American Eel
Typical Size
12-24" (2-10 lbs.)
Decent Size
25-35" (11-20 lbs.)
Nice Size
36-52" (20-30 lbs.)
51.5" (31.75 lbs.)
Awards Program
Qualifying Size

Genus/Species Anguilla rostrata
Common Names eel, common eel, water snake, rope, freshwater eel, atlantic eel
Hot Spots North River, South River, Oldham Pond, Furnace Pond
Best Time June - September
Best Baits dead shiner, nightcrawler, clam
Best Method Bottom fishing at night with bait

American eels are typically brownish in color with a slender snake-like body and a small pointed head. The dorsal fin is long, extending more than half the length of the body and joins the tail and anal fins. They have short rounded pectoral fins and no pelvic fins. The mouth has numerous small teeth. Adult eels are very muscular, covered with thick mucus, and are difficult to hold. There are no visible scales and coloring changes with maturity.
American Eel
The North & South Rivers are loaded with eels.
American eels are catadromous, spending the majority of their life in freshwater and returning to saltwater to spawn. Eels prefer muddy bottoms and calm waters. They are nocturnal which means they are active at night. During the day eels hide under rocks on the bottom or dwell in heavy vegetation. In clear lakes they are known to burrow in the sandy bottom. Their physical structure is such that they can easily swim backward and dig tail first into soft bottom sediments.

When it comes time to spawn, the males and females stop feeding, change in color from olive to black, and move out to sea. Spawning occurs in deep water at the north edge of the Sargasso Sea. There each female lays as many as 10 to 20 million eggs, and both sexes die after spawning. The eggs float to the surface and soon hatch into slim, transparent larvae (glass eels). The larvae drift and swim for a year with ocean currents toward river mouths. Males stay near the mouths of rivers while females travel upstream, mostly at night.

American eels will stay in their freshwater environs for ten years or more where they feed on insect larvae, small fish, crabs, worms, clams, and frogs. They also feed on dead animals or on the eggs of fish, and are able to tear smaller pieces of food that are too large to be swallowed whole by shaking their head from side to side in violent jerking movements.

You can fish for eels with any kind of cut bait.

Although few people in the United States eat them, eels are also a popular food in Europe and Japan. As a result, eel fishing is an important commercial fishery.

Fishing for eel is unimportant here on the south shore of Massachusetts, and most of those caught are taken incidental to other species. Although, they are taken by commercial fishermen from other New England states such as Maine. The flesh of the eel, while very rich, is said to be delicious. It is sometimes prepared by pan-frying but is more often smoked, pickled or jellied. Smoked eel is by far the most accepted and is considered a delicacy. There is little demand for eels in this section of the country.