Species of UK
Description, baits and methods for fishing for Eels
Common name: Eel
Current UK Rod Caught Coarse Fish Record
EEL (Anguilla anguilla) 11lb 2oz 1978 Master S Terry, Kingfisher Lake, Nr Ringwood, Hants
Description and habitat of the Eel:
The eel has an elongated body similar to that of a snake. Longish head
with rounded eyes. The eyes are small in young eels and large in older
and silver eels. The eel has a protruding lower jaw longer than the
upper jaw. The teeth are small and set in bands in both jaws and in a
patch on vomer. Small and vertical gill openings restricted to the
sides. The dorsal fin originates far behind the pectorals fins and the
dorsal and anal fins confluent with caudal fin. The anal fin set
slightly behind anus, well back from origin of dorsal fin. The
pectoral fins of the eel are small and rounded. Lateral line
conspicuous. It has minute elliptical scales embedded in the skin.
Adults in freshwater are greenish-brown on black, whitish-yellowish on
belly. During the silver-eel stage during spawning migration the
colouration changes to blackish on the back and bright silvery on
sides and belly. In the leptocephali and glass-eel stage the
colouration is transparent and in the elvers stage greenish-brown.
The young European eels live in freshwater where they stay for a
period of 6-12 years for males and 9-18 years for females. As the eels
become sexually mature they migrate to the sea, where they move to the
spawning grounds in the Sargasso Sea. During migration the eels do not
Once the mature adult eel enters the Sargasso Sea they spawn in late
winter and spring. The adult eels
do not leave the Sargasso Sea and are thought to die
after spawning, but their progeny, the leaf-shaped larvae,
leptocephali, are brought to the continental shelf of Europe by the
Gulf Stream, a journey that can take between 6 -12 months
and several years.
Before entering coastal zones and estuaries the larvae metamorphose
into transparent elvers (glass eels). As the eels colonize the
freshwater areas of Europe they are known as yellow eels (pigmented
eels). During the last summer of their freshwater life, eels become
sexually mature and silvery in appearance (silver eels). At this stage
their eyes become bigger, their heads broader and the content of body
The European eel is found in rivers draining into the North Atlantic,
Baltic and Mediterranean Seas. It is also distributed along the coast
of Europe from the Black Sea to the White Sea.
Fishing Methods for catching Eels:
Eels are found in almost all waters but stillwaters are your best bet.
The best time to catch eels is early dawn or at dusk and through the
night but they can be caught throughout the day. The eel feeds all
year around with July to October noted as the best months to catch
them. Eels feed almost exclusively on the bottom and are usually
found where there is underwater obstacles or among reeds. Various
methods including float, ledger or feeder are used to catch eels.
Float fishing with a waggler over a bed of groundbait, slightly over
depth close to reeds is a good tactic. The feeder is also considered a
good method. As a guide a match, float or feeder rod can be used with
a reel filled with 4 lb main line with 3 lb hook length and size 16 -
14 hook. They respond very well to groundbaiting and sometimes when
groundbaiting for other fish you will end up catching an eel. If you
are going fishing for eels and have any old bait, maggots left from a
previous fishing session, don't throw them away, use them in your
groundbait for you eel fishing session. Lay a bed of groundbait using
brown crumb or continental groundbait with your old bait, maggots,
casters and chopped up worms mixed in. When you hook an eel,
especially a small eel, it will almost certainly curl up and get
tangled in your line. It will also make a mess of your line with the
slime from its body. To unhook an eel there are unhooking tubes, a
tube of approximately 1.5 - 2 inch diameter and a foot long with a
slit along the side. The idea is to hold your line taut and slide the
tube onto it via the slit and then slide the tube down over the eel
until its head appears and unhook it. Another method, very
unusual !, that I have tried and works, is described
in my tips section.
Baits for catching Eels:
Deadbaits and deadbait sections, Worms, big lob
worms, maggots and casters.
Eel stocks have suffered a severe decline across the whole of Europe.
New Rules and the reason for them
Information from Environment Agency website
What will the byelaw do?
The byelaw prohibits the removal of these species by rod and line. They are migratory species and therefore this restrictions applies seaward to 6 nautical miles (the extent of our fisheries jurisdiction).
Why prohibit removal of eels?
Eel stocks have suffered a severe decline across the whole of Europe. Under new European regulations we are introducing tighter controls over eel and elver net fishing over the next two years. Mandatory catch and release for angling will complement these net restrictions. It also avoids the need to report anglers’ eel catches to Europe – which will require us to introduce a catch return system for rod caught eels. Given that relatively few eels are taken by anglers, and the widespread
support of the angling community, we think that a complete ban on removal of eels by angling is justified.
Byelaw 3((iii) No person may remove by rod and line any eels or shad from any waters.
Byelaw 3 shall not apply to any person who with as little injury as possible either returns fish immediately to the same water alive or retains fish in a keepnet or keepsack and then returns it to the same water alive on or before completion of fishing.