A species of fish so rare that most Americans don’t even know they live in freshwater was recently caught in Missouri, and it broke the state’s 9th fishing record of the year.
The fishing action in the Show Me State started off hot this year and it hasn’t slowed down yet.
There were 6 new state records set in the first 6 months of the year, and then 2 more records set the last two months, including a kid who broke his dad’s sunfish record and a Bighead Carp big enough to set a new world record.
Now Missouri’s 9th state record of the year has been officially been certified, and it’s one of the state’s rarest fish.
American Eels may look like snakes, but they’re actually a species of fish found up, down, and around the eastern Coast of the U.S.
The fish are coated in mucus which makes them appear smooth and slimy even though they’re actually covered in scales. Eels have a fascinating life cycle. American eels do live in freshwater, but once they mature they migrate down rivers to the Atlantic Ocean and then swim through the sea to down around Bermuda where they breed and then die.
As immature eels re-enter freshwater ecosystems, they’re small and translucent and known as what are called “glass eels.” As the glass eels grow, their color changes and they enter a phase of life where they’re known as “yellow eels.” As the eels reach maturity they become olive green, brown, greenish-yellow, and/or light gray in color.
Full grown American eels can grow up to 4-feet long and weigh as much as 17-pounds.
American eels are most common in the Chesapeake Bay and Hudson River on the east coast, but they’re also present through most major river drainages in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico too, including the Mississippi River basin.
The species does most of their hunting at night and feed on crustaceans, aquatic insects, small fish, and anything else they can scavenge or find. During the day they typically burry themselves in mud, sand, or gravel near the shore.
American eels populations have declined precipitously throughout much of their range in recent decades due mostly to the blockage of their migration by dams.
American eels are listed as a “threatened” species in Missouri, which means the species is likely to become endangered in the state in the foreseeable future. The dwindling numbers of eels in the state didn’t stop Carlin Allison from recently catching a new state record American eel in Missouri’s Current River though.
According to the Springfield News-Leader, the eel he caught at the end of July weighed 6-pounds and 15-ounces. He was using cutup skipjack as bait while targeting catfish.
“My buddy and I were out at about 3 that morning, so it was dark outside and I couldn’t see that well, but it put up one heck of a fight.”
He was about to cut the line and throw the eel back in the water when his friend told to him to hold up while he looked up the state record.
“I didn’t know what to do with it, but my buddy stopped me and said, ‘Hey, that’s a big eel, hold on.
Sure enough, we looked it up online and it was obvious it was bigger than what was listed.
I knew we had eel in Missouri, but never that big. I really don’t know how to feel about holding this state record. I guess I’ve got bragging rights.”
The previous record was caught on the Meramec River in 1993 and weighed 4-pounds 8-ounces.
The Missouri Department of Conservation verified the new state record and indicated that although they are found in pretty much every major river and stream in the state, catching them with a rod and reel is extremely rare.
“Now here’s a rare one! Carlin Allison became the ninth state record holder of 2021 after catching an American eel!”
The sale of fishing licenses directly funds the protection and enhancement of public boat ramps, aquatic environments, and fish populations in all 50 states.
It also protects you from potentially being fined, having your gear confiscated, and/or losing your fishing privileges. It’s important to remember that just because you have a fishing license in one state, that does not mean it is valid in another state.
And as always, please fish responsibly and save the whiskey until after you’re off the water.