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Joe Mahon shows his ‘r-eel’ love for Lough Neagh in the final episode of UTV Series

14 November 2018

Dr Derek Evans explains the mysterious lifestyle of the Lough Neagh eel to Joe Mahon.


Joe spends a lot of time out on the choppy waters of the lough. His first port of call is with the McNally family who fish out of their harbour near Gawley’s Gate on the Antrim shore. Gerry McNally and his son Daniel are long-line eel fishermen and Gerry can point to a family tradition going back several generations. Long-line fishing is extremely labour-intensive and requires many hours of “pegging the lines” in preparation for each day’s fishing so, back on dry land, all the family get involved in the process. Tradition has it that the women of fishing families are best at this task so Gerry is fortunate to have eight daughters!

Joe then tries to find out more about the life-cycle of the mysterious eel by consulting Dr Derek Evans who is a Senior Fisheries Scientist at the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute. Derek is one of the world’s leading experts on the behaviour of wild eels, yet even he admits that there is still so much more to be discovered. No-one, for example, has ever seen eels actually breeding! At the Co-op headquarters at Toome Joe assists Derek to attach electronic tags to mature silver eels to track them on their journey out of the lough and across the ocean.

Stopping off at Derrytrasna and Kinnego on the southern shore Joe takes a break to listen to the beautiful harmonies of The Loughshore Choir before setting off for another spell on the water with the volunteers of Lough Neagh Rescue who have answered an extraordinary number of call-outs in the 30 years of their existence. His final voyage on the lough is rather special – he sets out with members of the Fishermen’s Co-op to release over a million tiny glass eels into the waters of Lough Neagh, in the hope that future generations of fishermen will still have eels to catch.

Lough Neagh is produced by Westway Film Productions for UTV and is sponsored by Connolly’s of Moy.   You can see this final episode on Monday 19 November at 8pm on UTV.  Catch up on www.itv.com/utvprogrammes.