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“Limerick’s Eel Fishing Revolution: A Historical Triumph on Lough Derg” – Limerick Archives

“Limerick’s Eel Fishing Revolution: A Historical Triumph on Lough Derg”

In the autumn of 1900, the city of Limerick witnessed a remarkable transformation in its fishing industry. Mr Anthony, a local entrepreneur with a keen eye for opportunities, embarked on an audacious journey to redefine the city’s role in the nation’s fishing landscape. His ambitious plan was nothing short of a revolution in inland fishing, and it revolved around one elusive but lucrative catch – eels.

This article delves into the fascinating story of Mr Anthony’s endeavour to establish Limerick as a major player in the thriving eel fishing market of Ireland. From his bold acquisition of fishing rights to the strategic deployment of state-of-the-art equipment, we’ll explore how Mr Anthony’s vision revitalized the local fishing economy, against all odds.

The Unprecedented License

Mr Anthony’s journey began with a significant investment – the acquisition of fishing rights to Lough Derg and a portion of the Shannon River above it. The price tag attached to this license was a staggering £2,000 a year, an unprecedented sum for such a privilege. This bold move immediately signalled his commitment to this venture.

Modernization of Fishing Techniques

With fishing rights secured, Mr Anthony wasted no time in modernizing the fishing techniques employed on Lough Derg. His investment extended to a fleet of modern fishing boats and a steam launch, providing his operation with a competitive edge in terms of mobility and efficiency. But it wasn’t just the boats that received an upgrade; the very nets used in eel fishing underwent a transformation.

Eel-Catching Nets: Precision Instruments

The key to Mr Anthony’s success lay in the meticulous design of his eel-catching nets. These nets, strategically placed at the mouths of tributaries, featured three-quarter-inch mesh sizes. This specific design ensured that eels weighing at least one pound were captured while allowing smaller aquatic life to pass through unharmed. This sustainable approach not only safeguarded the local ecosystem but also improved the quality of the eels captured.

The Eel Fishing Season

The eel fishing season, as Mr Anthony planned, began in October and concluded around Christmas. During this period, the captured eels were transported to various markets in living conditions, a practice that set Limerick’s eels apart from many others. These resilient eels, often weighing up to eight pounds, fetched impressive prices, with each eight-pound box earning as much as £3. This premium price reflected the superior quality of Lough Derg eels.

Competing in the Market

Limerick’s eels faced formidable competition from imported Norwegian eels. However, Mr Anthony’s commitment to excellence and his emphasis on delivering the finest eels to the market set his produce apart. Lough Derg eels, with their unique texture and flavour, soon gained popularity not only in local markets but also in markets far and wide.

Premium Prices and Economic Impact

The premium prices that Lough Derg eels commanded, sometimes reaching 1s 8d per pound, injected a much-needed boost into the local economy. This surge in economic activity benefited not only the fishing industry but also the wider community of Limerick. As the eel fishing industry flourished, it created job opportunities and increased revenue for the region.

Amidst Industry Challenges

While the eel fishing venture in Limerick was flourishing, other parts of Ireland faced challenges in the fishing industry. The Foyle and Bann districts, for instance, were grappling with inadequate salmon supply and limited sea fishing. In contrast, Limerick’s eel fishing initiative under Mr Anthony’s leadership represented a beacon of hope for Irish fishermen.

Visionary Initiative

In the autumn of 1900, Mr Anthony’s audacious vision for Limerick’s fishing industry became a reality. His ambitious foray into eel fishing on Lough Derg and the Shannon River brought about a renaissance in the local fishing landscape. From the acquisition of unprecedented fishing rights to the modernization of equipment and the strategic use of eel-catching nets, every aspect of his endeavour contributed to its success.

Limerick’s eel fishing industry, driven by Mr Anthony’s visionary initiative, not only thrived but also set new standards for quality and sustainability in the market. The premium prices his eels commanded and the economic impact they generated were a testament to the triumph of this fishing revolution.

As we look back at this historical chapter in Limerick’s fishing history, we find a story of resilience, innovation, and determination. Mr Anthony’s legacy lives on as a testament to the potential for transformation in even the most traditional of industries. His pioneering spirit and commitment to excellence continue to inspire generations of fishermen and entrepreneurs, reminding us that with vision and dedication, we can carve a niche and thrive even in the face of competition and adversity.

Belfast News-Letter – Thursday 11 October 1900


LOUGH DERG, 1839: In 1839 Commander James Wolfe RN and Lieutenant R B Beechey RN surveyed Lough Derg; they produced an Admiralty Chart and Commander Wolfe wrote sailing directions. But while surveying they also made drawings — watercolour Views of Lough Derg — showing what a ship’s master might see from certain locations on the lake. Those drawings were held in the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office until 2003, when they were transferred (with other historic documents) to the National Archive of England and Wales.