Erne (including Upper and Lower Lough erne)

An angler’s paradise – that is the only way to describe the Fermanagh lakelands which centre on the Erne and the two huge loughs associated with it. These loughs alone, formed by the Erne on its way to the Atlantic at Bal-lyshannon, have an area of no less than 37,800 acresl Indeed, there is so much wonderful fishing here that an angler would need more than a lifetime to sample it fully. Not surprisingly for an area so rich in fishing, it also happens to be especially well equipped to cater for the visitor. The Department of Agriculture working with the Fisheries Conservancy Board has created 32,000 sq yards of car parking, nearly 10 miles of footpaths, 165 stiles and footbridges and 216 special fishing stands, the latter a particular boon in those areas where bankside under-growth made many places difficult to approach.

Almost as soon as the Erne enters Ulster from Eire it flows into Upper Lough Erne. Though this water does offer the chance of trout, there is not the slightest doubt that its main appeal is its incredible coarse fishing with bream and roach the predominant species. There are so many excellent places but among the best are those around Inishmore Island at the upper end of the Lough. Detailed information about them can be obtained at Carry Bridge. It was this area which helped produce one of the most incredible competition results ever known – a 1971 date when 270 anglers caught 2 tons 3 cwt 42 lb of fish in five hours. And that on a day when the Erne bream didn’t feedl Below Carry Bridge, the deep, slow moving river flows to the island town of Enniskillen, a perfect centre for the angling visitor to the area. Here is superlative fishing right in the town itself with bream catches nearing 1,000 lb taken from the island opposite Enniskillen Castle.

Below Enniskillen, the Erne enters Lower Lough Erne, one of the most scenic in all Ireland. Locating coarse fish shoals on this huge sheet of water is not easy with the result that most seem to restrict their efforts to the sections just below Enniskillen or to the amazingly fruitful rivers which flow into the Lower Lough. The big attrac-tion on the Lower Lough are trout, and most seasons several are reported into double figures, these bigger fish most often being taken by trolling from boats. To boost the sport, more than a million trout in various stages of development, have been placed in this water in recent years. It is anglers spinning for trout or, lower down the lough, salmon, who most often encounter the huge pike which haunt these sections of the Erne. Only a few have tried the specialised approach for pike. If more did so, it is thought there could be some real surprises, so rich are these waters in food items for these predatory fish.

The British record brown trout -a fish of 19 lb 4J oz – came from Lower Lough Erne. The most recent double figure fish reported went 12 lb 12 oz.

Salmon fishing cannot be highly rated though fish do run up the Erne from July onwards, the likeliest places being in the Lower Lough near Roscor Viaduct and in the river below.

It is here at Bel leek that the coarse fishing comes good again since there are huge concentrations. This is another place where the neglected pike fishing could cause a real surprise.

Rod licence requirements in this area are rather complex. Anglers fishing north and west of an imaginary line drawn from the mouth of the Ballinamallard river on the northern shore of the Lower Lough to Castle Hume on the eastern shore must have a Fishery Conservancy Board Game Fish Licence. If not fishing for salmon or trout, a coarse fish licence will do. A similar division operates with Department of Agriculture game and coarse fish permits.

Permit Distribution points for River Erne, its tributaries and Upper and Lower Lough Erne: At Enniskillen: Lakeland Tackle, Henry Street; Post Office, East Bridge Street; J E Richardson (Enniskillen) Ltd, East Bridge Street; A C Rutledge, 16 High Street; Robert Dickie and Sons Ltd, High Street; Fermanagh Tourist Information Centre, Townhall Street; Thornton Bros, Church Street.

In the vicinity of Lower Lough Erne: Manor House Hotel, Kil-ladeas; Blaney Service Station; A Shields, Legg House, Roscor P O; Thomas Flynn, Kesh; Mrs E Graham, Manville House, Letter; Casey’s Lake Hotel, Garrison; Lough Erne Hotel, Kesh; Post Office, Kesh; W H Stewart, Leggs PO; Brendan Faughan, Leggs; T.

