American Eel (pencil eel, yellow eel, black eel, silver eel, Boston eel, Atlantic eel or common eel.
Description – The body is extremely elongated (snakelike), with a very long dorsal fin that is confluent with the anal fin. Pelvic fins are absent and tiny scales are embedded in the skin giving eels a smooth feel. The adult color is a yellow-brown with pale underbelly.
Subspecies – It is a distinct species with no known subspecies. Similar species exist around Japan, Australia and Europe.
Range – American eels are found in waters with coastal access along the Atlantic seaboard of the US.
Habitat – Eels are primarily riverine but access ponds and lakes. They orient to structure and flow.
Spawning Habits – Spawning is still not well understood but fascinating. The adults migrate to the ocean during autumn. During the long trek the fish metamorphose into a “silver eel” stage lose their vision and stop eating. Meanwhile, the gonads expand dramatically. The fish head to a location near the Sargasso Sea where they spawn en masse and apparently die. The eggs hatch into leaf-shaped floating leptocephalus larvae that drift with the currents. When they come within range of a freshwater river, the leptocephalus metamorphoses again into a tiny semi-transparent “glass eel” that buries itself in the sand. The glass eel that changes again into a pigmented pencil eel and continues its migration upstream to find a habitat to mature and await it’s time to go spawn. This process of spawning in the ocean and maturing inland is termed catadromy (the fish are catadromous).
Feeding habits – Brown american eel are predators that feed on insects, crustaceans, mollusks and some fish. Although often associated with decaying food, they prefer live food.
Age and Growth – American eels are known to live as long as 43 years, but generally migrate to spawn and die long before then.
Sporting Qualities – Not generally considered to be a sport fish in this country. They can be caught on hook and line and are taken commercially.
Eating Qualities – This is a gourmet fish in the Asian markets and is often used in Sushi. It tends to be bony by American standards but is good smoked. State and World Records – The largest on record is an approximately 60-inch long male weighing about 16 pounds