Lough Melvin

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Lough Melvin
Loch Meilbhe
Lough Melvin - geograph.org.uk - 825848.jpg
Lough Melvin is located in island of Ireland
Lough Melvin
Lough Melvin
Location County Leitrim and County Fermanagh
Coordinates 54°26′N 8°10′W / 54.433°N 8.167°W / 54.433; -8.167Coordinates: 54°26′N 8°10′W / 54.433°N 8.167°W / 54.433; -8.167
Primary outflows River Drowes
Catchment area 265 km2 (102 sq mi)
Basin countries Ireland and the United Kingdom
Max. length 12 km (7.5 mi)
Max. width 3 km (1.9 mi)
Surface area 21.25 km2 (8.20 sq mi)
Max. depth 45 m (148 ft)
Islands Inishtemple, Inishkeen, Inishmean, Inisheher, Gorminish, Bilberry Island
Settlements Garrison, Rossinver, Buckode, Kinlough

Lough Melvin (/lɒx ˈmɛlvɪn/ lokh-MEL-vin; Irish: Loch Meilbhe)[1] is a lake which is internationally renowned for its unique range of plants and animals. It is located in the northwest of the island of Ireland on the border between County Leitrim (in Ireland) and County Fermanagh (in the United Kingdom).[2]

The lake covers an area of 2,125 ha (5,250 acres) and is famous for its early "run" of Atlantic salmon. In relatively pristine condition, the lake and surrounding catchment area (265 km²) is valued for its recreational, heritage and environmental values by anglers, tourists, scientists and the local community. Otter, Arctic char, and three species of trout (sonaghan, gillaroo, ferox) are among the many species that live in or around the lake. Within the catchment, the endangered globeflower, Molinia meadows and sessile oak woodlands can be found.[3]

Conservation and protection

Due to the diversity and rarity of Lough Melvin and its species, the lake has been designated as a candidate Special Area of Conservation (SAC) under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) in Northern Ireland and Ireland. Within the Lough Melvin catchment, there are two other SAC's (Arroo Mountain and West-Fermanagh Scarplands). SAC's are prime wildlife conservation areas considered important at an international level. Those habitats and species designated as SAC's are required to be protected under EU law.

Lough Melvin is also considered a Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest in Northern Ireland and an Area of Outstanding Beauty and Area of High Visual Amenity in Ireland.[4]


The water quality was reported to be excellent c. 2001 – c. 2003 with an oligotrophic rating.[5][n 1] The ecology of Lough Melvin, and other Irish waterways, remain threatened by curly waterweed, zebra mussel, and freshwater clam invasive species.[7][8]

Fishes and angling

The Lough Melvin charr (Salvelinus grayi), a species unique to the lake. Now critically endangered.

Lough Melvin is one of Ireland's famous angling loughs offering the chance of spring salmon from February to May, grilse[clarification needed] from May to July and gillaroo, sonaghan and ferox trout throughout the season. Lough Melvin is also home to an endemic species of char, the Melvin charr or Gray's charr (Salvelinus grayi).[9]

A ghillie or boatman is strongly recommended to anglers unfamiliar with the lake.

Gillaroo trout

Lough Melvin is home to the gillaroo or Salmo stomachius, a species of trout which eats primarily snails. The name "gillaroo" is derived from the Irish language Giolla Rua, which means "Red Fellow". This is due to the fishes distinctive colouring. It has a bright buttery golden colour in its flanks with bright crimson and vermillion spots. The gillaroo feed almost exclusively on bottom living animals (snails, sedge fly larva and freshwater shrimp) with the exception of late summer when they come to the surface to feed and may be caught on the dry fly.[10]

