Hello Italo: I would like to catch eels. Can you give me some tips on How, Where, When to catch them. I live in Hamilton and have a boat. Thanks

Posted on December 18th, 2007

Hi El…Unfortunately there are a lot less eels in Lake Ontario than there used to be 20 yrs. ago.  I have not heard of anyone catching one for a long time.  In fact, the numbers went down so far that the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has started a stocking program to see if it will help bring their numbers back, http://www.mnr.gov.on.ca/mnr/csb/news/2006/oct13nr_06.html .  The eels numbers are so low that the American eel is being considered for designation under both the Canadian Species at Risk Act and the United States Endangered Species Act.  When I fished eels in my younger years, one of the best places was Darlington Park, just east of Oshawa.  Eels like marsh environments in Lake Ontario and McLaughlin Bay was one of the best areas.  The other area that they used to catch a lot of eels was near Cornwall/Brockville, ON in the St. Lawrence River.  The American eel is a wonderful fish and for those that are not famiiar with it\’s very unique life-cycle, here\’s the condensed version:

  • American eels are found from the Gulf of Mexico to the St. Lawrence River and the lower Great Lakes to Labrador.
  • All American eels belong to a single breeding population with a fascinating life cycle that takes them from the Caribbean to the inland waters of North America and back to the Caribbean. As a result, they must be managed at the level of the whole species.
  • The spawning of the American eel has never been observed, but is believed to take place at depths of 600 metres in the western part of the Sargasso Sea, a region in the north Atlantic near the islands of the Bahamas and Bermuda.
  • The young eels start their migration as transparent larvae only 10 to 20 millimetres (mm) long. They swim and drift with ocean currents from the Sargasso Sea along the east coast of North America to rivers along the Atlantic coast, including the St. Lawrence River.
  • When the eels enter the Gulf of St. Lawrence, they have grown to between 65 and 90 mm and developed pigmentation and the familiar, snake-like shape. At this stage, they are called elvers. They begin feeding at one year of age.
  • By the time they reach the eel ladder at the R.H. Saunders Hydroelectric Dam, they are two to 10 years old and 25 to 75 centimetres (cm) long. Almost all of these eels are female, since most males remain in the southern part of the species range. The migration continues into the Great Lakes, their tributaries, and the lakes and rivers of Ontario’s cottage country.
  • Eels will generally feed for 10 to 15 years before starting their migration back to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. At this stage, their yellowish or olive-brown colour develops a metallic sheen and they are known as silver eels.
  • The average age of eels migrating down the St. Lawrence River is 20 years, but two fish caught in Lake Superior were 38 and 42 years old. Most eels weigh between one and three kilograms and are 75 to 120 cm long, but larger specimens weighing more than seven kilograms have been recorded.
  • The eels don’t feed during their journey back to their birthplace in the Sargasso Sea, which can take several months. After a round trip lasting several decades and thousands of kilometres, the eels’ life cycle is completed when they spawn and die.

…God bless you, Italo

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