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Friends reel in rare eel


SHERRYLYN CLARKE, [email protected]

Friends reel in rare eel

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by JOHN SEALY
 
EDWIN POWLETT has been casting his fishing rod out to sea from the time he was four years old. And he has landed many a catch over the past 22 years, including a 126-pound shark, a number of congers and has seen a few little creatures that could have come out of a horror movie.
But an experience that will be up there with any previous moments came during a fishing excursion at his favourite spot around 10:30 p.m. with his fishing mate Corey Elcock recently.
The lights on the jetty offered just enough illumination for Powlett and Elcock to chill out and relax.
They were having a few bites on the line, but nothing to compare with what would soon happen when Powlett went to check his rod.
“It felt like if it was in a rock,” he said.
As customary, Powlett – who said he fishes with a braided line which “is pretty strong” – released the tension on his rod.
“When I started to take up the slack, [the rod] went tight again.”
He said it felt like a conger, “but from experiences [with] the braid line, when you put pressure it would either let the conger out or you rip it out of his mouth. I said this thing got to be a really big conger because it is not budging at all. Eventually it slackened off because I started feeding the line to it.”
The seasoned fisherman concluded that whatever was on the other end decided to swim out, maybe trying to get away.
But Powlett was not finished with it yet.
“I pulled tight and started bringing it in.
I was telling myself and Corey this that this thing feeling real weird. At some point it just went slack, so then we realized it was swimming into us. Some fish do that.”
But the two, who have been fishing partners from school days at The St Michael School, were going to see something they never expected.
“When it got close I thought it was a conger, but it had a white underbelly and it was moving to me on top of the water,” said Powlett.
In the midst of their uncertainty, survival instinct kicked in and Powlett told Elcock to bring the sword while still working the line with his hand.
Elcock took over the line while Powlett went for the sword.
They positioned themselves and lifted the creature onto the jetty.
It was at this moment that the two of them came up close and personal with something that looked “real weird”.
“To tell the truth he was not flapping about like a normal conger. He was moving like a snake.  We manoeuvre as best we could because we ain’t taking no chances with it. We try to get the head chopped off, but we did not damage it too much because we still wanted to identify it.”
Although the snake-like eel was slender, the youngsters still marvelled at its weight. It was just short of four feet long.
“We had to deal with the issue of him on the jetty not knowing what it was and trying to be as cautious as possible . . .
“That ranks with some of the more unusual things [I have seen while fishing]. I have actually seen a sea snake and normally those would have a flat tail,” Powlett said.
After the encounter, the two youngsters left the jetty with their equipment and headed home to share the news.
Because of its unusual nature, the SATURDAY SUN made a check with Christopher Parker, a fisheries biologist at the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, to have the sea creature identified. He said it was a Spotted spoon-nose eel (Echiophis intertinctus).
“It does appear to be a relatively large specimen that was caught here, but even larger ones are known. This species of eel is considered as rare in the Caribbean. It is often found on sandy areas close to patch reefs and usually forages at night.
“It tends to stick close to the sea floor and especially during the day it hides by burying much of its body in the sand. Like all eels such as the moray it will bite if it feels threatened, but it is not ordinarily aggressive per se,” said Parker.

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