Drone—another conger

Over summer, every now and then, you get a little surprise. In this case, about a 5ft to 6ft long surprise. Conger eel. We have had four during that period; a couple of small ones 4ft long and a couple of well, BIG ONES!

I’ve never really been keen on catching eels. River ones are slimy and have snuck up on me while trout fishing in waist deep water. Frankly, they scare the proverbial out of me!

When I started my chef’s apprenticeship, I learned to smoke them and even enjoyed eating them.

Fast forward to 2022 and a fine day at Makikihi Beach. We were chilling out during a quiet spell when I looked up and the rod bent over.

The rod holder was canted about 35 degrees and sinking lower. I rushed over just in time to save it as about 50 metres flew off the spool. I locked up and tightened the tension a bit more. It really buckled over. “Damn,” I thought, “what the hell is that?”

We had set it a couple of hundred out with the drone and I gained 100 metres of line back. Then it was off again, not really head shaking, just pedal to the metal. I really had to hang onto the rod, as it was pulling hard. You could feel the power but we were still none the wiser what it was. We gained line lost and the bursts slowed down.

Now it was in the back set of waves and the rod was still buckled over. It found another gear and was surfing under the waves at Macktruck power. The water erupted behind the waves, but we still couldn’t see it. Finally, a good wave and in it surfed—a conger eel. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or disappointed but, damn, it was long and solid as hell.

I don’t like touching them, so I yelled at Tash, “GO GRAB IT!”

To my surprise, she did. Rod now in the holder, I went to assist. It was heavy, long and, to my surprise, not even slimy.

Now I was being brave and picked it up but struggled to get the tail off the ground. As I positioned for a photo, it flexed and got me right in the jewels! No warnings— just whack! Yes, it was funny as, but it did hurt the pride more than the jewels.

I fell backwards and let it go. It was slashing around on the beach. Wanting to release it, I got two hands behind its head—the rest dragging between my legs as I walked it to the waves— when whack, the tail leapt off the ground, just missing the jewels again. This time it came up my back and smacked me on the back of my neck, like an open hand slap but with added power to boot. I dropped the eel, had a giggle, another grab and it was off swimming to fight another day.

Tash was videoing it so if you want a giggle at my expense:



A couple of weeks later we got a smaller one, which we smoked.

I mixed up canola oil, crushed garlic, grated ginger, paprika, small amount of chilli powder, honey, little soy sauce and golden syrup. We use a hot smoker with two dishes of meths filled up twice to give it a good smoke. It was nice fresh out of the smoker.

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