Below is a snapshot of the fishing industry as practiced around the Lough shores during the 18th and 19th centuries using information extracted from the Ordnance Survey Memoirs. The Memoirs contain accounts of the topography, history, industry, and society for each parish within Northern Ireland and were compiled in the 1830’s as an accompaniment to the 1st Ordnance Survey mapping of Ireland. Though some parishes were better recorded that others, in essence the memoirs are a snapshot of 1830’s life in Northern Ireland.
The records for the parish of Dunean record that fish, particularly the eels which were caught in vast quantities at Toome, were sold in neighbouring markets for a high price, although pike and trout were not so plentiful in late 1830’s. The fishing season was controlled by an act of Parliament and fishing commenced on the 1st June until 1st March (best months August, September and October).
In Aghallon parish it was recorded that fishing in general was not carried out as a trade which is not surprising as in this area of Lough Neagh agriculture was the main occupation of the labouring class during the 18th and 19th centuries. The memoirs note that were only 10 boats in use at this time all of which were owned by the local fishermen. Salmon, trout, pike, trench, bream eel and pollen were caught and sold at markets in Crumlin, Lisburn, Moira and as far as Belfast. The memoirs also note that local farmers fished to supplement their diet, with pullen (freshwater herring) being caught and salted for the winter.
It was noted that within Ballyclog parish fishing was not profitable and was only carried out by a few living on the shore. The fish was taken by nets or ground lines. In Magherfelt parish the memoirs mention that Bann eels from Toome, and Lough Neagh trout and pullen were sold at market in Castledawson.