IN HIS NATURAL HABITAT Fisheries Officer, Ronan Cusack.
I am based on the shores of Lough Mask and the area we cover is Lough Mask and Lough Carra and everything that flows into it. Our set hours would be from half 8.30am to 5pm but we do work a lot of unsociable hours at certain times of the year.
In the morning, I’d go through emails and would be in touch with our assistant inspector. There may be an issue with pollution somewhere, illegal fishing nets, so you have to prioritise what to go and do. But a lot of the work is left to ourselves because it is very repetitive. The work is more or less the same every year – but the work goes from one season to the other.
This time of the year would be the end of the trout spawning season so we would be doing a fair bit of patrolling and covering rivers. It is a sensitive time of the year when the egg spawn would be in the gravel so we keep an eye out for animals which might be breaking into rivers or small streams and on blockages.
This time of year is a great opportunity to identify the amount of fish in a system by the amount of spawning that is going on. We collect data this time of year on that kind of stuff.
It is a job I always wanted. I worked in the post office for 15 years before this and I applied for this job a number of times before I was successful. I got a 12-month contract in 2006 and and a full-time position came up in that 12-month period. I was luck enough to get that.
My grandfather worked for the old Inland Fisheries back in the 50s and my father followed him and did 46 years in the fisheries, until he retired 12 years ago. I’m the third generation in my family to be in the fisheries.
It is a very rewarding job. You don’t know from one day to the next what will come up and you meet some very interesting characters. You have to be able to communicate with people, that is a very important factor in the job. You have to be able to talk down a hostile situation, which we have often come up against. It is like any job like – the guards or a traffic warden – you have people who will give you stick but generally the perception of us among the public is fairly positive.
From the end of October to the end of this month we go patrolling to the spawning rivers and streams around Tourmakeady, Finny, Claremorris and around the Robe system. There would be three of us and one guy in a jeep would drop you at a bridge. It would take us a hour cross country to another bridge and the driver would pick you up again.
You get a nose for what to keep an eye out for like grass which is trampled down. That would mean someone was active in the area and there would be no reason for them to be there other than there is fish in the river. We would often get tipped off but then again we would often be led up the garden path.
I used to often hear my grandfather say years ago that you could spot the guy at Mass on Sunday who would be poaching. Because if you eat trout that have spawn inside them, you can often get a skin reaction to it. He’s say you’d see boils on his neck and a redness around his neck and straight away he would know what he was at.
In our area, poaching wouldn’t be as bad, because we don’t have salmon in Lough Mask and that is where the money is. A 10lb salmon could be worth a hundred quid so it can be a good nights work. In our area, it would be more lads going out for a bit of craic.
It can be very cold at night and you’d rather be in bed but if you get a net it would be very rewarding. Believe it or not, you can see more at night than in the day. It is easier to see fish in the river at night with the equipment we have. We have infrared cameras and we can conceal cameras in trees and all that stuff. Big boys with their toys.
It is a job that I look forward to going to in the morning and there aren’t many people who can say that. I don’t dread Monday mornings, to me it isn’t like getting up for work at all. We are outdoors 90 percent of the time. They are a great bunch of lads to work with.
I’m an angler from birth. February 15 is the start of the season and I’d fish more or less every weekend and a couple of evenings if I can. It is just for sport, I would return 99 percent of my fish. It is the battle of catching them and then putting them back again.
Some people give out the fish are scarce but there are peaks and troughs. If you have a poor year, you will usually find the reason for the poor year, if you look back three or four years. It could be a dry winter or hot summer which affects the spawning. My feeling is the lake is healthy with plenty of fish and I’m more than happy with that.
In conversation with
Name: Ronan Cusack
Occupation: Fishery Officer with Inland Fisheries Ireland
From: Cushlough, Ballinrobe, right on the shores of Lough Mask
What is your favourite place in the world?
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I’m a good cook!
What makes you angry?
To see people abuse the legislation on the lake.
Three things always in your fridge?
Water, ham and tomato ketchup.
Most famous person you met?
I met Seamus Mallon on the lake years ago.
What do you miss much about being a child?
Not having to worry about money.
Most prized possession?
My Sage One fly rod.
Who was you first hero?
Best advice you got?
Life is too short.
What is your favourite TV show?
Coronation Street...I wouldn’t be a great one for watching TV.
Your favourite holiday destination?
The Swiss Alps sking, I have a sister who lives in Geneva and we get to go over there now and again.