Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

Eels Found in Bangor Park Pond During Dredging Work

11th May 2024
Ward Park Pond dredging
Ward Park Pond dredging Credit: Co Down Spectator

Eels in a park pond? About 150 eels were found during de-silting work in the ponds in the 37-acre Ward Park in the centre of Bangor on Belfast Lough.

That’s about 5,000 km from their spawning area, the Sargasso Sea in the Western Atlantic. The Eels are better known in Northern Ireland as those associated with the largest wild-caught eel fishery in Europe near Toome in the Northwest corner of Lough Neagh, the largest freshwater lake in the British Isles.

Eels spawn in the Sargasso Sea and the young migrate to the freshwater rivers of Europe as “glass” eels to grow and mature to adult eels, which after a long period (could be up to 20 or more years) they make the journey back to sea to begin the long migration to the Sargasso again.

As reported in the County Down Spectator, the dredging work in the Park revealed the eels, and David Kelly, director with the County Fermanagh-based Paul Johnston Associates Fisheries Consultants, was responsible for relocating the eels to safety while the des-silting was carried out. Mr Kelly told Afloat how that process was carried out. “As each section of Ward Park ponds was due to be de-silted, the eels that were rescued from that section were captured and stored temporarily in basins at the side of the park (only for max. of 30-40mins). Eels were then released into a different part of the Ward Park complex away from the de-silting works. This activity was repeated sequentially around the complex as the contractors de-silted different sections”.
Around 150 eels were rescued over the period of the works.

David Kelly Photo: Paul Johnston AssociatesDavid Kelly Photo: Paul Johnston Associates

Mr Kelly explained further. “Eels generally ranged from about 15cm long to 55-60cm, but we got one around 90cm. Most of the eels were aged from just over a year to perhaps 25-30 years. There is a possibility that the largest were older, but we can only estimate how old.”

It is thought by some locals, that the original eels entered the river system of which the Ward Park ponds are part, via the culvert where the river meets the sea in the corner of Bangor Marina and a member of a local walking group recalls as a child, seeing eels in the river which flows into the upper pond.

More here 

Betty Armstrong

About The Author

Betty Armstrong

Email The Author

Betty Armstrong is Afloat and Yachting Life's Northern Ireland Correspondent. Betty grew up racing dinghies but now sails a more sedate Dehler 36 around County Down

We've got a favour to ask

More people are reading than ever thanks to the power of the internet but we're in stormy seas because advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. Unlike many news sites, we haven't put up a paywall because we want to keep our marine journalism open. is Ireland's only full-time marine journalism team and it takes time, money and hard work to produce our content.

So you can see why we need to ask for your help.

If everyone chipped in, we can enhance our coverage and our future would be more secure. You can help us through a small donation. Thank you.

Direct Donation to Afloat button

Marine Wildlife Around Ireland One of the greatest memories of any day spent boating around the Irish coast is an encounter with marine wildlife.  It's a thrill for young and old to witness seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales right there in their own habitat. As boaters fortunate enough to have experienced it will testify even spotting a distant dorsal fin can be the highlight of any day afloat.  Was that a porpoise? Was it a whale? No matter how brief the glimpse it's a privilege to share the seas with Irish marine wildlife.

Thanks to the location of our beautiful little island, perched in the North Atlantic Ocean there appears to be no shortage of marine life to observe.

From whales to dolphins, seals, sharks and other ocean animals this page documents the most interesting accounts of marine wildlife around our shores. We're keen to receive your observations, your photos, links and youtube clips.

Boaters have a unique perspective and all those who go afloat, from inshore kayaking to offshore yacht racing that what they encounter can be of real value to specialist organisations such as the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG) who compile a list of sightings and strandings. The IWDG knowledge base has increased over the past 21 years thanks in part at least to the observations of sailors, anglers, kayakers and boaters.

Thanks to the IWDG work we now know we share the seas with dozens of species who also call Ireland home. Here's the current list: Atlantic white-sided dolphin, beluga whale, blue whale, bottlenose dolphin, common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale, false killer whale, fin whale, Gervais' beaked whale, harbour porpoise, humpback whale, killer whale, minke whale, northern bottlenose whale, northern right whale, pilot whale, pygmy sperm whale, Risso's dolphin, sei whale, Sowerby's beaked whale, sperm whale, striped dolphin, True's beaked whale and white-beaked dolphin.

But as impressive as the species list is the IWDG believe there are still gaps in our knowledge. Next time you are out on the ocean waves keep a sharp look out!