I wasted no time in getting my new year fishing underway and chose to begin with a rock fishing session on Anglesey in North Wales with conger eels in mind. I’ve also been field testing a potential new Penn 535Mag reel which is ideally suited to this rough and tough style of fishing, so it was a case of making the most of every opportunity.
The weather forecast, as usual, was way out. What should have been an easy 10mph southerly breeze turned out to be a steady 25mph side wind gusting to 35mph…oh and it was raining too, which also wasn’t forecast!
Not letting circumstances cloud my optimism I set up and fished the first hour down to low water with no result. But just after low water a series of bites produced a few inevitable dogfish, plus small conger to 5lbs or so.
I felt a longer cast might find a better fish, so eased off the magnets on the 535 and blasted a big mackerel and bluey cocktail way out in to the night. The side wind made fishing, and especially bite detection, difficult at times.
The bait had been out about ten minutes when I noticed a slight slackening of the line and then a retightening. I watched this carefully expecting the rod tip to pull over, which it eventually did, but only just. Not enough for me to strike yet. I had the feeling that the conger, which I was sure it was, was feeling the line tension. I released a few feet of line to give it some slack, and within a few seconds the line fully tightened as the eel made off with the bait and I struck.
There was a good weight there and the fish kicked hard. It fought close to the seabed for the first few yards, but rod and reel pressure soon tired the fish and it broke surface about 15- metres away from the rock ledge. It looked a double figure eel, but with me deliberately using heavy traces with bigger fish in mind my mate was able to gently swing the eel up and directly in to a convenient rock pool.
It weighed a shade under 10lbs and a few casts later I got one just over 8lbs. A good start to the year! It would have been nice to start the year with a double figure fish, but sizeable eels are good fun to catch, so no complaints!
Just a week later I was out on another deep water rock ledge, this time on a big spring tide. The wind had gone due east and this is never a good wind direction for fishing in my area. I changed tactics for this session and put up two rods, one with a big bait for the conger and hopefully huss, plus a rod armed with a 2-hook rig with smaller size Aberdeen hooks for any smaller species.
The night was again slow to start, but I picked up dogs, shore rockling and a couple of tiny strap conger close in. As the tide flow picked up I found a few more conger on the big baits, but none of these would have made more than 6lbs. I also added some small huss, in fact these were some of the smallest huss I’ve come across for some time. The session ended with no big fish, but the post New Year period is always hard going and you can’t expect to bag up every time. It is about catching what is in front of you first and foremost, then adapting tactics to target any possible big fish.
An interesting note to these trips is that the two marks are only a couple of miles apart, but the first mark that produced the bigger eels always fishes best with mackerel and bluey fish baits, at the second mark the eels want only whole squid. Fish can be hard to understand at times!
I’ll be out after flounder in my next blog, as the January to February period can produce some good surf fishing for these.