If you are wondering what happened to me from September to late November, blog wise, I was constantly working away and unable to fish. Going for so long without wetting a line was sheer agony and by late November when I finally got home the ache to fish was unbearable.
My first trip out was after conger. It was a flat calm night with no sea swell and a sky full of stars. I hit a conger while the tide was still on the ebb. It felt a decent double figure fish, but got tangled in a lobster pot rope and broke me off. I then had another eel fight me for a few yards before it spat the hook. To cap off a bad night I then hooked a monster of an eel that came grudgingly in towards me hugging the seabed. There’s a submerged rock ledge some 30-yards out in 45-feet of water and I couldn’t get the eel up and over the ledge. On the second attempt I got it about two thirds of the way up, then the eel decided it wasn’t happy and went on a long steady run heading back out to sea whilst taking yards of line off before the line parted on a submerged rock.
Just a few days later, I was out again with conger in mind. What a contrast weather wise though. There was a strong westerly wind and a big sea swell. There was a heavy blanket of rain, but only the odd brief period of drizzle. I fished for 5-hours and only had two bites. These resulted in a 9lb 4oz huss and a conger well in to double figures, though I didn’t weigh it. These on a mackerel and squid cocktail bait.
It was 12 days before the tides were right again, and I decided on the same mark with the fish seemingly being consistent on it. Again the weather changed completely. The wind was strong and gusty from the southeast this time and the sea as rough as I’ve seen it for ages. The cloud cover was patchy with a moon trying to break through. It wasn’t cold though.
I fished a second rod with small baits on looking to pick up maybe a small poor cod or pout as this fresh bait would give me an edge over the frozen mackerel and squid I’d brought. The first bite came to the conger rod and produced a small eel about 7lbs followed by another about 9lbs on the next cast. My fishing buddy was next in with a bull huss about 6lbs followed by a nice conger that looked about 11lbs or so.
The smaller baits produced a pouting and I put a fresh fillet of this on the hook and wrapped it with squid. There were numbers of crab about now, stripping the baits quickly, but the squid stops them from eating the soft fish flesh away too fast leaving the scent to wash away downtide for longer to find the fish.
I had a steady couple of pulls on the rod tip after a few minutes of casting this fresh natural bait out and then a slack line as the fish took the bait and moved off. This fought well and showed its weight, but I knew it was a huss and we eventually gently lifted in a huss that looked somewhere around 8lbs or so. We had a few more smaller strap conger before bites died altogether.
All this rock ledge fishing has an ultimate goal to it. For years I’ve wanted to catch a 50lb eel off the shore. The best time to do this in my locality is from late November through to late January, so I’m putting in as much time as possible at the moment. The problem is you have to work through a percentage of fish caught. It is impossible to just target the single big eel. The baits you put out will also be eaten by much smaller eels, and huss, and you just have to keep catching until the big girl takes the bait.
With such big fish in mind I’ve also modified the tackle set up I use at this time of year. I still favour a pulley rig, but now make it from 150lb commercial mono. This takes the abrasion when an eel fights tight to the seabed, but also is thick enough to withstand the abrasive teeth of the eel. The hook is a strong O’Shaughnessy pattern size 6/0 with the point honed down with a honing stone to form a knife edge for maximum sharpness and cutting power. I don’t like bigger hooks as they can take too much pressure to sink in to a big fish when fishing at range, and I’m casting to a maximum range of about 75-yards with big baits.
The ground I’m casting on to is extremely rocky with tackle and fish loss heavy, so I use a weak link to the lead off the base off the rig. This is a simple loop tied in the rig, a lead weight with a dog leg formed in the wire by pliers, tie a weak link of line between the loop and the wire on the lead, then put the dog leg of wire in the loop for casting. This flips out when the weight hits the sea providing the line is slack, not still tight. It means I may lose a weight, but get the rig back, and also catch fish that I might otherwise lose should a fixed lead get snagged.
I favour a Penn 535mag 2 reel loaded with 30lb Berkley line, and use a 60lb shock leader made from Berkley Big game which I find is the most abrasive resistant, but importantly both these lines knot well together. The shock leader knot is very important too. I use the Spider Hitch knot favoured by specialist anglers and tournament casters, but instead of tying a single overhand knot in the leader as is normal, I tie in a figure of eight knot and pass the main line Spider Hitch loop through both holes in the figure of eight knot. This produces a much stronger knot which means I can put maximum pressure on a big fish, but also when the tackle gets snagged the stronger shock leader knot gets me more tackle back.
That’s a brief run down then, on my recent trips out and my search and tactics for a 50lb plus conger eel. It will remain my principal target over the Christmas period, providing the weather holds. I’ll keep you all posted as things progress!
This will be the last blog of 2013. I’d like to wish you all a very happy Christmas, an especially happy and prosperous New Year, and of course Tight Lines!