Established in 1962



This is the story of how it all began......

by Mike Connell

The birth of the British Conger Club

It was in 1961, I had been discussing with the world renowned angler Bill Carpenter, President of the International Game Fish Association and the equally famous Michael Lerner whose brainchild it was. We talked about the possibility of me becoming I.G.F.A's representative in Europe.

Three years later I was appointed to the post. Big game was an area of fishing I had become interested in and it had taken me to exciting places around the world presenting the opportunity to meet many well known anglers and learn a great deal about fighting big fish. I have always enjoyed all forms of fishing be it the Thames or beautiful Hampshire, Avon, Scotland for salmon and trout and having my own boat, sea fishing.

My base in 1961 was Littlehampton, a port not far from London with a number of excellent skippers. One of the best known was Dutton Everington, a man who taught me much about sea fishing and in particular for conger, and we spent many successful nights together over the Kingmere Rocks. It was during that I also became a good friend of skipper Robin Vinecombe of Mako Shark fame who worked out of Falmouth. We fished for sharks and when we realized that my special interest was conger he recommended that we visit his "special" locations such as the Manacle Rocks off Coverack in Cornwall. We had splendid night trips and caught many fine fish and in 1961 we had a catch that made the front pages of the Angling Times.

The more I fished for conger the more my respect for the species increased. Coupling this to my growing experiences of catching Marlin, Sailfish and Tuna, I considered a Conger Eel from deep water an equal adversary to so called game fish and discussed the issue with the I.G.F.A

It was during a business trip to Central Africa and the Caribbean that I.G.F.A friends in Miami suggested we meet in Acapulco to fish for blue marlin, pacific sailfish etc. an invitation I readily accepted. At this time Mexico's Acapulco was the world's number one big game resort and in the space of mere days you met everyone who was anyone. The game boats tied up stern first along the main road running the length of the City shore. People would crowd the moorings to see fish weighed and photographed. The humid heat of the tropics coupled to heavy sweet scent flowers made for a most exciting and rewarding walk to check catches. Later we sat with our Planters Punch and discussed the merits and fighting qualities of the fish we had caught. I asked, "have any of you fellows fished for Conger Eel?". As I expected the reply was negative. I raised possibilities of our noble eel gracing I.G.F.A game Fish Record Lists. the replies were supportive but it was clear a considerable amount of work and money have to be spent if one was to have any success. My mind started to think of ways it could be achieved, after all an American flounder was in the list-why not a mighty Conger Eel.

I was sitting on the plane going home thinking if our conger eel was not to get into the I.G.F.A Record List in the short term, it was entitled to a club of its own. It also occurred to me that such a club could well be one of the major ways to have our fish recognised. My mind was made up, when I got home I would discuss with Dutton the launching of a British Conger Club. Meanwhile, I recorded some basic thoughts and halfway across the Atlantic I sketched a design for a pennant and tie-the BCC was conceived. When I met with Dutton he was enthusiastic and suggested we discussed it with some of his anglers, which included Archie Schilling of London, Bill Shapland of Plymouth, Weston Super Mare's Don Metcalfe and Jim East who was based in Yorkshire. Alas many of these anglers are no longer with us.

Through the European Federation of Sea Anglers, I had met some of the stalwarts of sea angling in Britain, such as Alan Wrangles, our own Mike Millman, and Len Hobbs, then Secretary of the long established Plymouth Sea Anglers Club. Len and Mike lobbied for Plymouth to be the logical base, I did not disagree but I knew so many conger anglers came down from London to the south coast boating ports with Littlehampton in the fore, however fate was to play a hand.

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Unknown to anybody I was being head-hunted by the famed westcountry company Tecalemit Engineering for the position as Head of its Sales and Marketing Division. I tried not to let my angling interest sway the direction I should take, albeit my mind drifted towards living in a place such as Newton Ferrers with my boat at the bottom of the garden, one could dream but I feel it boded well for the future of the Conger Club, there was no doubt the Plymouth area would be a great centre. The die was cast, I took up the position at Tecalemit, bought Apple Trees on the River Yealm, sold my boat in Littlehampton and purchased a beautiful Curtis & Pape West Country trawler with a Gardner diesel, which I moored almost at the end of my garden. Dreams do come true.

Decca Navigator Mk12 now defunct and replaced by GPS

I named the boat "Mark Twain" and installed a Decca Navigator and from this point on many of my Conger Club friends fished wrecks with me which this equipment could pinpoint. I would like to mention our first President. I had fished with Hetty Eathorne and her husband John on their lovely boat "The Little One" out of Brixham and later Looe. John had always called Hetty "Little One" as indeed she was truly miniscule with severe physical limitations. She held several British & World Records for shark and those of us privileged to know her were in awe of her great courage. She personified all I felt the first President of the BCC should be. Our invitation for her to accept the office was to salute a very brave "little lady" who was so involved in our sport.

Members of the BCC meet at THE SHIP INN at Newton Ferrers, Devon, UK for the presentation of trophies. From left to right, Rupert Ives, Len Hobbs, Mike Connell, Roger Dadds (Winner of the Angling Magaziine Cup with a reef Conger Eel of 60lbs)Hetty Eathorne,, Keneth Mansfield, Daphne Connell, Roy Lethbridge, Alex Waddell and Dudley Stone.

Such was the beginning of our club which started in Littlehampton with a membership of twenty six and soon moved to Newton Ferrers under the clock of Plymouth. From that small start the membership would swell to more than 2000. There were so many people who gave real life to the BCC, Ron Stewart, Reg Quest, John Thorpe, Rupert Ives, Ken Ellis and his wife Betty, many who have left us and others I have not mentioned. We had great support from the angling press in the early days particularly of Mike Millman who was in at the beginning of the club and is still supporting forty years on. We were also fortunate that some of the country's leading angling skippers backed the club from its inception-Dutton Everington of "DAWN 11" out of Littlehampton, Ernie Passmore & John Trust of "OUR UNITY" out of Brixham. Alan Dingle in the Looe based "LADY BETTY" and  Dudley Stone of "KON-I-NOR" out of Brixham and others.

I now jump some forty years-on my return with my family from the Philippines where we have been living and working (it is also my wife's country) I contacted Mike and Club Secretary, Tom Matchett who brought me up to date with the club. I was truly amazed at the BCC's maturity and much impressed by its member Year Book. The large membership and such an excellent committee to control and guide its day to day business. In many ways it was far beyond the expectations I had on the plane that day so long ago.

WEBSITE NOTE: Mike Connell died in February 2007.

(This article reproduced from the 2001/2002 MEMBERS YEAR BOOK)

Material Copyright 2002/2019 British Conger Club