The Epic Journey of the Lough Neagh Eel

Lough Neagh Eel

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

9 Interesting Facts About Lough Neagh Eels

Lough Neagh Eel Fishing

Everyone knows that cats have nine lives and a dog is a man’s best friend. But what about eels. What do we really know about eels? How many lives do they have and who are they best friend to?

Here are 9 things you couldn’t possibly know about eels* unless you’ve studied them for an environmental science module.

  1. Along with Parma ham, Champagne and Feta cheese, the Lough Neagh Eel is a member of the Food Elite of Europe having been PGI registered in 2011.
  2. Eels have two hearts, a main one behind their head and another at the tip of their tail.
  3. An eel has an amazing sense of smell, as good as a dog.
  4. Baby eels are neither males nor females! This is decided and controlled by how many eels are around them as they get older… lots of eels about, they become males, not so many about they become females. When eels take on a new sex there’s much less fuss than when human beings do the same. See: Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner.
  5. They can live out of water for 24 hours as long as they are damp.
  6. No one has ever successfully bred eels in captivity or seen them breeding in the wild. Now there’s a challenge for the paparazzi.
  7. Silver eels do not swim in a straight line across the ocean but undertake a 600m vertical descent and ascent everyday on their way across the Atlantic. #ScenicRoute
  8. Eels have 4 lives
  9. Eels are a sea horse’s best friend

*Two of the following facts have been made up to suit the introduction of this eel-based listicle.