CATCHING AND PREPARING AMERICAN EELS

CATCHING AND PREPARING AMERICAN EELS

In North America and perhaps beyond, the American eel is the obvious winner in the strange and mysterious freshwater fish categories. They more closely resemble a snake in appearance and locomotion, but are as much a fish as bass and walleyes. Of course bass don't wrap their bodies around your arm while you try to unhook them and walleyes don't crawl across damp fields in search of worms. But eels are familiar to those who fish for catfish, carp, and other sportfish-they're catchable with well-presented natural baits, put up a memorable struggle, and are the basis of a fine meal when properly prepared.

Tackle

Rod: 6- to 11-foot medium-power spinning rod.

Reel: medium-capacity spinning reel.


Line: 6- to 10-pound-test abrasion-resistant mono.


Rigging


Eels are opportunistic feeders, eating insect larvae, small minnows, dead fish, and anything else they can catch or find on the bottom. Their sense of taste is more acute than the channel cat's, so few edible organisms go unnoticed. Night crawlers, small pieces of oily cutbait, and chicken livers are proven eel attractors. The same slip and drift rigs used for catfish catch eels. Use #6 to #2 long-shank hooks to match their small mouths, but don't use light-wire models-even small eels pull hard enough to quickly straighten an Aberdeen-style hook.

Location

American eel are catadromous, meaning they spawn in the ocean, but live most of their lives in freshwater. In the spring, eels migrate from ponds and headwater streams to the open ocean. Precisely where they spawn remains a mystery, but their one-way journey is thousands of miles long. Young eels then drift in the Gulf Stream for a year before arriving at the North American coast. Male eels remain in brackish water estuaries, but females may move hundreds of miles inland. They move overland around barriers like dams until they reach suitable ponds and streams. They hold in deep, quiet water during the day and emerge at night to feed.


Presentation

Fishing for eels is not unlike fishing for bullheads, except eels are even harder to hold once caught. In ponds, lakes, and sloughs, cast bait rigs to shallow flats adjacent to deep water. In rivers, look for riffles at the head of a deep hole or quiet backwater areas near deep water. Dams concentrate migrating eels by temporarily blocking their upstream migration and distracting them with a steady supply of dead or injured baitfish. They often nibble gently at a bait, but quickly swallow the hook if you don't set immediately. To handle an eel you want to keep or release, dip your hand in water then press your palm into dry sand-this improves your grip on their slick skin.

Preparation


Skin an eel by wrapping a stout cord around its neck just behind the gills. Cut a ring through the skin just below the cord, being careful not to cut too deeply into the flesh. Grasp the skin with a pliers and peel it off all the way down to the tail. Remove the head, fins, and entrails, and it's ready for baking, frying, or smoking.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Which of the ten is the best? You decide. Bass

10 Best Bass Fishing States In America

Matt Straw - November 01, 2017

Which of the ten is the best? You decide.

Navionics adds SonarChart Shading and HotMaps Platinum. News

Navionics adds SonarChart Shading to its Platinum+ and HotMaps Platinum cartography

In-Fisherman - April 29, 2019

Navionics adds SonarChart Shading and HotMaps Platinum.

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is a treat! Fish Recipes

Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

Mustad Skatter Shad Bladed Jig

As Mustad continues to expand into an all-around tackle company, Reid McKinstry shows off some innovative features that make the Mustad Skatter Shad bladed jig a winner in big bass waters.

Trailer Bass

Trailer Bass

Doug Stange introduces us to some terrific jig trailer lures for largemouth bass.

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

13 Fishing Omen Black Baitcasting Rod

Multiple time FLW Costa winner Jessi Mizell is no stranger to catching big Florida bass on a popping frog. As he tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead, with the new 13 Fishing Omen Black baitcasting rod, the job just got easier.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers nationwide. Catfish

All About Catfish

Rob Neumann

Catfish are among the most popular groups of fish with over 7 million catfish anglers...

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as girth Biology

Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a powerplant that best fits your personal needs and preferences. Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...

See More Stories

More Other Fish

Here is a fish that may grow to 400 pounds, may live for 75 years, and fights like a professional wrestler with a system full of steroids. Other Fish

Texas Alligator Gar

Doug Stange - March 23, 2016

Here is a fish that may grow to 400 pounds, may live for 75 years, and fights like a...

Undercover investigation leads to arrests and/or citations of more than 100 suspects.

Known as the Other Fish

Agents Snag Major Paddlefish Caviar Poaching Operation

In-Fisherman - March 14, 2013

Undercover investigation leads to arrests and/or citations of more than 100 suspects. Known...

http://brightcovefishing=4103490937001

Lake Texoma stripers are revered as a top-notch harvest for Other Fish

Lake Texoma Stripers

Rob Neumann - March 20, 2015

http://brightcovefishing=4103490937001 Lake Texoma stripers are revered as a top-notch...

See More Other Fish

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.