Daytime Eeling - by Steve Dawe
Eel fishing is still a minority sport and sadly I feel it will remain so while many anglers still perceive the Freshwater Eel as a water Snake that puts in an appearance when your session is cursed. Another all to common perception is that Eels only feed after dark or in very coloured water. This article outlines my experiences and conclusions on Eel angling when the sun comes up.
Like most budding Eel anglers I would set out for my trips just before dark and pack up as soon as dawn arrived, content with the fact that I had usually received a hatful of runs and managed to land a few as well. The water I conducted most of my Eeling on was Upper Tamar Lake an 80-acre reservoir on the Devon/Cornwall border. This water mainly fished by Carp anglers is barren and windswept in the winter but its numerous bays can be quite beautiful in the summer. The water is virtually snag free but has silt beds and rock ledges in abundance and depths vary from 3 to 18 feet. The stocking is mainly Bream, Roach and Carp but the water used to be a premier fly fishery and still holds a few big Brown trout.
My theory is that Eels are the top predator on this water, there are a scattering of big Browns which I also encountered while daytime Eeling taking a few to 7lb 4oz on Skimmer Bream livebaits. Like many waters in the South West Upper Tamar contains no Pike I believe a necessary factor for a consistent daytime eeling water.
The Eels have developed into awesome predators with impressive dentures that have bitten through 20lb Amnesia and 25lb Quicksilver.
Their heads are very large as are their eyes and as the wolf said to Little Red Riding Hood all the better to see you with, I believe that the bigger Eels hunt during the day as they have nothing to fear.
The prey fish are also higher in the water allowing the Eel to strike from below, this I feel is the preferred method of attack of the eel and the protruding lower lip seems to back this theory. Fishing days on this water produced 3 Eels on one particular day of 3lb, 3lb 8oz and 3lb 10oz and during a National Anguilla Club Fish-in at the water I landed a 4lb 12oz specimen at 12:30 pm in red hot conditions.
Daytime Eel fishing however must be possible in many waters and so further investigation was required and other waters tested. The next water I fished was a small water of around 2 acres again there were no other predators and the lake was well stocked with Carp, Roach and Rudd. There was obviously a good stock of Eels in the water as I received runs after an hour of arrival these were all in the 2lb range and despite trying hard 2lb 10oz was the best I managed from this water.
The Eels in this water seemed willing to feed all day and in all sizes this was not the case at Upper Tamar as the majority of fish were larger eels.
The reason could be that on Upper Tamar many Cormorants, Herons and Grebes worked the water during the daytime and added to the fact that big eels are also very fond of small eels, it would seem likely that fear of predation would be enough to stop daylight movement of smaller eels. The other water fished had very few large eels and no other predators including bird life allowing the safe passage of eels of all sizes. I have up to date had little consistent success fishing for eels during the day when Pike are present in the water. I am sure many people will argue that they have caught eels during the day while Pike fishing, however I am only passing on my findings and I am also talking about consistent daytime eel catches.
I have recently had a chance to fish an estate lake where night fishing is not an option this particular lake is extremely old and has historically thrown up eels to 7lb plus to carp anglers. October is not the best month to start Eeling on a new water but I wanted to carry out a couple of exploratory trips before starting a serious campaign next season. The first trip started at 11:00 am and ended at 18:00 the day was bright but with a cold wind. The bait chosen was lamprey section on one rod (there are no pike present in the water) and lobworms fished popped up on the other rod. Half an hour later and the lamprey is off closely followed by the Eel that was chewing it, but at least it was a take. I ended the trip on 9 runs and landing six eels to 3lb 10oz the future at this water looks bright. The second trip to the lake saw me accompanied by occasional fishing pal Snickers, who has an annoying habit of only going on a couple of trips a year and catching big eels. I view him as a bit of an Eeling tourist but with a personal best of 6lb 4oz how can I knock his results. We walked from the car to the boathouse and made it just before the rain started to pour. While Snickers fumbled with his tiny pile of tackle I quickly worked out which swim would offer the best chance of catching a giant eel and quicker than Will Scarlet fired my bank sticks into the adjacent ground. Snickers turned to see the swims had been divided up and was quite happy with the selection a fact that concerned me. Ten minutes after casting and Snickers was in, 3lb 9oz of specimen eel proceeded to lay perfectly still for the weighing and photo session. It was then my turn and 1lb 4oz of non specimen eel proceeded to tangle both my rods and leave me slimier than a Ghostbuster. The day went as expected and we had several runs resulting in 12 landed Eels with Snickers up to his usual tricks landing two 3lb plus fish with the best going 3lb 15oz, well I did let him have the best swim. This water seems to fish very well during the day and I would go as far as saying is a perfect daytime Eeling water, plenty of action from eels of all sizes with the chance of a real monster. I look forward to next season and a serious effort at daytime Eeling on this water.
Fishing for Eels during the daylight has some serious advantages,
1, Easy unhooking and handling.
2, Easier to hook the fish as you can see which way it is running.
3, Much better photos in daylight.
4, You do not arrive home shattered and deprived of sleep.
5, You can travel lighter and fish the further swims.
6, You can fish a little closer to snags as you are right on the rods.
There are obviously many advantages of being able to fish for eels during the daytime and I am confident that more anglers would be encouraged to fish for Eels if they were aware that Eel angling doesn’t have to be carried out at night. The Eel is a very underestimated predator and given the right conditions will be the dominant predator on a water, so get out there and have a go.
The Eel fishing was easy in respect to fish up to 2lb 8oz and it was common to have 20 runs a night, the odd 3lber would make an appearance but they were rare. During one of these trips I was so shattered that some extra kip was needed so I left my Skimmer baits cast out while I dozed. I was awoken by what seemed like a strangled duck as the Delkim with the flat battery squeaked and squawked under the strain of a fleeing fish. The sun was doing its best to cook anything that moved and sailing boats filled the lake in front of me. The fish was still storming off and by this point demanding some sort of recognition; I picked up the rod and let the departing line travel over my fingers. I decided this fish was not going to stop and closed the bail arm and struck the rod hooped over and the fish was on. Safely landed the fish went 4lb 4oz a real cracker and in broad daylight in sunny conditions, this must be a stroke of luck.
This seemed to ring a bell, as my personal best Eel of 5lb1oz from Lower Tamar had come out in identical conditions, further investigation was required. The next few trips to the water saw me staying on until after 1pm and surprise surprise I started picking up Eels mainly 3lb plus. I was getting takes in deep water near the Dam and in 3 feet of water at the end of the arm, I was getting takes in rain and sun and all were in the daytime.