With the weather now in full swing of changing into autumn and with so many colours around in the trees and leaves everywhere locally and leaves on the floor, with stiffer cold autumnal winds blowing it means that the Bristol Channel species is at a time of change which has also of late seen a large influx of conger eel coming in around the shore marks and the first shows of good whiting along with the return of the dogfish to our catches. With all of this present I have been having a bit of fun taking part in a Specimen competition online run by Jason Scott who a lot of you may know from his You tube channel The Eastbourne fisherman.
I decided that one section I would like to try and win would be the Conger eel section so got my heavy duty rigs together which came from a guy called Sean Cassin of All rigged up, I then sorted out my gear ready. I gave Chris and Josh a call to see if they wanted to come along to the gulley for an eel session. Unfortunately Josh already had other arrangements with some friends but Chris was game. The weather that evening was a bit blowy which was lumping up the surf close in at the gully which I thought may cause us an issue with landing fish but it was going to have to be good old fashioned timing involved with the surf and using it to our advantage to land the fish ... if we get any! On arriving at the mark there was nobody else around so we had the choice of where we wanted which was a bonus Chris chose to go to the left of me about 20 meters away and we both started to set up a bit further back from the sea than normal due to rogue waves and crashing surf close in. Looking out into the blackness at sea as I was setting up my tripod I could see the sea was really swollen it was so dark due to the moon being so low and no light pollution that the blackness just swallowed up the light as if it was a kids torch. All set up I was using my Century kompressor WR300 and my Tronix pro Xenon travel rod which is standing in for my broken rod at present but that’s another story! So with reel all set up on the WR300 I had a whole Joey mackerel with the tail chopped off and scored on the sides with a wire bite trace from All rigged up leading to a 8/0 tope/conger hook all in a running ledger format. On the Xenon I was using the same rig again from All rigged up but this time with a 200lb mono bite trace which has a slightly better presentation than the wire trace but this one was loaded with Herring. The bait which was herring was good decent fresh bait and the mackerel has been defrosted several times and refrozen from trips before where they are not used and not really suited for when you need good bait sessions, BUT they are perfect for this. All bloodied up and skin splits a bit when taken out of the packet it was bloody and oily ... a great bait and one that I find for eels out performs fresh bait. Casting the baited rigs out into the blackness I get one of the baits out to around the 50 m mark and the other one on the xenon at 30m and then sit and wait. FIRST BLOOD: After sitting and chatting for a bit around twenty minutes or so awaiting for our baits to do their thing my Rotten bait on the wr300 starts a heavy rattling the cutch is set so not worried but the hook is ¾ of the way up the bait and using single hook only. Resisting the urge to strike I wait for the “pull” which normally signifies the Conger has taken the bait and the hook, its chomped its way up to and onto the hook and is off with it! With that I tighten up the clutch a little but leaving enough that the fish can take line if its needed and lift into the rod with that I get a big heavy thump on the rod as it knows it is hooked and its fish on! Reeling like mad at first and lifting the rod up to bully the fish away from the bottom so it can’t wrap itself around anything there I could feel it spinning and recoiling away on the end of the rig trying to get off but no chance those Cox and Rawl hooks are super sharp! A few minutes of tug of war and were at the surf line I can see the head and body and it a half decent fish maybe over what I need to take the lead in the section which was standing at 1M10CM I flick my headlamp onto full beam with both lamps which is enough to wake the dead up with the Fenix HM65R I can see it all in the surf with a large swell coming in behind and a large pool of wash still in on the stones ...perfect! I wind up on the reel and as the wave comes in I use the surf to lift the fish and wind like fury to keep the line tight as the surf pushes my fish onto the beach excellent stuff! I walk down to the eel and hold the leader and bring it up the beach to my box, I whip out the name card and tape ready to photo it and it comes to 106cm damn! Just short! But was my first cast so plenty of time yet heading to the tackle box to get the T bar diving into the box deeper and deeper searching around I can’t find it ... yes that’s right.... I’ve forgotten it! What a complete Twat! I just have some long nose pliers so a quick call to Chris and he runs over with his luckily. Eel photograph quickly taken, then unhooked and it’s a safe return to the sea. Standing back I launch the eel at the sea as the wave comes in and off it goes with a slither back to the blackness. Walking back up I’m pleased with myself first cast and I get a half decent strap of about 7-8 pounds so a quick cleaning off the hook and then whip it back into place with bait elastic with my next pre made bait I make in between waiting on fish and with a quick flick of the rod it was back out to 50M for some other greedy snot monster to take. Putting the rod back and setting the clutch again I literally just put my butt cheeks on the seat box and the xenon bends over well and keeps going jumping back up and on it the line is starting to be taken with the rod in hand I tighten up the clutch a bit and lift into it with that the bend gets a bit better everything hooks up beautifully and its solid I can feel the fish is in the under current so winding down and lifting on the rod I bring the eel up a few feet and then repeat this a couple of times keeping the pressure on to get the eel out of the undertow and its back to being easier again I turn my headlamps into daytime mode and I can see the eels head about 15m out