Back to basics: Conger

This month I figured I would cover a species that is prevalent everywhere at this time of year and often over looked or seen as a nuisance and are either loved or hated... CONGER EELS with me I hate the small bootlace eels that tangle up your rigs and love the larger ones as they can provide a formidable fight especially if you’re over rocky ground and they get a hold of a rock or feature! To me they look like an ancient primeval monster which I guess they are. Conger eels can grow in excess 7ft and to over 200lbs although that size is offshore normally but a shore catch of 30-60lb is a decent eel to be had and you can regularly catch double figure eels between 15-30lbs without too much hassle. Lets look and see how, but just before we do a couple of tips you may want if you are doing this. Obviously conger have a slime covering them and have a rather efficient bitey end! You will want a T bar, Rag/cloth and gloves, the T bar stops your hands getting too close to the Congers mouth and teeth but some people use long handled forceps or large long nosed pliers but the T bar is the most efficient especially if it’s a deeper hooking! Obviously a rag is for wiping off your hands but is also useful if you cover the congers eyes if it’s a deep hooking as it will calm it down whilst you remove the hook. Another way of calming a conger down is turning it upside down it doesn’t hurt it and enables you to unhook and release it quicker. Gloves are mainly just so you can hold it easier without getting your hands slimed up and it slipping out your grasp. GROUNDS: So you will catch Conger anywhere with mixed ground but the best places are rocky marks or marks with Headlands around them they will also live around Harbour structures and reef systems. You can catch congers on clean beaches too as they travel and scavenge a lot they are not always resident to an area they can be “nomadic”. RIGS: With conger your rigs want to be strong and I go over kill as that way if your fishing rough ground and have a decent eel on as well you stand a better chance of getting it in so the stronger the better for me to resist rock rubbing or teeth. I spoke to Sean Cassin of All rigged up on Facebook about what I wanted give him a look up he is a decent guy who does a great job. Nothing was a problem and Sean sorted out my rigs and I had them too me in good time as well! All knots & crimps are strong too. So what do we use? A lot of people like strong pulley rigs of 100lb mono for rig body and hook length but for me I prefer a running ledger format and asked for some rigs to have 150lb wire trace which has a thing plastic coating and some others of 200lb mono and all lead to a Cox and Rawle 8/0 hook the rig body was 150lb the joy is as long as you check your rigs over after catching decent conger and wash them off you can normally reuse them. The reason I ask for running ledger is it gives a much more natural presentation and if you’re putting large baits out like I do then they come in to find it anyway you don’t need to cast miles 30- 50 meters is just fine. BAIT: Your best baits will be fish and squid baits and depending on the time of year it is. So just ask yourself is it herring season? Are the whiting moving in? Are the mackerel in? Is it squid season? You get the gist of it! I fish to what is around if possible to make it even more natural for that bait to be there all little extras that help especially if an animal has been caught before or is a cautious animal. Mackerel baits: I find two main ways are the most effective. Way one is that you chop the tail off the Mackerel run your filleting knife up the spine ¾ of the way towards the gill plates and then the same the other side cut the spine out and hook through the underside of the mouth and out through the top of the head and then put in through the skull and back out just above the gill plates then the hook should be sat just above the flapping body whip your hook secure in place and you have a good flapper with guts out and plenty of blood and oil scent and movement with the flapping sides which most people swear by although I prefer to use this way on the boat and it’s not the best bait to cast. Way two is my favourite from the shore and that is get a whole small Joey mackerel or herring chop off the tail and score the sides. With your hook come into the side of the fish head with it and push in through the gill plates and then out the body and whip it securely into place which ends up ¾ of the way up the bait. You now have a bait that will travel better when going out and doesn’t break up upon entry to the water also your bait gives off scent for longer the scent trail is less but constant and is not lost in a strong tide which has a constant scent trail for a fish to follow. Squid baits are nice and easy I just get 3-4 medium squids put them top to tail alternating and then just whip it up together like a large torpedo leaving the tentacles to move about. I hook it through the top and have the proud hook point coming out half way down the bait making it hard to non wanted species to get on the hook. With both large baits I find its key to not strike too quickly! You see a good bite and instinct tells you to strike I leave these as quite often its the fish lifting the bait off the bottom and chomping up the unhooked part. I wait until they give a solid pull on the rod and then lift into it, you generally get a better hooking and it’s still in the front section of the mouth. I went for an eel fishing session with a friend just last week using this exact way with whole Joey mackerels and herring using way two and had a great night with around 11 eels in total with 4-5 being of a good standard and only a couple of large dog that managed to get on a bait. Also baits don’t have to be fresh! You can use old baits which some of my mackerel is and are for this reason old packets of macky defrosted and refrozen a few times all bloody and not the best for other types of fishing but we have to remember Eels are successful because they are scavengers as well as excellent hunters and opportunistic feeders as well so will eat stuff that many other fish will leave. So happy hunting and any old bait that needs using up now is a good opportunity!

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