• Family: Anguillidae (Freshwater Eels)
• Other Names: Eel, freshwater eel
• Ohio Status: Threatened
• Adult size: Typically 15-40 inches but can reach 52 inches. Usually 1-3 pounds but can reach 7 pounds.
• Typical foods: Fish or crayfish, but will feed upon anything they find.
American eels are 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, slimy and difficult to hold because they secrete a slime when they feel threatened. Male eels grow to about 18 inches, but females can reach up to 52 inches in length.
Habitat and Habits
The American eel may be found at times in any stream in Ohio and in Lake Erie. They occur most often in moderate or large rivers with continuous flow and moderately clear water. While in fresh water, eels are secretive and hide in deep pools around cover sometimes burying them selves during the day and coming out to feed at night.
Reproduction and Care of the Young
Adult American eels migrate to the Sargasso Sea, a calm area in the southeast section of the Atlantic Ocean, to spawn and then die. The female lays up to four million buoyant eggs, which are fertilized by the male. After hatching, young eels migrate toward North America and enter freshwater systems to mature migrating upriver until they run into an impassable object like a dam.