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Conger Eel, Conger conger

Irish Record Fish: 72 lbs 32.75 kgs
Caught: Valentia 1914
Boat Specimen: 25 lbs  11.34 kgs
Shore Specimen: 10 lbs  4.54 kgs
Photo Credit:

 James Guerin with a 25 kilo (62 lb) fish taken with a baited pirk off a deep water wreck on a charter boat out of Courtmacsherry. October 2004.

Introduction: The Conger Eel is a monster fish of nightmares with commercial boats having brought up fish weighing 250 lbs!  Anything over 30 lbs is an excellent fish. These predators prefer rocky and rough ground and will also inhabit groynes and harbour walls, and are more often caught at night.  Deep water offshore wrecks definitely offer the chance of a new Irish record, and when you consider the number of 100 lbs eels taken in the English and Bristol channels, it seems remarkable that a ton up eel has not been taken yet in Irish waters.  Smaller fish also provide continuous excellent sport from the shore, harbours and piers, often on a 'second' rod left fishing a legered half mackerel bait close inshore. They will often hunt for food inshore on a low tide.

Boat tactics: This is another bottom feeding predators with a taste for rough ground, including wrecks and reefs.  The rig has to be tough and a 30 lbs rod and reel set-up is standard issue for conger fishing in Ireland.  If you suspect a large fish, moving up to 60 lbs standard gear might be advisable.  A wire trace and forged 6/0 to 10/0 hook are just essential, with the standard bait being a fresh mackerel half, cone or flapper.  Whole mackerel baits are not uncommon. The flapper works best in reefs where the currents will move it around, and the long trace allow it this movement.  Fishing reefs and wrecks requires exact positioning from the skipper. 

Shore tactics: Congers provide great sport especially over rough ground and in particular around working ports, harbours and even small piers.  Anything > 10 lbs qualifies as a shore caught specimen, and there are plenty of these large eels in every port and harbour around Ireland.  Teelin and Courttown have seen eels of > 30 lbs taken from their piers. Conger are territorial so patience is required in seeking the bigger fish.  If you catch a small one first, and you want to catch a big one, move to another mark. The biggest fish are often caught on the first chill nights of autumn.  Smaller "strap" conger will scavenge in harbours during daylight especially at low tide. A smaller mackerel or fish bait on a 6/0 hook tends to be enough but you will still need to use a wire trace given the rough ground and their number one escape strategy, wrapping themselves around rocks or slinking into holes in between the blocks.  If this fate befalls you, your only hope is to let the line go loose for five minutes and hope they move... failing that, you lose!  There is no way you can muscle them out.