LN Fisheries Visitor Centre
Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre
People have been fishing for eels on Lough Neagh for thousands of years and it’s a way of life that continues to this day. All around its shores live families who for generations have fished and managed Lough Neagh’s rich resources of eels and other freshwater fish. For them, it is a way of life. It is in their blood, a tradition passed down from father to son. Now you can explore that rich human and natural heritage at Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre, located at the Lough Neagh Fishermen’s Co-operative in Toomebridge.
Look, see, feel, try, taste
Be prepared for much more than a ‘look and see’ experience. Our Visitor Centre immerses you in the way of life for the ‘men of the lough’ – the 250 or so fishermen who hold licences to fish for eels. And it uncovers the secretive life of the Lough Neagh eel, whose exotic life cycle takes it thousands of miles from spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea, across the wide Atlantic Ocean to the clear, fresh waters of Lough Neagh and back again many years later.
You’ll discover that for those who depend on this slippery customer, it’s a tough life. The working day starts around 4.00am during the fishing season, which begins in May and ends in October. Guided by an intuitive knowledge of the lough’s featureless waters, the fishermen make their way to the fishing lines they laid the day before. Measuring hundreds of metres long, with pin-sharp hooks along their entire length, the lines are hauled from the water, metre by metre so that the catch they hold can be removed and sorted. The Visitor Centre displays lots of different nets and gear – there’s even a replica fisherman’s boat.
Stories and more
It is not just the human stories that are uncovered. You’ll be amazed at the epic migration story of Lough Neagh eel and its fascinating lifecycle. And did you know that Lough Neagh is home to a fish called the pollan, the only European vertebrate that is unique to Ireland? All will be revealed at the Visitor Centre. You can even find out how Fionn Mac Cumhail created this vast inland lough for us and how we have St Patrick to thank for there being any eels in it at all!
Lough Neagh Fisheries Co-operative
No visit would be complete without delving into another vital human story – that of the Lough Neagh Fisheries Co-operative itself. Founded in 1965 to represent and protect the interests on the fishing communities on the lough, it continues to play a pivotal role in managing the eel and scale fish of the lough; providing a secure, sustainable future for the fishermen of this vast, mysterious expanse of water.
Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre Tours
We offer a number of different types of visitor experiences, so check out the list and decide which ones might appeal to you and/or your group.
Please note that all tours must be pre-booked.
Tour 1. Guided tour of Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre. Have the story of Lough Neagh, its people, wildlife, traditions and mysteries brought to life on this fascinating tour.
Tour 2. Guided Tasting Tour. Explore Lough Neagh Fisheries Visitor Centre with the added delight of Lough Neagh fish and smoked eel tasters with tea/coffee and shortbread.
Tour 3. ‘Discovering Lough Neagh’s Eels’ – perhaps you can identify with the poet Ogden Nash, who liked eels, “except in meals and the way they feels“. This tour is bound to change your mind and instil a new respect for these intriguing creatures.
Tour 4. Lough Neagh Fisheries Co-operative: get a behind-the-scenes look at the running of this vital Co-operative Society and discover the measures it takes to nurture and sustain the largest wild eel fishery in Europe.
Tours may vary in length depending on the type of tour you have selected. We recommend that tour groups allow at least 90 minutes for their visit, so that there is sufficient time for you to enjoy the experience. Public pre-booked tours take place on the last Friday of each month. If you are an individual or a smaller group of 2-5 people then we advise that you book into our public pre-booked tour.
Our visitor centre is located on the first floor which can be accessed either by stairs or lift.
Our Fisheries Co-operative factory is located on the ground floor and live fish exhibits will depend on seasonality.