Throughout the few fishing trips I have taken in my life, I have never seen anyone catch an American eel in person.
In my recent research of the species, I found out some very interesting information about unhooking them once they are pulled out of the water on a fishing line.
While fishing, there is a certain way to handle the eel when it is taken out of the water and a way to hold it so that it does not slip out of your hands due to the slimy texture.
Unhooking the eel does not have to be complicated, but there is a way to do it that does not harm you or the eel.
Disclosure: At BonfireBob, we recommend products based on unbiased research, however, BonfireBob.com is reader-supported and as an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases if you shop through the links on this page. For more information, see disclosure here.
Table of Contents
The Proper Way to Unhook an American Eel
The first thing to remember when trying to unhook an American eel is that they eat very quickly. This means that before you are able to make the next move, the eel can very well swallow your bait and move on to the next thing it finds in the water.
Due to this information, it is important to set the hook as soon as you feel the eel bite. This way, you will have an easier time when it comes to removing the hook.
All potential bites from the eel should be struck as soon as possible because the eel eats fast and this will prevent deep hooking. Deep hooking is exactly what it sounds like, and should be avoided at all costs.
If the hook is rooted too deeply into the top of the eel’s mouth, it can cause a lot of pain and damage to the fish. It is important to avoid this, especially if you are just fishing for fun and will end up throwing the eel back into the water.
The open wounds that come from a deep hook in an eel’s mouth will significantly alter the way that it eats and functions if it goes back into the water.
Before unhooking, you will need to move the eel away from the water. The eel will have a slimy texture, and with it thrashing around trying to get back home, your hard work will be wasted if it slips out of your hands and jumps back into the water.
There are a few ways you can get the eel to calm down in order to be able to handle it better. First of all, you can try laying it down on its back for about 20 to 30 seconds until it calms down.
Another trick is to wrap the eel in the newspaper so that you can get a better grip on it. However, it is most recommended to keep one’s hands wet and handle the eel directly as the slime on its body helps to prevent infections.
If it is visible, the best way to pull the hook out is to use some sort of pliers or forceps to remove it. However, if the hook is not visible, you should not pull it out, as it could damage the vital organs that are located right behind the eels head. Instead, cut the line as close to the eels mouth as possible and leave the hook in its position.
How to unhook an eel:
- Get ready to remove the hook as soon as you feel the eel bite.
- Ensure that the eel cannot jump back into the water and get a firm grip on it
- If you can see the hook, use forceps of some sort to remove it
- If you cannot see the hook, cut the line as close to the eel’s mouth as possible
Ways to Fish For American Eel
Catching American eel isn’t too much different from catching a fish. You can think of it as kind of a fish-like snake. Like any fishing endeavor, the first thing you will need going in is some supplies.
What you need will depend on what method you will use to catch the eel, but keep reading for some general examples.
The Supplies that you might need for eel fishing:
- A medium spinning rod (6’ to 10’)
- Medium capacity spinning reel
- A small hook (because eels have a small mouth)
- Live bait (frogs, snails, crayfish and other crustaceans, small insects)
- A baited eel trap
- A fyke net
- Eel spear
The best time to catch an eel is when they are migrating to the sea because at that time they have reached their maximum size, their fat content is high, and they are in the best possible condition.
To give a brief background on American eels, they begin to migrate when they have reached their full adult sizes. This happens toward the end of their life cycles when they are prepared to return to the ocean for spawning before they die in the same place.
As a result, this can be classified as the best time to fish American eels, regardless of if you will eat it or toss it back in to the water.
Some anglers end up catching eel when they are on the search for catfish, and oftentimes the slime on the eel can be a deterrent for catching them but others enjoy catching an eel.
Many of these anglers use the hook and line setup similar to catching catfish. That’s where your rod, spinning reel and hook will come in handy. Use a smaller hook because of the eel’s small mouth, however, avoid light wire hooks.
Other methods for catching eel include eel traps which is a simple cage made from wood, osiers or metal, and you put live bait inside to lure in the eel. You should never leave them out for more than two hours because a caught eel can always escape.
Another method to catch an eel is the fyke net. This is a long conical net supported by cane or metal hoops with three internal funnels. These are used without bait and go along with the flow of the stream for the eel to unknowingly swim inside.
Related Questions About Eel
Are there any laws around catching eel?
The number of eels in American waters has been declining in recent years due to a number of factors Many fisheries in America list them as unsustainable but individual states have their own rules when it comes to fishing eel. In Maryland, the minimum size in nine inches and the closed season is from September to January.
What is the best way to catch an eel?
The best way to catch an eel depends on the individual and what they feel is best. All methods of catching eel come with pros and cons. Using a fishing rod, it might be difficult to remove the hook from the eels mouth. When using traps, it is possible for the eel to escape. Either way, both methods come with an equal amount of risk.
What is the difference between unhooking American eel and fish?
Unhooking a fish and an eel are actually very similar processes. The key to both actions is that you want to be as careful as possible when removing the hook and ensuring that both types of animals are unharmed when thrown back into the water.