Urgently needed dredging of Newry canal could help cast the tourism net on fishing for the benefit of the city’s economy.
That is according to council chairperson Michael Savage (SDLP) who has lauded the “excellent water quality” of the city’s historic waterway as a major boost for the angling sport.
The Northern Ireland VDE Baggers Angling Club recently cleaned up part of the water’s edge to demonstrate the need for dredging to the city council.
Club spokesperson Glenn Rooney has voiced his frustration at Newry, Mourne and Down District Council which, he claims, has left the canal dredging boat virtually abandoned.
“I have been sending the council emails and phoning them for months to dredge the canal, but they have yet to take any action,” said Mr Rooney.
“Newry canal once attracted thousands to the local area for fishing competitions with tourists booking hotels from right across the district.
“We are a cross denominational group of fishing enthusiasts from all over Northern Ireland and we all recognise that the canal is one of the best resources in Ireland.
“Unfortunately, the council has let the canal become a quagmire of weeds and waste.
“Its dredging boat is currently left on the banks of the canal for months not being used when it could be cleaning the waters and bring anglers and tourism into Newry.
“We can only clean up the edge of the waterway ourselves.
“What we really need is for the council to get the boat out to deeper waters to dredge it and we could soon have a fantastic resource to bring back the great sport of angling to Newry,” he added.
Councillor Savage is now due to meet with council officials to bring forward proposals which could potentially attract hundreds of angling competitors to the area.
He said: “Back in the 1980s the Newry Canal hosted the World Coarse Fishing Championships, but local anglers have informed me that in recent years it has become a struggle to get the fishing stands maintained and the weeds cleared from the canal.
“I have requested a meeting with officers in the relevant council department to discuss the maintenance of the fishing stands, clearance of the weeds and general maintenance of the canal along the fishing stands to enhance our provision for anglers.
“I believe that coarse fishing has the potential to boost our tourism offering in the greater Newry area and we need to do more to attract anglers to come and fish our canal.
“The stock levels are maintained as I know that when competitions are held the fish are weighed and put back into the water.
“I was shown by one of the local anglers a freshwater mussel and he told me that they only appear where the fresh water quality is excellent so we have the perfect environment for coarse fishing. We just need to make it more accessible and attractive to anglers who want to visit our district and fish our canal.
“I hope to discuss this issue with officers and hold a follow-up meeting between officers and anglers to discuss the issues and what is being done and can be done to improve access to the canal for coarse fishing and make our canal more attractive to anglers from all over the world.”