Eels are extemely powerful fish and strong tackle is needed to land the larger specimens. They cannot be tired out by ‘playing the fish’ as can other species and they have to be ‘pumped’ unceremoniously toward the bank. To ‘pump’ a fish you lower the tip of the rod towards the water and then, without reeling in, pull back on the rod handle to raise the tip of the rod again. You reel in the line . you have gained from the fish as you again lower the rod tip to repeal the ‘pumping’ process. Every client should be made to keep a hooked eel coming towards you. Given half a chance the eel will wrap its body around an underwater obstruction and then you will never move it. Eels are not tackle shy and you will catch them by using very strong and even crude tackle. Some eels will actually make strong runs when hooked, but the usual tactic the eel adopts is to back away, shaking its head from side-to side. This causes the line to unmistakably zig-zag.
Baits for eels are best presented on leger tackle. Most baits will catch eels, but by far the best are lobworms or small dead fish. Eels are most active during the warmer months of the year. They feed best at night or when the river is coloured after heavy rain. Eels are very adept at swallowing your bait before actually registering a bite on your tackle. It is not unusual, even when using two large lobworms as bait, to strike at the first signs of a bite, only to find when you land the eel that it has swallowed your hook right down.
When you fish for eels you get two fights, one in the water and one on the bank. Unless you want to eat your eel or to photograph it then the best idea is to reel it into the bank and then release it without touching it. If the hook is showing in the eel’s mouth, hold the line tight and reach down with a pair of artery forceps and simply shake the hook loose, but if the eel has swallowed the hook cut the line as close to the eel’s mouth as possible. Avoid handling the eel since you are certain to have it wrap round your arm and cover your clothes in thick slime. Don’t kill an eel just for the sake of it, or because you don’t like the look of them. Some anglers dislike eels but they are fun to catch and can provide the beginner with his first big fish when he is not yet skilful enough to catch other species.