Commercial fishermen trawling off the coast of the United Kingdom near Plymouth were stunned last week when they brought aboard a seven-foot, roughly 130-pound conger eel. The eel had gotten caught up in the trawler’s nets and was already dead by the time it was brought out of the water, but its sheer size surprised even the fishermen on board.
“What a beast!” Plymouth Fisheries posted on Twitter, alongside a photo of the slimy giant.
Conger eels are the largest eels in the world, but fishermen rarely catch specimens of this size. According to Plymouth Fisheries, the current world record for an angler-caught conger eel stands at 133 pounds and four ounces. The eel caught last Thursday by the inshore trawler Hope weighed 131 pounds gutted, and was estimated at around 160 pounds alive. If it had been caught on rod and reel, it would have been a very strong contender for the world record.
“I was stunned because it was so huge,” Scott Govier, one of the fishermen aboard the 'Hope'. “It was too much of a magnificent specimen to kill, but as he was already dead it seemed worth bringing him in”.
According to Plymouth Fisheries manager Pete Bromley, conger eels are considered a very unusual by-catch for the area.
”Conger does not have a great deal of commercial value today as prices have dropped, but this was an impressive fish, and a catch to make any angler’s day,” he said in a statement on Facebook.
When the first photographs of the eel surfaced on the internet, speculation about the animal’s size and weight varied widely, with some reporting the length of the eel at over 20 feet. This was due mostly to a photograph that made the eel appear much larger than it was.
“The perspective is out in the photograph of the conger being hauled onto the quay, making it look a lot longer than it actually was,” Bromley said. “This photo taken by our staff of the conger alongside another landed eel gives a better indication. The chap standing next to it is around 5ft 7inches tall, and we estimated the conger eel to be around 7ft in length. Our second photo showing it lying on a pallet also makes this clear, as this pallet is only 1m by 1.2m in size.”
Despite its size, conger eels are not a usually lucrative catch for fishermen. Bromley explained that the eel sold for about 43 British pounds at auction, which only amounts to roughly 67 US dollars. Fishery experts said that the eel was likely an un-spawned female.
“These large eels are generally found hiding in the many wrecks around the South West, or on reefs and rocky ground, but they do venture out to open ground in search of food, usually during neap tides or slack water. Despite their size and power, they are not very strong swimmers,” Bromley added.