Small eels or chunks of larger ones work well in all types of water – tidal rivers, inland lakes and fens.
The East Anglian waterways have an abundance of large and small eels, and with a little effort in the summer months you can acquire a good supply. Eels can be caught easily after dark by legering with maggots or worms. But only take what you need so that stocks are preserved.
Once you’ve caught your eels, you can kill them on the spot by cutting off their heads; then keep them in a bucket of water. Alternatively, an even easier way to dispatch an eel is to use a chemical called MS 222. This is an expensive but effective method of killing them. Mix one tablespoon of the mixture with two pints of water in a bucket, and put the eel in. It becomes dopey — and soon dies. This method is simple, and you don’t end up with a horrible squirming mess, tangled lines or excess slime getting all over your tackle.
When you get the eels home, cut the bigger ones in chunks 1.25-2.5cm wide and 10-15cm long. Eels between 15cm and 35cm long should also be cut into chunks. Use small ‘bootlaces’ under 6in long whole.
Wrap the eels or chunks singly in plastic and then freeze. This way you can manage your stocks efficiently without taking too many in a large frozen mass for only one session. Try to keep the baits frozen at the venue by storing them on cold packs – whatever you don’t use can then go back into the freezer for another session.
At the water
Beginners often thread the bait on a wire trace armed only with a large single hook; this isn’t the best way of mounting the bait because the risk of deep hooking the pike or zander is too great. And early striking often results in lost fish.
The long-accepted and much-practiced method of mounting the deadbait on two treble hooks works very well, but occasionally, due to the extreme toughness of the eel’s skin, the hooks fail to penetrate the fish’s mouth and pull free.
Probably the best way to mount an eel is to use a 12in long piece of 20 lb wire and a large single hook. Pass the hook through the skin so that the eel hangs on the bend of the hook. Leger this with a 40g bomb on a short 7.5cm stiff link. The bomb link is stopped by a large bead which rests on the trace swivel.
By striking when the fish makes its run you usually don’t miss it, and more importantly, you don’t deep hook the fish and risk its life.
Pike and zander aren’t the only fish that you can catch with eel sections. Strangely enough, not many baits are more appetizing for a large eel than a piece of one of its own brethren.
When you are fishing in the summer for pike and zander, big eels playing with the baits can be a nuisance – biting pieces out of deadbaits or sucking out the insides. But when they find an eel section, they just eat it – and hook themselves.