Cold Weather Conger

After weeks of wet and windy weather which had severelyrestricted any chance of fishing due to what can only be described as overlydangerous seas, the forecast high pressure weather system set to edge acrossthe UK suggested conditions would finally be right for a trip after roughground conger. High pressure in the winter means cold, calm, crisp weatherconditions and this always puts the conger in feeding mood.

We elected to fish a deep water rock mark in
North Wales. The ground geography is very rough andtackle losses are always high, but such evil ground gives consistent fishingwhen the eels actually want to feed.

“When the eels want to feed” is the key statement. Congertypically choose to feed all at the same time over short periods, and beingpredators will often gorge themselves on one tide but then abstain from feedingfor the next few nights, so timing is everything.

Conger also tend to like just a little tide run, so willoften feed best just before low and high slack water as the tide is about tochange from ebb to flood and vice versa.

The night was crystal clear, the sky full of stars andbitterly cold with a frost. I set up with a clipped down pulley rig made from120lb mono ending in a size 6/0 hook. I elected to fish two rods with my Penn 535reels loaded with 30lb Penn mono and strong 80lb shock leaders to both combatthe rough ground, but also to allow me to bully big fish away from the seabedsnags.

About an hour before low water a conger took the bait and Iwatched the line fall slack as it moved away. Feeling the weight of the fishand hitting the hook home, the fish hammered the rod over and tried to turnback for the seabed. Heavy pressure was needed to force the fish first throughthick kelp weed, then slowly but surely higher up in the water column. The eelhung briefly 25ft down refusing to budge, but steady pressure told and the fisheventually broke surface. It looked about 15lbs and after a quick photo was returned to the sea.

It was hectic action now with conger bites all the time. Ihooked another eel and fought this one up from deep water. As I did so I saw myother rod tip bounce and again the line fall slack, but could do nothing. I landed the hooked fish which looked about 10lbs, and returned it, then went back to the slack line bite. The eel had spat the bait and was long gone.

Next cast I hooked another big eel and this stayed near theseabed with heavy rod pressure struggling to move it. I got the eel coming andit felt heavy, but hook pulled free and the fish was gone. It also proved to bethe end of a very short feeding spree, maybe only 30 minutes or so. Typicallythe eels were triggered to feed together roaming across the seabed as the tideeased, but just as slack water was due they lost interest and went back to theirlairs.

Although the conger were big enough to give some great sportwe missed out on the 20lb plus fish, but the night ended on a high note though,when my fishing buddy landed a rare shore ling weighing 4lbs 5ozs.

 

With the Christmas holidays looming I’m aiming to get backon the rocks as much as time allows as this is the best time now for a reallybig conger over 30lbs from the deep water rock marks in Devon, Cornwall andWales.

If you can’t get out on the conger during calmweather, then try the shallower surf beaches for the chance of some great dabfishing with three-hook flapper rigs using small size 4 Aberdeen hooks baitingwith small section of lug. This is the technique to get the numbers, but tipoff with mackerel and squid to pick out the bigger fish. 

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