Feb 222009

Ever caught an eel? Remember the dismay when the snake-like figure surfaced? And then the struggle to unhook that slimy creature while trying to hang on to it with the other hand? We take eels for granted but they actually have a very interesting life story.

Let’s start with the female eel who lays her eggs in the Atlantic ocean, yes not in your favorite lake or river. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a female American eel will spawn between two and twenty million eggs at sea. It’s believed that the females die shortly afterwards.

The eggs hatch into larvae. Over the next year the larvae goes through metamorphosis and are called glass eels by the time they reach the North American shore. As the eels become pigmented and move into the streams and estuaries, they are known as elvers. At this stage they are about two to three inches long. For the next few years these elvers will continue to migrate upstream and replace older eels who returned to the ocean for spawning. They will live in their freshwater habitat anywhere from 5 to 20 years before returning to the ocean to spawn and complete the lifecycle.

You may also have heard about yellow eels and silver eels. These are both stages in the metamorphosis of the eel. Yellow eels are younger eels not yet ready for reproduction. Once they start migrating back to sea, they change in color and are appropriately called silver eels.

Read about my first encounter with an American Eel.

Sep 132008

I caught this beautiful American eel (aka yellow eel) off the docks at Four Season Campground near Naples Maine. It was way past bed-time and we were having fun with the catfish, when this guy emerged from under the dock and grabbed my hook stacked with day-old cooked hamburger (better know as hamburger patty where I’m from).

How to handle a very unhappy American (Yellow) Eel, Long Lake, Maine

It was a scream! I though my rod was going to break at one point. Luckily the 8-pound line on my Mega Cast reel held up and once the eel started thrashing on the surface, I could quickly lift it onto the dock. By now I was getting lots of cheers from the crowd that gathered around. Someone had to take this slimy fish off the hook, and thankfully my camping neighbor Dan had an old towel and did the honors for me. Thanks Dan!

Next, it was picture time. Since this guy was my first American eel, we had to pose for a few night-time shots before returning him to Long Lake. Luckily no-one was in the mood for cooking eel (I do believe they make a great dinner).

So how do you hold a yellow eel? I say don’t be scared. Just grab it behind the head and smile. And be careful for those sharp teeth. All that slime does wash off.

Check-out my American Eel Facts page (coming soon) and American Eel Lifecycle where I write about very interesting characteristics of these wonderful creatures.

For my next eel-fishing trip I will probably add a few things from my fish-wish list.