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American Eel

February 09, 2022

American Eel

Anguilla rostrata, American eel is the catadromous fish. It lives in both freshwater and saltwater. It is an economically important fish used as food and baits for fishing. The presence of American eels indicates the health of an ecosystem.

Common Names of American Eel:

Apart from American eel, the fish has also some other common names as, 

  • Anguilla
  • Black eel
  • Green eel
  • Bronze eel
  • Glass eel
  • River eel
  • Yellow eel
  • Silver eel

General Characteristics of American Eel :

Body Shape and Body Color:

American eel fish have snake-like slender, smooth, elongated bodies with pointed heads and depressed snouts.

Juveniles and adults have different body colors, as juveniles are yellowish-brown or greenish, and adults are grey with white bellies. In addition, female eels have lighter body colors than males.

Body Size and Body Weight:

Male eels are smaller than female eels, and the average size of the eel fish is 4 to 5 feet. The most common recorded eel weight is 7.3 kg.


The dorsal fin is long, and both dorsal and anal fins are confluent. Pelvic fins are absent. The pectoral fins are small, and the tail fin is round.

Mouth and Teeth:

The mouth is oblique and large and has no elongated jaws; the lips are thicker, the lower jaw is slightly longer than the upper jaw, the jaws have pectinate, small teeth.

Scales and Gills:

American eel has cycloid, rudimentary scales, which are so small and can only be seen when magnified. One gill slit is also present in front of the pectoral fin.

Habitat and Range of American Eel :

American eel fish have one of the widest diversity of habitats among all the fish species around the world.

American eels inhabit the estuaries, rivers, brackish tributaries, masses of plants, ponds, bottom sediments, creeks, lakes, coastal areas, and open ocean.

American eel fish are present along the Atlantic coast of North America, Greenland, Chesapeake Bay, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Sargasso Sea, Caribbean, St. Lawrence Seaway, even in Canada, Caribbean, West Indies, Panama, Brazil, and Trinidad.

Diet of American Eel:

Eels are nocturnal and mainly feed at night, and they have a very good sense of smell which helps them in finding their food. During their whole life, eel undergoes many geographical and physical changes and feeds differently during different life stages.

Their most common diet includes,

  • Worms
  • Small fish
  • Clams
  • Insect larvae
  • Mollusks
  • Crustaceans
  • Plants
  • Soft-shelled crabs
  • Fecal pellets
  • Bivalves
  • Frogs
  • Crayfishes

Life Cycle of American Eel:

The American eel is among the eel fishes with a very complex life cycle. Females may release about 4.0 million eggs, and after spawning, eels die. The complete life cycle involves the following stages,

  • Eggs
  • Leptocephalus
  • Glass eels
  • Elvers
  • Yellow eels
  • Silver eels

The maximum life span is 10 years. They spend most of their life in freshwater while spawn in marine or ocean. The spawning occurs in January.

Predators and Threats of American Eel:

Some common threats and predators of eel are given below,

  • Large mouth bass
  • Striped bass
  • Bald eagles
  • Gulls
  • Adult eels
  • Chemical contaminants
  • Hydro-electric turbine
  • Climate changes

Eel Fishing:


  • Spinning reel and rod
  • Insect larvae, small minnows, earthworms as lures
  • Shank hook


Methods of how to catch American eel are,

  • Drift fishing
  • Still fishing
  • Spin casting

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