir at the village of Carrick-on-Suir. As with Cappoquin, the river here is tidal. A morning’s angling proved fruitless, but a move upstream above the town’s weir produced our first shad from the Suir, and we proceeded to land ten in total. Another success and our science team were absolutely delighted. A specimen fish to my buddy Mark on this occasion, again, another first!


Scientic Officer Nicola O’Gorman nets Mark’s fish for him…..


Specimen Shad from the River Suir



My fisrt River Suir Shad


So what will this project achieve? Amongst many achievements, it will discover through DNA and genetic study, the relationship of Irish fish to those that run the UK, European and indeed, other Irish rivers, but also, and possibly of greater importance, we now have scientific evidence that Shad exist in the Blackwater and the Suir river systems.




This will mean an up-grade in the status of protection on these waters, particularly during the May-June period that Shad run to spawn. Any added protection to our delicate and fragile water systems, in my opinion, must surely be a positive thing.


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