I've been receiving a bit of well meant 'stick' on the Facebook of late after posting pictures of the conger that I've been catching recently. I was 'criticised' for not wearing a lifeline in the pictures and not attaching myself to the boat especially as the fishing was in darkness.
Usually, I accept any advice readily but in this case feel the need to justify my actions and explain why I think a lifeline would be a hindrance, if not downright dangerous in this situation though of course, the reader should carry out an evaluation of the risks themselves, and make their own mind up.
My Warrior is a BIG small boat but, it is still a 'small' boat with relatively limited deck space. Bring a 7 foot long conger on board and suddenly it becomes a very crowded place indeed.
Crews that I've taken conger fishing have all been excellent at keeping the deck completely clutter free and following instructions to the letter when necessary, and the same can be said when tope and shark fishing. With an element of forward planning and having kit, such as gloves, weigh sling, pliers at the ready, everything so far , has gone very smoothly with all the bigger fish species I've had on board.
What tends to happen , especially with conger, is that there is a lot of strategic shuffling around the cockpit, swapping sides to balance the boat, manoeuvring to take pictures, measuring, weighing and of course returning the fish.
A 50lb plus conger needs two people to handle it safely in this environment. In this situation I'm of the opinion, that any form of lifeline or tether would be a real pain in the back side and more than likely be a trip hazard.
What I suggest is that people try it for themselves before drawing any conclusions and I don't mean conger fishing in a charter boat with an experienced skipper on board!
The Warrior has excellent freeboard (one of the reasons I chose the boat) and I'm only fishing for these conger in calm sea conditions, both of which greatly reduce the chance of going over the side but, there's always THAT chance and I will admit that I SHOULD be wearing a lifejacket and make no excuses whatsoever that I'm not.(Don't do as I do, do as I say)
The boat is equipped with a full compliment of life jackets but personally, I only wear one when I feel that it is necessary-perhaps when sea conditions 'kick up' and I've only ever felt the need to attach myself to the boat with a lifeline on one occasion-when motoring home alone in a heavy sea in my Orkney 520.This may be the wrong attitude but I'll leave the reader to decide on this issue.
I wonder how many regular small boat anglers actually wear a life jacket all the time.
The biggest problem the Facebook comments have created for me, is that my better half now worries about me being out fishing at night and indeed, on the last occasion lost sleep over it. She will get over it but she will take some convincing.
The 'real' problem at night is being able to see when you're motoring, and avoid hazards -usually pot markers. To be honest, this is where the small boat ,where you can stand to helm and look over the cuddy , really scores. I've been out in bigger cabin boats at night and its far more difficult to see what's ahead through a screen or window.
In the Warrior , once your night vision kicks in you can actually see very clearly indeed and again, with reduced travelling speeds I've not had any problems on night trips despite the plethora of badly marked 'junk' out there.
If I do accidentally pick up a pot line, which I have done during daylight, its easy to just trim up the outboard and set it free. Should a line become tangled with my prop, I always carry two very strong zip ties ready looped up so I can quickly attach my bait knife to my boat hook and safely cut the rope without leaning out over the stern-useful tip this one.
Anyway enough of that safety stuff-what of the fishing. I took Brian for a return trip to my conger mark this evening but on a much bigger tide that was flooding on the mark during the session. Despite the increased size of the tide the flow was greatly reduced compared to recent trips though with very little breeze, the boat held steady and I was still able to position her accurately.
The first anchorage produced very few bites at all although I did pick up a nice undulate ray on a the half mackerel bait.
With things a bit slow in comparison to what we'd been accustomed to of late, I decided to move the boat to a different part of the mark and anchor with baits fishing over what was obviously VERY rough, snaggy ground. This proved to be a wise move and three congers were brought to the boat in quick succession ,though nothing particularly big-upper doubles maybe.
For some reason the flood tide at this mark appears to be less productive despite the fact that, on the first anchorage, we had a shark chum sack pinned to the sea bed, and Brian's excellent bait dropper was used to deposit a few free offerings.
I suspect that the steadier flows that come with ebbing tides here are more effective at getting scent from the baits into the eel's lairs, or maybe there are just more eels on that side of the mark. At the moment, this is all pure conjecture and a few more tides need to be fished before any conclusions can be drawn however, if the evenings are calm when the tides come 'right' next week I suspect we'll be back for another go. I need to get Brian that big eel.
I'm hoping this post might generate a bit of discussion or some comments??? Please feel free, I'd like to know who is out there.