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THE CONGER EEL & THE BRITISH CONGER CLUB


The Conger Eel

has been described by the photojournalist Mike Millman as "magnificent, mean and moody". The description is perfect and many commentator's have tried to better it without success. The conger eel is a fish of legends, the haunter of dark wrecks and reefs, whose bite is terrible to see, a severer of fingers and of thick monofilament and wire traces.  And surely few other fish come to the gaff, spinning and lashing the water, mouth snapping and exerting such tremendous pressure against the tackle. It features in the stories of many anglers as the monster fish, "the one that got away". It is the female of the species which grows to such large sizes whilst the male rarely exceeds any more than 25lbs in weight.


(Picture courtesy Mike Millman)

The unique picture above has to be one  of the rarest available in terms of CONGER EEL photographic history. It shows two 100lb Conger Eels being weighed simultaneously, a first in the UK.


The eel on the right in the picture was caught on the
"MISTRESS" and weighed 101lbs 8ozs and the one on the left, which was a new world record at the time was caught by Trevor Kerrison on the "ELECTRIC BLUE" and weighed in at 111lbs 4oz.
 

   

 

200lb plus Conger Eel captured when trawling by the vessel "Andromarque"
(Picture courtesy Western Morning News)

There is no doubt that these fish exist in much larger weights than the current rod caught record.  Many fish have been landed commercially in south west UK ports with weights well in excess of 150lbs gutted.  

My late friend Alan Levick who lived in Cornwall reported that in 1984/85 the fishing vessel "ANDROMARQUE" skippered by "Perko" caught a Conger Eel of 220lbs gutted weight, off the Manacles Reef, just after the Royal Navy had blown up a nearby wreck. Now that's some fish !  And yet again I can report in 2001 that the above named vessel trawled up another monster which weighed in at just over 200lbs. This time the skipper was John Brenton.

 


(Picture courtesy Western Morning News)
 

This nine foot long Conger Eel pictured above  was landed at the NEWLYN FISH MARKET, Cornwall on Wednesday April 21st 2004 from a local trawler.

It beat the scales at 68Kg or 10 stone which was the maximum weight the scales could record with plenty of extra weight to spare. To show how big this fish was it was weighed in gutted form.

It estimated that this fish weighed 175 to 185lbs in true weight. It was sold to a local fish & chip shop.

In May 2015 the Plymouth Inshore Trawler MFV Hope landed a massive Conger Eel of 59.5Kg (131lbs and 7ft 1" in  length) gutted was captured on open ground off Plymouth. Displayed here at the Plymouth Fish Market.

It is estimated the fish weighed somewhere between 150 to 160lbs.

The crew of the MFV HOPE said they caught the fish in nets and it was dead when hauled it aboard. The fish made 
42 on the Plymouth Fish Market.

NOTE: It would appear that the fish looks larger in the picture than it actually was. This was probably due to the camera angle.

Here is a better shot of the same fish which gives it a better perspective.
 


In 1961 a few anglers toyed with the idea of forming a specialist club for this particular specimen the "conger eel", the quarry of all sea anglers worth their salt. On the 17th January 1962 the  BRITISH CONGER CLUB was formed and the membership at that time mainly consisted from anglers and clubs from the Littlehampton area. The first A.G.M of the CONGER CLUB took place on the 5th April 1963 with the renowned angler Mike Connell being the chairman. 

John Marchant with 102lb 8oz Conger Eel captured with Skipper Tony Allen on the "NORVIC".
  
(Picture courtesy Russ Symons)

Boats that were soon to become household names for conger eels soon began to arrive on the scene. The first being the "KON-I-NOR" skippered by Dudley Stone and then the "OUR UNITY" skippered by that great duo of John Trust and Ernie Passmore both based at Brixham.  

The next new name was the "GIRL ALISON" from Torquay.  Boats specializing in conger catching gradually appeared further west at Plymouth with "ANJONIKA", "JUNE LIPET", "BOA PESCADOR" and "SUNLIT WATERS".

As ling were gradually cleared from the wrecks, really big conger started to appear and the record breaking saga started.  In 1970 Colin Chapman of Southampton fishing from the "OUR UNITY" broke H. A. KELLY's 1933 record of 84lbs by just 1lb fishing over a wreck in Lyme Bay.  

Only 17 days later the record was broken yet again by Peter Arscott with a specimen of 92lbs 13oz from the "GIRL ALISON".  The record was broken yet again in 1973 by Billy Oaten fishing from the "OUR UNITY" with an eel of 95lbs 11oz.

The first "ton up" eel was taken in 1974 off Cornwall by angler Ron Thompson.  His 102lb 8oz fish was caught on a baited pirk.  Ron Thompson did not seek membership of the Conger Club but his fish became a milestone in conger fishing.

Two years on in 1976, Robin Potter broke the record with a fish of 109lbs 6oz at a wreck near the Eddystone Lighthouse from the Plymouth based charter boat the "BOA PESCADOR" skippered by Steve Barrett. Once again this fish was captured on a baited pirk.

Newer faster boats had arrived on the scene and the older vessels departed.

Tony Allen skippered a fast Lochin 33 called "NORVIC" out of Plymouth and John Marchant was the first client to catch a 100lb + eel on this new high speed craft. John Marchant is pictured above in the colour picture with 102lb 8oz Conger Eel. This was followed by Wally Ellis with a fish of 101lb 8oz a few months later.

