Anguilla Rostrata



Inland, Nearshore, Shallow Water

8 - 17 pounds

30" - 60"

American Eel 

Also Known As: Freshwater Eel  

 American Eel (Facultative Catadromous) Description 

The American Eel is a fish that typically reaches around 1-4 feet in length and around 8-17 pounds and are typically smaller than other eel breeds. These snake-like fish have slender bodies that are covered in mucus, which gives the eel its slimy appearance. Even though an American eel appears naked, it is actually covered in minute scales. 

Females can lay up to 4 million eggs annually and are typically larger than males and lighter in color, with smaller eyes and higher fins. Their head is long and conical, with rather small, well-developed eyes. Their mouth is terminal with jaws that are not particularly elongated. Their teeth are small, pectinate, or setiform in several series on the jaws. 

While variations of coloring exist with eels (brownish, greenish, yellowish, gray, and white), there does seem to be a certain trend with water type and coloring. Clearer water often houses lighter-colored eels, while acid streams keep darker-tinted eels. Eels are, at their core, bottom dwellers. They bury themselves in the mud, tunneling themselves in more shallow depths, amongst the dirt and plants. They seek to build homes beneath shelters to protect themselves and take advantage of their prey using surprise attacks. When temperatures get below 40 degrees, they go torpor – a similar state to hibernation (however, the occasional activity might occur). 

Distribution and Habitat 

American Eel United States Heatmap

The American eel resides in freshwater, typically streams and lakes. Their native origins span along the eastern Atlantic coastline, moving inward towards the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River. There have been recordings of the American eel moving west in Lake Mead and rivers on the Arizona border. As they are bottom dwellers, they sit on rivers and muddy bottomed lakes. So while believed absent from certain rivers or lakes of scarce sightings, we might just be missing them entirely. While the American eel is a freshwater fish by nature, they actually migrate into saltwater to spawn.