Daly, Belleek; Carlton Hotel, Bel-leek; Lough Naver Forest Office, Derrygonnelly; R Dickie and Sons Ltd, High Street, Irvinestown; Mahon’s Hotel, Irvinestown.

In the vicinity of Upper Lough Erne: Post Office, Maguiresbridge; Post Office, Bellanaleck; John Mel-drum, Main Street, Lisnaskea; W R Nawn, Main Street, Lisbellaw; Lakeland Hotel, Bellanaleck.

Boat Hirers: J Graham, Manville House, Aughablaney, Letter; Carrybridge Angling Centre, Lis-bellaw; Lough Erne Hotel, Kesh; Lakeland Tackle, Henry Street, Enniskillen.

Visiting anglers are urged to visit the distributor nearest the water which has taken their interest. Where this is not covered by permit – and this is rare – friendly advice will be given usually directing you to the riparian owner from whom permission must be obtained. All the above distribute permits covering the area . Rod Licence: FCB/G or FCB/C

Erne Tributaries


This river links Lower Lough Mac-nean with Upper Lough Erne opposite Inishmore Island near Ross-doney. It is virgin territory which has seen few visitors. Roach abound and, near the confluence, bream are also taken. There is also the chance of trout.

The Dept of Agriculture have recently announced the development of part of this water in the townlands of Sessiagh West as a mixed fishery. Detailed information was not available which is why readers are referred direct below to the Dept.

Sessiagh West, Co. FermanaghM Section in area

DT:ARO (Dept of Agriculture, Fisheries Dept, 2-4, Queen Street, Belfast) BALLINAMALLARD Sensational coarse fish catches have been taken in recent seasons from this river which finds its source in Galballs Lough and flows south-west to enter Lower Lough Erne at St. Angelo. It is in the deep, sluggish water bordering the disused St. Angelo aerodrome that these spectacular catches of roach and bream have been taken with 100 lb a sitting a commonplace for the few who have tried it.

A new section of this river was opened on permit by the Dept of Agriculture in 1977 at Ballinamal- lard itself. Trout are the dominant species in this section with the chance of odd salmon from mid-August.

Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanaghl CTS1 mile above and below Kilgortnaleague bridge on A35 road DT:A(J.A.Knaggs, Ballinamallard; J. Ruddy, Irvinestown; R. Dickie and Sons, lrvinestown)H (Mahon’s Hotel, Irvinestown) COLEBROOKE

Rising north of Creagh, the Coleb-rooke flows west and then south past Lisnaskea to enter Upper Lough Erne. In its lower reaches, it is alive with coarse fish and some trout. Salmon run from August. The most famous coarse fishing spot is the creamery outfall just outside Lisnaskea. In the right conditions, it is possible to catch fish every cast, so concentrated are they in this reach. Visitors should ask the permission of the creamery manager before fishing. Usnaskea, Co. FermanaghCTS Entire riverBB

Free fishing (provided permission for access is first obtained). Further information for visitors: J. Meldrum, Fishing Tackle, LisnaskeaApr1-Sept30(T/S). Open all yearfor (C) KESH RIVER

This small river flows from the north west to enter the Lower Lough through the village which gives it its name. Still to be properly explored, the Kesh can also offer bumper coarse fish catches and trout.


Draining Ross Lough, this interesting river flows south before swinging east at Glencunny Wood to meet the Erne above Enniskillen. The fact that it flows for much of its length in the opposite direction to the Erne has led to a legend that it flows uphill I Because of the country it flows through, the Sillees is coloured at all times, seeming in permanent spate. Anglers should not let this constant colour put them off for this is another little explored river which abounds in fish. In addition to coarse fish – of which roach (some of specimen size) predominate – it contains trout.

Note: There are many other smaller rivers and sidestreams flowing into the Erne and its Loughs, fartoo many to detail here. All the visitor needs to know is that permission will invariably be given by the riparian owner if asked.