The Mystery of Eels
Infographic: All About the American Eel

Few fish hold as many mysteries as the eel. Unlike most fish, eels are catadromous. This means they spend most of their adult lives in freshwater rivers and streams, and return to the oceans where they were first born to spawn. Learn about the American Eel and its mysterious underwater world.(Click on image to enlarge or open in new window.)

Eel Infographic, PBS Nature's The Mystery of Eels

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  • Brian Sikorski

    I came across this special tonight while channel surfing – what an incredible story and interesting piece of work. I cannot express how glad I am about finding this work and thinking about catching eels here in the Farmington River in Connecticut – then wondering where they might have come from.

    CPTV continues to enlighten me when it seems all of TV is trash, reality without content…

    I cannot wait to take my son snorkeling down the river as we did as kids floating on a tube wearing a mask and freaking out when you drift over a four foot eel in Burlington, Unionville or Farmington – where no dams block their fresh water travels.

    Great job CPTV – thank you, thank you, thank you..

  • Britt

    What a fascinating program. Thank you for sharing these experiences and thoughts about a creature who is such a mystery. I have never seen one, have only heard stories from old timers who have caught them accidentally while fishing for something more desirable. Again, a great program. Thank you.

  • Pat

    I greatly looked forward to this episoce and would have loved to learn more about the mysterious eel, but very little of the program actually dealt with nature of the eel. Primarily it deals with the eel industry and the narrator artist-writer’s perspective and adventure (and sorry to say, delivered in a voice that is not easy to listen to). The small percentage that was actually about the nature of the eel was very interesting.

  • Chad

    You could always read Prosek’s book “Eels” which is VERY interesting.

  • Laurie Pomazi

    Bravo, James Prosak! Great night of watching you in your element with extemely interesting eel facts. Are there any areas in Connecticut that have eels? I was told of a place in Norwalk where a group of eels have been spotted -I am going to check it out!

  • Geoff

    Pat above has it exactly right. The narrator (and author of a book about eels) spent most of the time highlighting how eels are exploited by humankind rather than about the eels themselves; from the “loveable” old codger on the upper Delaware dispensing his homey wisdom as he catches and kills eels to the ex-hairdresser in Maine who depletes native rivers of thousands of young eels to sell to the orient to the aboriginal (and thus automatically noble) Maori who all seemed to have a chip on their shoulder about what the whites have done to New Zealand while conveniently forgetting their own role in the environmental degradation of that beautiful land (anyone seen a Moa lately?). None of the cast of human characters who, for the most part, seemed to be involved in some way in killing eels, seemed half so remarkable or poignant (or interesting!) as the eels themselves as they struggle to swim past an infinitude of natural and human-created obstacles to get to their spawning sites in the ocean. Maybe the producers of “Nature” ought to stick to nature and leave all the human-interest fluff to National Geographic or the Oprah network!

  • Geoff

    Chad, I’ve read the book and it has the exact same limitations as the program did. Author Prosak seems more interested in Prosak than in eels!

  • Greg Peterson

    Fascinating topic. Videography as good as any I’ve seen, of some truly stunning locations.


    How it managed to be both stultifyingly monotonous and breathlessly overwrought at the same time is a mystery more profound than that of the eels. Even that might have been forgivable, but the actual content of the narration is inane, pseudosophisticated, and riddled with weird non sequiturs. A sentence would start off making one point, and then end up saying something unrelated or even at odds with the first idea. Bizarre.

    If you watch this–and you should, eels really are bizarre and interesting–turn the sound off and put on some Pink Floyd. Maybe the experience will sync up somehow. But in any event, you will have spared yourself from having to listen to rubbish.

  • Deborah

    The worst narration I have ever heard on “Nature’. Why the hell didn’t they get someone with less monotone!

  • Geoff

    So, apparently, PBS only publishes comments that are laudatory of its programming (see my previous comment about this particular show). Interesting to know that you believe in censorship of comments that might reduce viewer interest and hence, presumably, the financial success of various shows. Will remember that fact when PBS next comes a begging for a contributions.

  • Byron

    I grew up watching Nature, and have always admired PBS’ natural history or animal programs, but after reading and watching some additional material on the longfin eel, this program is very bias and in a way, actually dangerous.

    I learned on another program (biologist/ sport fisherman Jeremy Wade’s Animal Planet series River Monsters, the Flesh Ripper episode) that these eels have a completely unmentioned dark side. Wade talks about James Cook’s journal and how Cook was told 250 years ago by a Maori chieftan that there were “8 foot man eaters” on the island. Wade then goes on to report recent “kiwi” accounts of a dog dissapearing under the water’s surface before an owners’ eyes and not coming back up, sheep being eaten alive from the inside out on a river crossing, two accounts of divers attacked or seriously injured by the eels and even a newspaper story from 1971 on eight-year old girl who was almost dragged to deeper water by one of these “loveable” eels.

    Wade clad himself in a protective suit and smeared himself with fish guts to see if the wild longfin eels are bold enough to approach and then attack a human. The fish showed that they will indeed approach a human and even attack – numerous eels nipped him before he exited the water, and right before he got out of the water, an eel latched on to his chain mail gloves’ finger and spun in a deathroll for a good five to six seconds.

    I looked on Wikipedia for verification of the darker side of the eels and at the time it agreed; however, the addition has since been edited out.

    I find the lack of mentioning the darker side of these eels appalling. The eels were over-romanticized, and given how much credence Maori stories about the eel were given, I expected better of a program like Nature than only getting one reverent side of the story (the Maori’s) and giving a false impression of these fish as innocent as dolphins and only persecuted because they like to eat trout. Someone might watch this program who either wants to go to or lives in New Zealand and go in to a waterway to meet these “friendly” fish and be seriously injured or die.

  • Greg Peterson

    So, Geoff, I had the same initial reaction when it seemed as if they might not display my negative comments, but in fact they put us both, plus Byron, up there–very much to their credit.

    And it has to be said that I FREAKING LOVE NATURE. Episode after episode, I have adored, bought the DVD of, watched again online, etc. Just the previous week, the episode on bears and wolves was incredible, really top-notch education and entertainment. To my mind, this is their sole lapse in standards, and I can’t account for that. But Nature/PBS producer folks? Please take note that your fans…take note. I’m not a hair-trigger nutjob. I only express myself when something seems really right, or really wrong. I only regret that I hadn’t written a series of complimentary posts before having written the one above.

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