Westmeath is known as the Lake County. With almost 22,000 acres covered by water, it is not surprising that fishing has always played an important part in the life of its people. Whether to supplement their diet or sell at the local market, generations of fishermen have worked the lakes and rivers of Westmeath over the centuries.
The lakes of Westmeath include Lough Ree on the River Shannon, Lough Derravaragh, famous for the legend of The Children of Lir, Lough Owel near Mullingar and Lough Ennell, where Ireland’s largest ever Brown Trout was caught in 1894, weighing 26lbs and 2oz.
Methods of fishing have changed over the years. Eels were once hunted using spears and evidence of these implements has been discovered in Crannogs in Westmeath. Later, flat bottomed boats made from cow’s hide, similar to a Currach, were used for fishing with nets. From the 1600s on the River Shannon, eels were being caught at specially constructed weirs. By 1900 there were more than 20 weirs on the river with much of the catch being exported. The eel catching baskets in this cottage are similar to types crafted by the fishermen from the reeds and rushes that grew at the waters edge. Today, anglers come to the region from all over the world especially for the Pike and Brown Trout fishing which is regarded as among the best in Europe.