American Eel

American Eel
American Eel U.S. (Owner: Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region –

Worth knowing about the American Eel


The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) belongs to the kingdom of animals, more specifically to the tribe Chordata. Here they are again subdivided into the class Actinopterygii, order of Anguilliformes, the family of Anguillidae, genus Anguilla, and the species Anguilla rostrata.

This animal was first described in 1817 by Lesueur (a French naturalist, artist, and explorer).

American Eel (Anguilla rostrata): Synonyms

Anguilla aterrima, Anguilla blephura, Anguilla bostoniensis, Anguilla chrisypa, Anguilla cubana, Anguilla laticanda, Anguilla laticauda, Anguilla lutea, Anguilla macrops, Anguilla novaeorleanensis, Anguilla novaeterrae, Anguilla punctatissima, Anguilla tenuirostris, Anguilla texana, Anguilla tyrannus, Anguilla wabashensis, Anguilla xanthomelas, Leptocephalus grassii, Muraena argentea, Muraena bostoniensis, Muraena macrocephala, Muraena rostrata, Muraena serpentina


This fish is also known as the short-finned eel. The largest (or longest) specimen measured was 152 cm long and the maximum weight was more than 7 kilograms. The oldest American Eel examined was 43 years old.

This animal has a long head with small eyes set rather forward. Their mouths have thick lips.

The color of the eel varies quite a bit, but usually, the older animals have a white or light-colored underside. Their upper side is again between light brown and blue-black. Also, the younger specimens sometimes have yellow color on their dorsal and anal fins.

Their dorsal fin is long and runs directly from behind their head to their tail.

They can stay out of the water for up to 15 minutes.

For those who are interested, I have also written an article about the European Eel.

International names

  • Bahamas: American eel, Common eel
  • Belize: American eel
  • Brazil: Enguia
  • Canada: Anguille d’Amérique
  • China: 美洲鰻鱺
  • Costa Rica: Anguilla
  • Cuba: American eel, Anguilla, Common Eel, Elver (joven), Freshwater eel
  • Czechia: Úhoř americký
  • Denmark: Amerikansk ål, Amerikansk ferskvandsål
  • Estonia: Ameerika angerjas
  • Finland: Amerikanankerlas
  • France: Anguille américaine, Anguille d’Amérique
  • Germany: Amerikanischer Aal
  • Italy: Anguilla americana
  • Martinique: Anguille
  • Mexico: Anguila americana
  • Neth Antiles: Aal, Anguía, Common eel, Paling
  • Netherlands: Amerikaanse aal
  • Poland: Moringa cetkowana, Wegorz amerykanski
  • Puerto Rico: American eel, Anguilla, Common eel
  • Russia: Amerikanskiy ugor’, угорь американский
  • Spain: Anguilla americana
  • UK: Eel, Silver eel
  • USA: American eel

Photos of the American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)

American Eel
(1) American Eel
American Eel
(2) American Eel
American Eel
(3) American Eel
American Eel
(4) American Eel
American Eel
Juvenile American Eel

Where can you find the American Eel?

The eel survives in seawater, freshwater, and brackish water. This is at a depth of 0 to 464 meters. They like a temperature between 4 and 25° Celsius. (39.2 and 77° Fahrenheit).

The areas where they live are the Central Atlantic (western part, more specifically Greenland), Canada, Panama, the United States (along with the southern Atlantic coast), and much of the West Indies as far south as Trinidad.

Streams, rivers, and lakes with muddy bottoms are their favorites. Their preference is for continuously flowing waters. During the day they live on the bottom, in hollows of the banks, near boulders, and tree trunks.

Countries where they live

  • North America: Anguilla, Antigua Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Is., Costa Rica, Cuba, Curaçao I., Dominica, Dominica Rp, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, St Kitts Nevis, St Lucia, St Maarten (NL), St Martin (FR), St Pierre Mique., St Vincent Gren., Trinidad Tobago, Turks Caicos Is., USA, Virgin Is. (UK), Virgin Is. (US)
  • Colombia, Venezuela

American Eel: Their nutrition

Their diet consists mainly of larvae of the Trichoptera, Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Odonata, Coleoptera, and Lepidoptera. Also mysids, gastropods, amphipods, oligochaetes, isopods, and fish from the families Cyprinidae, Percidae, Catostomidae, Ictaluridae, and Anguillidae

