A RiverFest qualifier turned into ‘eelfest’ for the 60 matchmen involved after a number of specimen eels were netted.
The event, which took place on the River Soar at Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, saw numerous eels to over 5lb landed as well as several others lost by anglers fishing for small silvers. Brian Rigby banked the biggest of the lot in the form of this 5lb 11oz fish but other anglers, including England International Darren Cox, also claimed netted sized fish.
Match organiser Tony Beech told Angling Times: “We have never seen eels like this on this stretch it was incredible; they all seemed to be turning silver which I think means they are heading back to the Sargasso Sea across the Atlantic to breed.”
Shakespeare backed Brian from the West Midlands, had been catching small roach and skimmers when a switch to lobworm in search of tench saw the large eel take his bait. It is thought to be the biggest of the species ever landed from the waterway and follows the capture of a 4lb-plus specimen in an open match at the same venue a week earlier by former Leicester Sensas rod Pete Jayes. Despite weighing it in as part of his catch Brian failed to finish in the top three places to qualify for the grand final in November.
Local matchman and Sensas-backed rod Joff Woodgate, who also fished the match, added: “In all the years I've been fishing matches here I've never seen fish like this, they were thicker than my arm. Anglers often lose big fish here thinking they could be barbel, tench or carp but I'm now thinking that eels could be responsible.”