Sonaghan trout

The sonaghan trout (Salmo nigripinnis) is another species of salmonid unique to Lough Melvin. It can have a light brown or silvery hue with large, distinctive black spots. Its fins are dark brown or black with elongated pectorals. Sonaghan are found in areas of open, deep water, where they feed on mid-water planktonic organisms such as water fleas (Cladocera), midge (chironomid) pupae and phantom (Chaoborus) larvae. Sonaghan will be most readily located close to the surface over deep water. Fly-fishing with a team of wet flies fished in classic lough style (i.e. short, snappy casts from a boat drifting beam-on to the breeze) gives best chance of success. Sonaghan give a powerful and energetic fight out of all proportion to their size.[11]

Ferox trout

The classic work carried out by Andrew Ferguson of Queens University on the genetics of the trout of Lough Melvin identified the ferox as a separate subspecies. The fish home to a specific spawning area and are reproductively isolated. They are also one of the oldest trout races to colonise Ireland, perhaps as old as 50,000 years. Ferox cannibalise brown trout (which returned to many of the same lakes when geological processes and climatic conditions allowed) and also prey on other fish species. The best method of capture is trolling, particularly with a Rapala type lure.[12]

see also


Local folklore tells of an old monk who was fishing late one night at the boat quay in the Rusheen – this is apparently the origins of the Gillaroo myth. The old monk had fasted for a long period and had nestled on Lough Melvin's rocky shores to seek solace and find himself. Upon completing his period of abstinence he combed the surrounding landscape to quench his appetite. Having acquired a bounty of wild mushrooms from the grassy slopes of the Rusheen he proceeded to seek an adequate complement to his fungal feast. Lough Melvin provided the perfect source for having spent many days gazing upon its vast expanse he had watched in awe at the abundance of wild salmon and various trout like fish that frolicked in pursuit of unsuspecting insect life. After an evening's fishing the only luck he had was an eel which was hardly was worth roasting and a duck egg that he had managed to retrieve from a nest in a nearby reed bed. Becoming ever increasingly desperate and starving the Monk decided to make a cross in the sand and laid his catch within – this is why an eel will not leave a cross of sand if caught in the Lough! It was now that the Monk turned to his spiritual advisor asking him to reward him for his faithful fast – upon opening his eyes he saw that his eel and egg had turned into two of the most beautiful golden bellied trout, a fish so splendid that he simply could not eat, so he turned them free to multiply in the Lough!

Panoramic view

See also

References and notes


  1. ^ Trophic states of "Oligotrophic" and "Mesotrophic" are desirable, but freshwater lakes rated 'Eutrophic' or 'Hypertrophic' indicates pollution.[6]

Primary sources

  1. ^ Placenames Database of Ireland
  2. ^ http://www.wfdfish.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/melvin_mini_report_2008.pdf
  3. ^ Lough Melvin Programme Lough Melvin Programme Website
  4. ^ More about Melvin Lough Melvin Programme Website
  5. ^ Clenaghan, Clinton, Crowe 2005, pp. 97.
  6. ^ Clenaghan, Clinton, Crowe 2005, pp. 8.
  7. ^ Pedreschi, Kelly-Quinn, Caffrey, O’Grady, Mariani, Phillimore 2014.
  8. ^ Clenaghan, Clinton, Crowe 2005, pp. 16.
  9. ^ Fishbase – Salvelinus grayi
  10. ^ The Trouts – Gillaroo Irish Char Conservation Group
  11. ^ The Trouts – Sonaghen Irish Char Conservation Group
  12. ^ The Trouts – Ferox Irish Char Conservation Group

Secondary sources

  • Clenaghan, Conor; Clinton, Frank; Crowe, Matthew (2005). Phosphorus Regulations National Implementation Report (PDF) (Report). Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Environmental Enforcement.
  • Pedreschi, D.; Kelly-Quinn, M.; Caffrey, J; O'Grady, M.; Mariani, S.; Phillimore, A. (2014), Genetic structure of pike (Esox lucius) reveals a complex and previously unrecognized colonization history of Ireland, Journal of Biogeography, 41(3), 548–560.
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