About the river
The Munster Blackwater rises in the Mullaghareirk Mountains in County Kerry and then flows in a mainly easterly direction through Counties Cork and Waterford, passing in turn through the towns of Mallow, Fermoy, Ballyduff and Lismore before reaching the tide at Cappoquin. The Blackwater itself is the second largest river in Ireland as measured by its long-term average flow, and is the fourth longest river in Ireland at 169 kilometres in total length. The main channel is naturally and conveniently divided into upper, middle and lower reaches by Mallow and Fermoy; Mallow forming the boundary between the upper and middle reaches, and Fermoy the boundary between middle and lower. The main river is joined by a number of significant tributaries and many small streams, giving the system its large catchment area. The head waters of the river flow through barren, peaty land with the result that the main channel runs with the dark water characteristic of peat when heavy rain falls in its headwaters, from which the name "Blackwater" is derived.
Much of the river flows at a rapid rate with streams and pools following each other in quick succession, other parts consist of long, deep stretches of water with relatively slow flow. This feature of the river ensures that more than half of its length, from the tidal limit near Lismore upstream to Mallow and beyond, provides excellent salmon fishing. It also makes the river suitable, in parts, as a habitat for various types of fish and in fact the Blackwater contains dace, roach and some pike in addition to salmon and brown trout, and also a small run of sea trout into its lower reaches and its main tributary, the River Bride.
Historically, however, it is as a salmon river that the Blackwater is best known and many notable catches have been recorded over the decades. In common with many other rivers in the British Isles and elsewhere, salmon stocks have fluctuated considerably in the recent past. However, the Irish government banned commercial drift netting for salmon off the coast of Ireland in November 2006, although some draft nets and snap nets have operated in the Blackwater estuary since 2009. Catch figures published by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) for the ten-year period 2007 to 2016 (2016 being the most recent year for which figures are available at present) indicate that the Blackwater's catches are currently fairly stable.
In fact, using IFI's figures, the average annual catch by rod and line, including fish released alive, for the period in question is about 3,700 salmon, with the lowest catch of 2,120 in 2014 and the highest catch of 4,666 in 2008. (The mean annual catch for the estuary nets 2009 to 2016 was 1,207.) Indeed, in each of these ten years, the Blackwater was second only to the River Moy amongst rivers in the Republic of Ireland in catch totals, but it is widely held to be more lightly fished than the Moy. A similar picture emerges when looking at the catch figures for spring salmon in the Blackwater i.e. 2 (or more) sea-winter fish caught between the 1st January and 31st May. The mean annual catch of spring salmon for the ten years in question is 434, with the smallest catch at 371 (in 2010) and the largest at 541 (in 2013). These figures put the Blackwater amongst the top two most productive rivers for spring salmon in eight of the ten years being considered.