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An individual, of no great importance, who is unable to the see the natural world as a place for competition. I catch fish, watch birds, derive immense pleasure from simply looking at butterflies, moths, bumble-bees, etc - without the need for rules! I am Dylan and this is my blog - if my opinions offend? Don't bother logging on again - simple!

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Sunday, 5 November 2017

A morning on the canal

I met up with Benno and Luke,  in our chosen car park, at 06.00 hrs and we made the trek to our chosen section of The Royal Military Canal over a mile to the west. There was a full moon beaming down from a clear sky, the temp display in the car reading 3C. No skimping on clothing today, every layer was needed before the sun rose and warmed the air very quickly.

The full moon shining above the wooded banks of the RMC
Water levels were low, for the time of year, although this could be a direct result of some maintenance work on one of the main sluices ? Loads of  floating weed was a problem we had to live with; many times a build up of this debris lead to a bite alarm sounding as line pulled out of a clip - both the lads were using back-biters. However, a problem which caused many false alarms was the continuous eel activity. Baits were a mix of bluey, sardine, mackerel and herring - it made no difference, the eels liked them all. The third time my alarm sounded, it was a steady take on a sardine. I picked up the rod and tightened into my pike, only to have an eel pop up in the margins and into the net. Luke and Benno thought the whole episode an excuse for a chortle and a torrent of abuse. At 2 lbs 6 oz it was a decent fish and I got Benno to grab a few images, as I don't have any decent photos of me with an eel.
I won't go into the details, but it was more luck, than judgement, that resulted in the one that I have chosen to use.

As good as it got! 2 lbs 6 oz of bait snaffling pest. The poppy is worn with great pride, not as a p/c ornament
In a bid to try to make something happen, we decided to bounce our gear along the bank, some quarter of a mile. As I was winding the first one in, a tiny jack grabbed the sardine and I found myself attached to the smallest pike I've taken from this fishery. The result of this move was more torment from the eels, but no more fish landed. We packed up at 10.45 hrs and headed homewards, plans already in the mix for a visit to another section in a fortnight. Between now and then, I'll see if I can't catch an eel by design, instead of accident - they are a truly amazing creature but I am puzzled by the "critically endangered" status -  Gavin Haig has experienced a very similar situation on the Exeter Canal so it isn't just me!
Birds were a bit scarce today, although I had seen a Long-eared Owl on my drive down and there were Yellowhammer, Bullfinch and Grey Wagtail recorded beside the canal. As we walked off, a Common Darter proved to be my second dragonfly sighting of November. A  very enjoyable first RMC trip of the season.

13 comments:

  1. Firstly, I'm not a fisherman but I love all your fishing tails. Wonderful stuff.

    On the subject of Eels being critically endangered, I believe there was a massive influx for elvers recently. I don't know how fast they grow and whether your eels are a year old or ten years old. But I was wondering if for eels, and many others species, the general population is always in decline but there are occasional bumper years which restock the population. Similarly for Hawfinches I wonder if we will see lots of breeding records from old haunts and then a slow decline until the next invasion.

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    1. Hi,
      Many thanks for taking the time to offer this comment. Eels, in UK waters, are very slow growing fish - a pound every ten years being the general rule. This, however, is not tablets of stone thus the UK record wasn't in excess of 100 years old when it was captured. The eels in the 2 to 4 lbs range will have been elvers during a period covered by 1990's and early 2000. I am not too sure when the "critically endangered" status was placed upon the species, or what criteria used in order to reach this decision, but in the fisheries of East Kent they have remained a right pain in the arse, whatever species I have been targeting!
      Take care and keep blogging - Dylan

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  2. Ha ha! Nightmare, Dylan! Last time Rob fished overnight he ended up reeling in for a few hours so he could get some kip! The eels have been relentless, but so far I haven't done much daylight piking and I was hoping that when I do there won't be so much eel activity. Your daytime experience on the RMC makes me wonder whether that will be the case though...

    Anyway, when the water gets cold things will hopefully change. Right now the bottom of the canal seems absolutely swarming with this apparently endangered creature.

    Tight lines!

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    1. Hi Gavin,

      Fisheries swarming with eels takes me back to the 80's and the Fenland Drains, they were a bloody pest and many a time the lads in The Top of the World PH were happy with our supply of eels to be jellied in the "Cockney" style - plus it meant a few beers in the wood for us lads! I haven't fished any Kent fishery that hasn't still got decent numbers of eels present, with the exception of some newer commercials.
      As for hoping that cold water will change your fortunes? May be - but I haven't seen anything to suggest that eels are just a summer species. My winter project of 2015/16 being a demonstration of the eel being a year round feeder.
      Take care and tight lines - Dylan

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  3. Eels are coming back but were noticeable by their absence for ages. Someone has now admitted to some mistakes in the calculations of numbers but at least it has made people more aware of the need to conserve.

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    1. Stephen, thanks for this contribution to the eel conversation. Quite how any one individual is able to miscalculate, so dramatically, and yet still be able to convince those in power that eels warranted "critically endangered" status is way beyond me. The absence of eels from vast water catchment areas is purely down to the lax standards of the water companies, legally polluting our major river systems with their poorly treated effluent. The critically endangered status provided a nice smoke screen, whilst they were able to point at the huge numbers of alien barbel as evidence of their water quality.
      I do have to agree with your final thought - it has certainly made me far more respectful of these fascinating inhabitants of the East Kent waterways. All the best - Dylan

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  4. Brilliant read . Eels are very addictive. Will fish the RMC one day for them ..

    Nick

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    1. Thanks for the comment, always welcome. As for eel fishing the canal? I'm sure it could be very hectic if you fish the right sections. Just as the pike are present along the entire length, there are certain areas which are much better than others. All the best & tight lines - Dylan

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    2. I fish a lot in hythe for eels and always look at the canal .

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    3. Nick, I've never deliberately eel fished the RMC yet have pike baits ravaged by these slimy pests all the way between Seabrooke and Gigger's Green. As this behavior has only been experienced during the winter months, I have to wonder as to the scale of the eel population within the canal. If you regularly fish for eels, then you'll be far more aware, than I, what size they attain within the fishery? - Dylan

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  5. In the past it's done fish over 9lb . But that was a while ago . Still a lot of good fish in there .
    I am a member of the nac . And even tho I live in bham I travel down to your neck as much as I can ..

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    1. Now it makes more sense - The National Anguilla Club - a fine group of angling's eccentrics if ever there was one? I have never been a member but did have the great fortune of spending some time with John Sidley during my time as a National Exec Committee member of NASA during the mid-80's. The only thing we had in common was a 7 lbs 1 oz PB eel. He was passionate about them, I bloody detested them.
      Times moved on and I now have a grudging admiration for the species, especially as I spent the winter of 2015/16 attempting (and succeeding) to catch an eel in every month of the traditional pike season. The best fish was the one that saw me complete my challenge on 12th March 2016. It weighed 3 lbs 10 oz and is the best I've managed intentionally - my PB being nothing more than a pure fluke!

      All the best - Dylan

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  6. A 7lber is a big fish now .. my own of 7lb came from the g u canal in 93 . I love fishing for eels . Nought comes close .

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