again as I’m bringing the fish into the surf I use the waves to land the second eel. Whilst collecting the eel and bringing back from the shoreline I notice the herring is smashed to bits with just the head and spine left the eels is a bit smaller but is a scrappy little number and around the 6lb mark a quick photo and borrow of the T bar and its conger two away back home safely. Hooking up one of my other premade baits quickly and a short walk down and it’s a case of another gentle cast to 30m so far both have scored so if it’s not broken don’t change it! Setting the rod down in the rest I break out the all important flask and shout across to Chris if he wants a brew as well to which I get the thumbs up and an emphatic nodding. Cups filled and put down and sods law Chris is into a fish, good stuff! Chris brings it in easy enough and it gets thrown onto the beach by the wave and he has a double shot of dogs on a pulley rig I offered a photo op and got that look women normally give us guys when more fishing gear turns up on the doorstep so had a little chuckle and carried on sipping the nice hot sweet brew. All traps reset back into the water and the wind had picked up and the tide was nearer although on safe ground you can feel the power of the waves as it crashes into shoreline and feel it through your boots from the stones underneath and fishing in the dark reminds you to have a healthy respect of nature as you don’t get a second chance! I was just letting my mind wander about what equipment review I would do next for The Snag website when the rotten bait was having strong stabbing motions on the end again I fought the urge to strike to early and then there it was the rod pulled to the right and over already up line started to leave and I tightened up the clutch again leaving some to play if needed reeled down and lifted up into the rod all of the sudden the Kompressor was bent over and sending a bend into the middle happy days another decent eel I could feel the banging on the end and the rod tip moving up and down in line with the thumping, reeling down I lift up again to get the eel out of the gulley which has a strong tidal flow in it and all of a sudden the line goes slack I reel furiously to catch up with it as its obviously swimming my way and its game back on with rod bent and line taught again. This one was feisty it spinning the whole way in and even when the waves dumped it on the beach and this one was bigger and fatter than the first one unfortunately I didn’t bring the scales or I would have weighed this one but either way I grab the leader line and bring to my box and rod stand a quick turnaround to ask Chris for the T bar and he’s already there Johnny on the spot with T bar ready... Top man! A quick snap whilst still on the hook to save getting slimed up and so it is easier to handle and it was an unhook quick measure although we we couldn’t get him to stay still at all and snapped 1M 13CM but I think straightened out would have been about 1M 14cm-1M 15cm and as we all know every cm counts! It started to go quiet for around twenty minutes with myself and Chris wittering away about fishing in general when Chris saw his rod with some small taps and enquires so went back to his rods with that as I was watching to see what was going on with his rods my xenon bent over hard and then was biting like a dogfish feeling a bit confused I grabbed the rod and lifted into it tightening up the clutch the rod arched over nicely and I was thinking this could be the conger I’ve been looking for it was heavy all the way in but no spinning just banging I eventually got it into the shoreline and went down as the water cleared away I had a conger hooked through the lower jaw perfectly and also had a dogfish foul hooked by his tail add all of that into the undertow and that was my good conger.
A small chuckle to myself at thinking it was a good one I unhooked the dog easily and quickly released him after a photo and then unhooked the eel a quick measure even though wriggling away came to 1M11CM nice but not quite big enough. A quick photo and then released safely to fight another day as well. Although this one left his mark as he slipped away he swished his tail and slimed my leg up well.
A few cups of coffee later and we were approaching 3hrs of fishing and it had been pretty nonstop action of smaller straps and dogs for Chris I had a couple of cheeky eels get on the end of the hook somehow which were between 2-4 lb but all appreciated to keep me moving. With that Chris had a great bite and hooked into a good fish putting a very healthy bend into the rod getting it out the gulley he was bringing it in nicely winching down on his 525 multi with the eel surrendering very small amounts of line it comes into the surf where I’m waiting near the shoreline to make sure he comes in then I see its big fat head in the surf coming out of the frothing surf line and its great chunk of an eel the best tonight and just as I was about to grab and haul up the beach from the surf he bites through Chris 80lb hook trace and everything “pings” up the eel about turns and disappears this was a nice eel if landed I think would have easily gone to 20lb but not to be tonight, not knowing who was more gutted, I feel for Chris as I lost one of this size at Donniford a while back with my boys and I like people who come with me to catch good even if I’m out fished in the process. But I guess we learn every time we are on the beach no matter how long we have been fishing and it’s the reason I now go over gunned with conger for this exact reason. As the tide hit slack water the ocean seemed to suddenly be devoid of life we stayed half an hour into it and no bites were showing by this point I had just used my last bit of bait so we agreed to call it a night and pack up. Walking back through blackness with the odd set of eyes peering out of bushes catching our headlamps we were talking about the evening and how enjoyable it had been whilst discussing when next to go out possibly for a ray session or try my monster hunt again. It was a thoroughly enjoyable night and not one I may have done if it wasn’t for the small comp by Jason Scott and thanks again to Sean Cassin of All Rigged up for your great rigs mate top notch stuff.