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ANGLING: Festival cheers as Axford wins conger prize
THE 19th Annual Weymouth Conger Festival saw 70 anglers compete from eight boats over three days to catch the biggest conger eel.
Always competitive but also conservation minded, the skippers stayed in regular contact to ensure that only the biggest eels were brought to the scales each day.
Fishing on this catch and release basis, 620 conger eels were caught with only eight brought back to weigh for awards.
On day one anglers put went sea in excellent conditions, but unfortunately favourable conditions do not always mean good fishing, which became apparent as the day wore on.
By close of play only 115 eels were caught with Mark Wright, fishing from Clem Carter’s Wild Frontier, returning a fish of 62lb to the scales to win the day.
Day two saw similar fishing conditions, although a little misty to start and with an increasing wind – but anglers, being what they are, were full of optimism as they set out.
During the course of the day, competitors and skippers were beginning to notice potential candidates for certain awards that would be revealed at the presentation.
The anglers’ optimism proved well-founded with 218 eels caught on the day, an increase of almost 100 per cent over day one.
That was a testament to the hard-working efforts of the skippers to find fish, none more so than Chris Tett of Peace & Plenty who anchored his boat over a deep water wreck.
Warren Yates found himself among the eels, catching three over 54lb and the winning eel at 70lb.
The final day saw anglers go to sea knowing the competition was still up for grabs.
Darren Axford, fishing aboard Peace & Plenty, landed an 82lb eel in the last 15 minutes which turned out to be the largest of the 287 caught that day and of the festival overall.
Although the festival is about catching congers, the fish caught alongside the eels goes to show the quality of fishing to be had in this area.
As all the skippers reported fantastic catches of ling to 30lb-plus, cod to 26lb, black bream to 5lb-plus, turbot to 12lb and pollack to 18lb, all on gear and baits intended for congers.
At the end of three intense days of fishing the anglers and skippers gathered at the Sailors Return for the annual presentation and to discuss their exploits.
Prizes were given by com-modore of the Charter Fleet Chris Caines for the biggest conger eel and top points aggregate on each boat, plus the top 10 points aggregate over the three days and for the biggest conger overall.
Thanks go to the sponsors of this year’s event – Andy Alcock of Quayside Fuels for the trophies and weighing the fish, Dan and Jackie of the Sailors Return for their hospitality and 82 cans of beer for the biggest conger, Andy Selby from Weymouth Angling Centre for his superb organisational skills, speedy collation of the results and the prizes, and Weymouth Charter Skippers for their endeavours for the anglers and the prizes.
Next year will see the celebration of the 20th Annual Wey-mouth Conger Festival from August 18-20.
Book early to avoid disappointment and be a part of one of the best competitions in the fishing calendar.
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