ABOUT THE CONGER EEL (OR CONGRIDAE, CONGER, CONGAR)
The conger eel or otherwise known as conger oceanicus. They have been recorded to grow up to 250lb which was caught by commercial fisherman, while the rod and line record is 133lb 4oz. There was an eel caught in Iceland which weighed 305lb. Ocean Warrior 3 has caught congers up to 103lb off the south coast of Sussex out of a port called Newhaven. Congers are mostly found around shipwrecks which they like to hide inside the wreckage. For safety, congers spawn at depths of 10,000 to 12,000 feet. The baby eels are called Larvae and are transparent and flattened and drift for up to 2 years before we see them in our English Channel.
WRECK FISHING FOR CONGER EELS
Wreck fishing in the English Channel for Congers on the deep sea wrecks is an awesome experience if you have not been before. Ocean Warrior 3 specialises in deep sea wreck fishing for Conger eels and has done so for over 20 years, throughout the English Channel. The wrecks off the south coast vary in size and age. A lot of wrecks went down in the 1st and 2nd world wars and scatter the seabed in the English Channel. Wrecks such as; submarines, trawlers and coasters. There are many sorts of different wrecks out there and some that haven’t been identified and remain uncharted and they all hold some big monster congers.
When we fish a wreck we anchor up tide of the superstructure, so that the baits are just in front of the wreck, this is done with a GPS on the boat for pinpoint accuracy. If we need to move our boat 30m either side, we put a shear rope on to our main anchor line and the boat will shear across with the tide. You would put the shear rope the opposite side of the direction you want to travel. This can be important when deep sea wreck fishing for Conger as you have to find where they are on a wreck as the wreckage could be in two halves. Most shipwrecks have a hole either side of the wreckage depending on which way it lays on the seabed. On occasion you may find that you can catch fish only on one side of the wreck this can be, the ebb side or the flood side. This depends on where the break or the hole is positioned on the wreckage.
HOW TO CATCH A CONGER
When you are deep sea wreck fishing for Conger they can either bite fiercely or gently, it all depends on how hungry they are on the day. They generally like a bit of tide running as the flow of the tide will take your bait straight into the heart of the wreck. Female Congers tend to be largest.
A typical conger bite would be a few taps on the end of your rod tip, followed by a steady pull as the conger backs off. This is when you start to crank your reel and lean into it, and then the Conger is hooked. I work on the thinking of when you have hooked a Conger, it is 30lb plus 10lb for every dive it takes, so working on that theory, an 80lb eel will dive 5 times. This is only my theory but it isn’t normally too far away.
When we are Conger fishing mid-channel we take the smaller congers off at the side of the boat. We do this by using a T-Bar. This works by turning the hook upside down while in the conger’s mouth and using its own weight to unhook itself. The bigger eels we use a long net which is purpose built for netting Congers so that they do not get hurt. We then photograph the Conger, weigh them and return them back to sea alive unharmed. We fish for Conger in the middle of the English Channel in depths of up to 60 metres of water.
The tackle you should be using to catch a Conger while offshore wreck fishing would be at the least a 40 to 60lb class rod. I find a Penn 4/0 reel (star drag) or a Shimano TL20 or 25 (lever drag). Both of these reels are robust and do the job well. The line should be between 50 to 80lb. A lot of anglers tend to be changing to braided line now. This means that you can cut the tide better as this braided line is designed so that anglers can use a lighter lead. I have found that Ocean Warrior 3 has lost some really big eels on braid. The art of using braid is the same in any type of fishing we do; you must have your clutch set right. This is because there is no glue in braid whereas with mono it has an element of glue, which will stretch, this helps the angler. It therefore makes it harder for it to snap as it is more flexible, but the disadvantage is that you have to use more lead with mono.
The end tackle we use would be a 1lb up to 3lb lead; it all depends on the strength of the tide you are fishing. We find that the ebb tide does not put pull as hard a flood tide. You would then attach it to a running boom then a snap swivel. The trace we use now would be a 200lb to 300lb mono with a hook size of 8.0 or 10.0.
CONGER FISHING TIPS
1) When getting a conger to bite, give it time to take the bait or if the eel is very finicky, give it 2 or 3ft of line to move the bait around, as this makes the Conger think it is going to lose it and will sometimes jump straight on it.
2) Always keep plenty of pressure on the line and do not give it any slack line, as it can spit the hook out.
3) Sometimes when congering with mackerel flappers, they can take the flapper and leave the head. Therefore, sometimes you have to push the hook through the head and out the other side of the flapper near the back of the mackerel. It is important not to bury the hook in the mackerel.
4) After catching a couple of eels the trace will become weak where their mouth scuffs the trace line, so cut some of your trace and retie it. (some people tie it or others crimp it)
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