There are eight distinct species of Conger found in the Atlantic, but Conger oceanicus is the largest and most common. Specimens up to 250lbs have been taken by commercial fisherman although any fish caught on rod and line over 70lbs would be considered a specimen. The Conger has a scaleless skin and its upper jaw extends beyond its lower. Colouring very much depends on the type of seabed it inhabits. On rocks, the back is charcoal grey and the underparts are pale, but over sand the back is a light-grey brown. The margins of the dorsal and anal fins are black. The conger can normally be differentiated from another eel merely by its size. However, small fish can be identified by the dorsal fin beginning at the pectoral fins and running the length of its body. The dorsal fin on a silver eel begins well back from its pectoral fins.
The breeding cycle of the Conger is still something of a mystery due to the enormous distances that they will travel to spawn. It is thought that the Conger migrate to the Sargasso Sea in the sub-tropical Atlantic to breed, spawning at depths of 10,000 to 12,000 ft. The larvae are transparent and flattened, and drift at the surface for up to 2 years before reaching the shoreline where they become cylindrical. At this stage they are still transparent and about 3 inches long. The full colouring appears by the time the eel is 12 inches long.
Conger Eels favour very rough ground and inhabit deepwater wrecks, reefs and broken ground. In shallow waters Conger are mostly nocturnal feeders, but in depths of 60ft or more they feed at any time.
Conger are bottom feeders more than capable of catching live food. They will hole up in a wreck or rough ground and ambush lesser species. They will take fish baits, crab, cuttlefish and squid. The most popular bait is a mackerel 'flapper' produced by taking the whole fish and removing the backbone and tail, allowing the flanks and innards to flutter in the tide. If it is available, a whole live pout can prove deadly.
English Channel, North Sea, Irish Sea
Conger eels have extremely sharp teeth and strong jaws. Hook lengths should be constructed of wire or heavy duty monofilament to avoid being bitten through. Conger stay alive for long periods out of water and great caution should be exercised when unhooking. Conger flesh is relatively tough but eating quality is fair if cooked properly, often as Conger steaks.
The Aquarium Project