American Eel
Trichoptera – File: Caddis Fly. Trichoptera, Spotted Sedge. Hydropsyche species – Flickr – gailhampshire.jpg – Wikimedia Commons.
American Eel
Ephemeroptera – File: Imago Ephemeridae Hexagenia.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
American Eel
Plecoptera – Stonefly (Plecoptera) – Black Rock Lodge, San Ignacio, BELIZ … – Flickr
Red Insect Dragonfly
Odonata – Red Insect Dragonfly
Coleoptera – File: 2013-06-04 16-07-46-Coloptera.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Lepidoptera – Lepidoptera sp. – Lépidoptère – Thomas Bresson – Flickr
Mysids – Microdeutopus gryllotalpa – Flickr
Gastropods – Gastropod from Taiwan.jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Amphipods – More about these animals on the wild facts sheets… – Flickr
Giant Isopods
Isopods – Giant Isopods – These things are really cool.
Cyprinidae – Barbus plebejus.JPG – Wikimedia Commons
Percidae – PercaFluviatilisMediumSize.JPG – Wikimedia Commons
Catostomidae – The razorback sucker, an endangered species…
Ictaluridae – Ictalurus punctatus (S0163) (15909943867).jpg – Wikimedia Commons
Anguillidae – freshwater eel – Wildlife Journal Junior

For those who are interested, I have also written an article about the European Eel.

How do these animals mate?

Like their counterpart – the European Eel – the American Eel is a catadromous animal. That is, they move from freshwater to the sea to spawn and then return to the freshwater to live. To reproduce, they migrate to the Sargasso Sea in the autumn (just like the European Eel). From about 10 years to 40 years, these animals become sexually active and live in freshwater.

American Eel in the human diet

Most American Eels are mined primarily along the Atlantic Ocean and are exported to Asia and Europe. In those continents, the animal is considered a real delicacy.

Below you will find a dish from Belgium, “Eel in green”:

Eel in green
Eel in green

Preparation time ±50 minutes / Recipe for 4 persons


1 kg eel (cleaned and in pieces)
1 kg potatoes
2 shallots
garlic (1 glove)
chervil (1 bunch)
mint (1 bunch)
sorrel (1 bunch)
400 ml fish stock
½ bunch flat-leaf parsley (+ extra)
100g spinach
3 sprigs of marjoram
300 ml white wine
pepper and salt


  1. Peel and chop the garlic and shallot. Saute in a little butter until translucent. Add the eel, season with salt and pepper, and sauté briefly.
  2. Add the white wine and let it evaporate. Then add the fish fumet and let it simmer covered for 30 minutes.
  3. Peel the potatoes and cut them into pieces. Boil in lightly salted water.
  4. Rinse the herbs. Blanch the chervil, parsley, mint, and spinach. Rinse under cold running water and drain. Chop coarsely.
  5. In a blender, mix the blanched herbs and spinach with sorrel and marjoram. Add a little of the cooking liquid from the eel and puree to a smooth sauce.
  6. Rinse the watercress. Drain the cooking liquid from the eel from the pan. Put the green sauce in the pot and let it warm up briefly with the eel. Season with salt and pepper. Finish with a sprig of watercress. Serve with boiled potatoes and extra parsley.

How do you fish for American Eel?

Eels are not picky and are fond of different types of bait. At the bottom, they are looking for dead fish. For anglers, it is recommended to mainly use nightcrawlers. Insect larvae and small minnows are also on their menu.

The American Eel has a very strong sense of smell and therefore it can be interesting to use pieces of herring, stink bait, or shiner, for example. Some fishermen even use dog food.

You can fish for American Eel in 3 different ways:

  1. Drift Fishing: Drift fishing requires some weight to get the bait down, but the motion of the boat moves the bait through the water slowly. You can also drift bait under a bobber or popping cork.
  2. Still Fishing: Stillwater fishing (or still fishing) is a simple, effective fishing method enjoyed by beginners and professionals alike. Learn more about this fishing technique and how you can catch more fish.
  3. Spin Casting: You should learn how to cast with spinning reels if you like to fish with smaller baits or lures. If you prefer to fish with heavier lures, you should learn to cast with bait caster reels.

Enemies of the American Eel

There are several types of predators depending on the species and its size. Generally, larger fish, seabirds (including herons and storks), bald eagles, gulls, cormorants, osprey, and fish-eating mammals (including raccoons and humans), eat these fish.

Endangered Species?

There is some confusion about this. In 2014, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) put the American Eel on its Red List of Threatened Species. They say this was due to the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan and destroyed entire populations of eels. As a result, fewer European and Asian Eel came onto the market, so the American variant was often sought after.

In 2015, however, US fish expert Desmond Khan said to first evaluate the IUCN’s listing as a hypothesis, one which warranted an evaluation, rather than accept it as a final assessment. According to him, the existing data would not be sufficient.


This is where I come to the end of this article. I hope you found it interesting and of course, any questions, additional information, comments, ambiguities, or untruths can always be left behind. Thanks in advance!

For those who are interested, I have also written an article about the European Eel.

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