In the next few years new names such as "NIKARA", "ELECTRIC BLUE", "SALTWIND", "MISTRESS", "ANGLO DAWN 11" and the "MIDNIGHT EXPRESS" started to make waves.

Skipper Tony Allen gaffs Paul Edginton's 90lb Conger Eel aboard "ELECTRIC BLUE".
(Picture Capt. Tony Allen)

Trevor Kerrison's World Record Conger Eel of 111lbs 4oz captured aboard "ELECTRIC BLUE"
(Picture courtesy Mike Millman)

 

That record had stood untouched for 15 years until August 1991 when the Plymouth based charter boat "MISTRESS" captained by my good friend Bill Warner at last the cracked the record with a magnificent fish of 110lbs 11.5oz caught by Hans Clausen a long time member of the Conger Club. Just nine months later an explosive time in conger eel catching took place which must be unprecedented in the history of Conger fishing.  

Eels of 100lb plus were starting to be caught with what seemed to be regularity. It is interesting to note that all of these fish were caught after the barometer suddenly plummeted to give "low pressure" at the same time as neap tides.

The picture at the beginning of this page has to be one  of the rarest available in terms of CONGER EEL photographic history.  It shows two 100lb Conger Eels being weighed simultaneously, a first in the UK. The eel on the right in the picture was caught on the "MISTRESS" and weighed 101lbs 8ozs and the one on the left, which was a new world record at the time was caught by Trevor Kerrison on the "ELECTRIC BLUE" and weighed in at 111lbs 4oz.

Hans Clausen held the record for just nine months until the spring bank holiday of 1992 when Trevor Kerrison took a fish of 111lb 4oz from the Plymouth based charter vessel "ELECTRIC BLUE".  

The picture above right displays Trevor Kerrison world record fish.  On the same day a specimen of of 105lbs 8oz came aboard the Dartmouth based vessel "JENNIFER ANN" and a 101lb 8oz eel was also caught on the Plymouth based vessel "MISTRESS".

The ink was hardly dry on the Kerrison claim form when the record was pushed up even further to 112lbs 8oz by Nial Ball fishing from "SALTWIND OF DART".  Within two weeks the record was equaled by Del Mash fishing from "ELECTRIC BLUE".

The years of 1992 and 1993 were exceptional in terms of conger catching and many catches of eels in the 90lb class were made all along the south coast.  

The notable front runners were the charter boats "MISTRESS",  "ELECTRIC BLUE",  "SALTWIND OF DART",  "ANGLO DAWN 11",  "SEA SPRAY",  "MIDNIGHT EXPRESS".  All contributed to great catches during this exceptional run.

Things became quite for the next two years until June 1995 when my old friend Vic Evans from Brixham blew the record out of sight with an enormous eel of 133lbs 4oz from his vessel "SEA SPRAY" on a wreck just 10 miles from Berry Head off Brixham.  

 WORLD & BRITISH RECORD CONGER EEL

Vic Evans from Brixham with an enormous eel of 133lbs 4oz from his vessel "SEA SPRAY"

(Picture courtesy & copyright Mike Millman)

And there the record remains today, until some fortunate angler does it yet again. However the message for the future is "CATCH AND RELEASE" so we may retain those fish which may eventually become record breakers. 

RECORD BREAKER FLIES THE ATLANTIC.

A replica of Vic Evans Conger Eel record fish of 133lbs 4 oz. pictured above was commissioned by the BCC for the International Game Fish Association's HALL OF FAME and was flown to Fort Lauderdale by Delta Airlines.

The I.G.F.A.'s "WORLD ANGLING CENTRE" is now open at Pompano Beach and is worth a visit by all anglers. There is much to see. Visited by Tony Allen in July 2005. The picture above shows BCC Club Officers Tom Matchett, Roger Coultman and Mike Millman holding the replica prior to it's departure.

 SECOND HEAVIEST CONGER EEL EVER CAPTURED

Picture by kind permission of Mike MILLMAN-Photo Journalist

Shaun TROMANS of Bristol, UK. with the second largest Conger Eel caught, weighing 115 lbs. This fish was caught wreck fishing off Plymouth in 1999 from the vessel "SCORPION" captained by Dave BRETT.

During the year of 2005 another World & British Conger Eel Record was broken in the 20lb Light Line Class. This was a phenomenal achievement by Fred Hayward fishing from the Paignton based vessel "OUR JOE-L". This record is likely to stand for many, many years.

 World & British Conger Eel 20lb Line Class Record (DENIED!)

Fred Hayward is claiming a new I.G.F.A 20lb Line Class World Record with this enormous Conger Eel weighing in at 101lbs 2oz and taken from a wreck in Lyme Bay on board the vessel "OUR JOE-L" skippered by Simon Pedley. Regrettably due to a technicality the application was refused as insufficient line was presented!
                                               (Picture copyright & courtesy Mike Millman)

I would like to record my thanks to Mike Millman the well known UK based photo angling journalist who supplied me with much of the above data and the photographs. Should you require information regarding membership of the British Conger Club or any other information please contact our hard working secretary.
1.Click on the logo to go to the BCC website. 2. BCC Festival Winners

BRITISH CONGER CLUB FESTIVAL WINNERS

   
www.britishcongerclub.org.uk



www.britishcongerclub.org.uk

Nigel McLoughlin (BCC Secretary)
8 Rose Close, Woodley, Reading. RG5 4UR
Tel No: United Kingdom (+44) 1189 698490  Email: secretary@britishcongerclub.org.uk

 


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