Lough Neagh and it Waterways is not only the largest lake on the island of Ireland, it’s also one of the country’s most scenic and picturesque regions; perfect for fishing, idyllic for photography, wonderful for bird-watching and majestic for boating, it really is a jewel in the crown of Northern Ireland tourism and a hidden gem that offers everything a tourist to Northern Ireland could possibly want.
However, although those familiar with the Lough and its shores will no doubt readily agree with all that we say above in relation to the many attractions and activities that the region offers, something which many people may be surprised to hear at is that Lough Neagh is even more famous all around the world for its eels.
Yes, that’s right eels…..and not just recently either because did you know that eel fishing has actually been a major industry on Lough Neagh for centuries now?
So where do Lough Neagh eels come from?
Actually, they originate in the Sargasso Sea, South of Bermuda in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. From here they travel almost 4000 miles, a journey which sees them carried on the Gulf Stream towards Europe’s coastline and to the mouth of the Lower River Bann….before making the onward journey upstream to their final destination in the wonderful waters of Lough Neagh.
But why do they embark on this epic journey at all, and why Lough Neagh? Well the fact is that eels have to grow and mature in freshwater habitats, and once they reach such waters, they will remain there for 20 years or more before eventually returning to the Sargasso region once again to spawn.
Lough Neagh Eels and protected name status
And to finish, one further final little known fact about Lough Neagh’s eel population; in 2011, Lough Neagh Eels were awarded EU protected name status – in the same way that Champagne is a protected name which refers to sparkling wine produced in that particular region of France. This ensures that Lough Neagh eels are a much sought after food delicacy around the world, which further helps to put the region as a whole on the world map from the tourism perspective.
To learn more about the Lough Neagh Eel, visit River to Lough Festival at Antrim Castle Gardens on 2nd July 2016 noon – 5pm