Game Fishing > Bottom Freshwater Fish types > Freshwater eels

Freshwater eels

Freshwater eelsThe common eel is another bottom freshwater fish that is caught extensively by hand lines, at evening and night time, because it is nocturnal in its habits, sleeping or lying in the mud during the day. It is a most voracious feeder, devouring great quantities of the fry of other fishes. Nothing in the shape of living things comes amiss to an eel; everything that lives in the water it will prey upon.

They are very powerful and rapid swimmers, and on light tackle give good sport. Eels have been known to grow to a length of four feet, but the average is two feet. They breed in salt water; both the adults and the young ascend the streams from the sea a distance of 500 miles. They are often found in the long grass of shallow, running streams. In such conditions they are more difficult to catch, and more agreeable to eat. The best way to angle for eels is to drop the bait in some sandy or muddy bottom, always near long grass or weeds.

Use a strong, light rod, without reel, and have the line tied at the tip; or if the angler wishes to play with the reel in the usual way, considerable sport may be had, because the fish wiggles in all kinds of holes, and no amount of tugging will loosen him; for that reason both line and gut leader should be stout and strong. A float may be attached to the line to keep the bait out of and between weed patches. Use No. 7 or 8 hooks, baited with a small red worm, which should be allowed to drag and lie at the bottom. Worms, if alive, are more attractive to eels than anything else, both in pond and river fishing.

The eel requires considerable indulgence when it takes the bait; as soon as it is pulled out of the water, stamp the foot across its body, holding the line tight with one hand and with the other cutting through its gills with a sharp knife, taking care not to cut the gut snell which is always some distance down its throat. This is the most humane and quickest method to prevent the slippery rascal from tying the line full of knots, and very often breaking the line and so getting away.

Good eel fishing is best near dams and mill wheels. To one sitting on the bank at evening, properly prepared with bait and tackle, and a small lantern, this fish provides quite a diversion. Eel fishing in salt water is also very popular when it is done from a boat, which should be anchored near the edge of channels on soft and sandy, or muddy bottoms. Use a simple, stout hand line with a strong leader and heavy sinker, to keep the bait on the bottom. Eels will not rise from the bottom for their food, so it is necessary to attach the hooks quite close to the sinker and two or three hooks may be used, preferably No. 8 to 10 sprout.

By far the best bait in salt water is the shedder crab, but sand worms, killies, clams, or even pieces of fish will take them. Many anglers use a long-shanked hook, which is more convenient to hold the fish from wiggling, and makes it easier to take the fish from the hook. When the fish bites, strike hard, and if hooked, lose no time in bringing it up over the side of the boat. After it is boated, get a good tight grip on the body, with the help of the line; then slap the tail smartly on the edge of the boat, stunning the fish. Then take out the hook. Another species of eel is called the conger-eel; it sometimes grows to a weight of thirty pounds.

It is a savage brute, with long jaws lined with sharp teeth, and it snaps viciously at everything in sight. The best way to kill it is to rap it sharply on the head with a stout stick or piece of iron. The eels are all very palatable eating, especially those caught in clear, running water; the flavor is sweet, and the flesh nutritious. If well cooked, either boiled, fried, or stewed, or even pickled and salted, they make a savory dish.