One of these ponds contains the largest known carp in Ireland. I didn’t go there to fish. I needed to find out more about carp for a project I was researching so I went to pick the brains of experts.
One small lake at Lyreen contains two carp that are known to weigh in excess of 40 lbs. Carp anglers are fond of the old imperial measures, but 40lbs is just over 18 kilos. Both fish have been caught several times, weighed meticulously, photographed and carefully returned to the water. The photographs show how truly huge they are .
In a lake like this with rich natural feeding heavily augmented by the bait and groundbait thrown in by anglers these fish will keep on growing until they die — and carp can live for over fifty years. And if anyone can catch one before it spawns, rather than just afterwards, it will weigh an extra couple of kilos. So there is no knowing how big these fish could get. The official world record from Hungary is a fish of 101 lbs, but a British angler fishing in Thailand recently landed a related Siamese carp of 134 lbs (60 kilos).
But, strangely enough, neither of the Maynooth fish holds the Irish carp record. That honour belongs to a fish caught in The Lough in Cork City in 1998. It weighed 29lbs 13 ozs, over 10lbs less than either of the Maynooth fish. The reason is that Irish fishing records are established by a body called the Irish Specimen Fish Committee and they have strict rules. They also set specimen weights for which they award a badge. The specimen weight for carp is 12lbs (5.4 kilos). One of their rules states that if a fishery imports from abroad a fish weighing more than the specimen weight then no fish from that fishery is entitled to be awarded record or specimen status. The reason for this is obvious, it’s aimed at ensuring strict fairness, but Lyreen imported some carp from France which were over 5.4 kilos in weight so the two fish over 40lbs can’t challenge the record from Cork.
But you do feel a bit sorry for the men who put so much time and effort into catching the Maynooth monsters. Particularly so when you take into account that Lyreen is now one of the few places in Ireland where carp breed regularly without a hatchery and the fishery is now self sustainable.
Sycamore is not a native Irish tree but an early introduction that is widely naturalised. Its native range is European mountains such as the Alps, Pyrenees and Carpathians and their foothills. Here it’s seldom found below 300 metres in altitude and grows up to 1,650 metres.
It grows in totally different habitats in Ireland and is the only large tree that can survive in exposed coastal locations. It seems to have been introduced into Ireland by Elizabethan planters, the first definite record is Co Derry in 1610. Early introductions probably came from France, where it’s native, via Scotland.
Confusingly in Scotland and Northern Ireland they tend to be called plane trees, though they are in fact maples. The reason for their introduction is thought to be because sycamore provided the best timber for making wooden plates and bowls. They can live for up to 1000 years.