What grows up to 9′ long, weighs 140 pounds, is slimy and ugly, and yet is considered a delicacy in many parts of the world? The conger eel. These scaleless, snake-like fish are found in the shallow coastal waters of all the world’s oceans. Possessing a large head and a mouth with strong teeth, conger eels’ coloring ranges from gray to black, with a pale belly and a low dorsal fin. There are about 100 different types worldwide, including the moray in the United States.
In England and Europe conger eels are such popular gamefish that there are tournaments as well as fishing clubs dedicated to this prey. We don’t usually target conger eel here, but maybe we should-they’re frequently caught by mistake, and anglers bold enough to take one home discover delicate white meat similar to that of a grouper.
Ready to go on a conger hunt? Cut up some fish bait and search out a rocky bottom or a wreck in coastal waters up to 300 feet deep. When you hook up, bring the eel off the wreck quickly-unlike other fish, conger can swim backward and will pull your line into its hiding place where it’s sure to break off. Once a conger is in the boat, steer clear of its strong teeth and jaws, which have been known to remove fingers. Also watch out for the conger’s slippery mucus coating, which prevents you from grabbing it while it’s squirming. Instead, lower it into the fishbox, then cut your line.