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

Accessories

Costa Baffin Sunglasses Review

Chris Schneider - April 26, 2019

Made from 100% recycled fishing nets, the Costa Baffin's are a must-have for any serious...

Bass

10 Best Bass Fishing States In America

Matt Straw - November 01, 2017

Which of the ten is the best? You decide.

Bass

Sensational New Softbaits for Bass

Steve Quinn - April 22, 2019

Steve Quinn talks new softbaits for bass from Berkley.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Selective Harvest Yellow Bass

In order to sustain good fishing, it's important to understand which to release and fish you should for a fine meal.

What's New from Cummings Nets?

There's more than meets the eye with new Cummings Nets Red Line. Find out what. With Mike Powell of Cummings and Game & Fish Editorial Director Adam Heggenstaller at ICAST 2019 in Orlando.

Minus System Crankbaits for Largemouths

In-Fisherman Editor-In-Chief, Doug Stange demonstrates the use of DT Fat Minus crankbaits for largemouth bass.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories

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...

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

Bass

Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 22, 2017

Check out this Largemouth Bass Length To Weight Conversion Chart, a simple and accurate...

See More Stories

More Other Fish

Other Fish

Snake River White Sturgeon

Doug Stange - March 23, 2016

A trip with Guide Jason Schultz up the Snake River into the head of Hell's Canyon for giant...

Other Fish

Lake Texoma Stripers

Rob Neumann - March 20, 2015

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

Other Fish

Best Carp Baits Today

Dan Johnson - June 29, 2018

To guide your carp quest, we've lined up the best carp baits that are easy-to-fish natural...

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.

×