Conger Festival – 2014 report
The 35th annual Jersey Open Shore Conger Festival was held over the night of September 27th 2014.
Conditions on the day looked good, however looks can be deceiving and a reasonable swell had developed by the time darkness fell making a number of the more popular rock marks difficult to fish.
82 Anglers entered for the event, all hoping to capture that illusive monster, but most importantly land an conger over the minimum size of 15lbs.
As it turned out in this event only 6 anglers managed to succeed in their attempts, with 2 of the 6 fish weighed in, including the winning fish, being caught from St Catherine’s Breakwater. This provides sufficient evidence that you don’t have to climb cliffs to win an event such as this, making it accessible to 99% of anglers.
Biggest fish of the night weighed a massive 39lb 8ozs, a superb capture from a single evening. The captor was Mick Le Fevre, and his outstanding specimen won him the G.Gavey trophy and well over £300 worth of tackle. The prizes didn’t end there for Mick, who having entered the optional prize pool and scooped £207 in cash. Furthermore, this fish was a new PB for Mick who has been fishing St Catherine’s near enough since he was old enough to walk.
Second position on the night went to Sinkers member Andy Garnier who seems to be having a great year. Andy’s conger of 35lb 15ozs would have been big enough to win most years, and despite being quietly confident upon arrival to the weighing station, he had to graciously accept a 2nd place finish, but let it not go un-noticed this was still an outstanding shore eel.
Third spot was closely contested between Sam Daniels, and Mark Richard, with Sam’s eel of 23lbs narrowly piping Mark’s fish by a single ounce at 22lb 15ozs.
Dave Allen managed 5th place with a conger of 19lb 2ozs, while Danny Le Merrer sneaked one just above the minimum qualifying weight at 15lb 8ozs, Danny’s being the second eel caught at St Catherine’s breakwater.
There was some consolation for Andy having missed out on winning with his 35-15 effort, as together with Mark Richard & Tim Tumulty they secured the Colin Le Monnier memorial trophy for the winning team with a combined weight of 58lb 14ozs.
It was great to see so many anglers make it to the Sunday morning weigh-in, and everyone who made the effort was rewarded with a free gift even if they hadn’t managed to capture the target species.
This year saw one of the best prize lists since the event began, and with such an exclusive locally organised event, we have to say a massive thank to all the local tackle shops for continuing to support the events, not only the conger festival, but all the local open competitions. This isn’t limited to their generous donations towards prizes, but also promotion, distributing information and entry forms, while also collecting entries.
A final note from the organisers of the event wishes to point towards conservation, and the effort made to keep the competition attractive to anglers, yet induce minimal impact on the species. In an ideal world, this event would be made ‘catch & release’, but the nature of this species means there is no practical way of running an event on heaviest fish when the weight isn’t dictated on length, let alone being able to capture the length of a live conger. Being able to weigh a large eel also becomes hugely impractical due to length, unless you utilise a sack, but at this point you are unable to see the true contents. What has been adjusted over the years to be as conservative as possible is the qualifying weight, combined with the limitation of a single capture. The evidence has shown, with only 6 Conger coming to the scales in 2014, and in 2013 only 4. The organisers are also hugely pro-active when it comes to the fish arriving at the scales. There are a number of people/organisations that like to eat Conger Eel, and are contacted in advance to pre-arrange their demand for any unwanted captures. The local fishmongers are willing to accept any fish that are not distributed, and being a small island community provide donations from their sale to the RNLI, especially with its fitting nature when we are surrounded by the sea.