Eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) Photographs
Most longfin eels are found in Queensland and New South Wales and on Lord Howe Island.
Longfin Eels are diadromous, that is, they move from marine to fresh waters as
juveniles and return to the sea as adults. These eels live in a variety of
freshwater and estuarine environments including coastal lagoons, rivers, creeks, swamps,
lakes and farm dams. Longfin eels prefer riverine habitats.
Longfin eels probably spawn in the Coral Sea waters deeper than 300m, although the
exact location of spawning grounds remains unknown. Females produce between 5 and 10
million pelagic eggs. Within 2-10 days the eggs hatch into pelagic larvae called
"Leptocephali" The leptocephali are carried by ocean currents to the
continental shelf where they develop into "glass eels" - toothless, unpigmented
forms which move into estuaries with the assistance of currents and tides. Longfin
eels enter estuaries mainly in summer and autumn.
The Glass Eel stage lasts approximately 12 to 18 months, after which they develop
pigmentation and functional teeth - they are then called "Elvers" They
then move from the estuaries into lakes, swamps and the freshwater reaches of rivers and
creeks. This migration takes place during spring and summer, and mainly at night.
Following this second migration the eels enter a sedentary feeding stage when they
are known as "brown eels" or "yellow eels"
As Longfin eels reach maturity they move downstream to the entrances of rivers and
creeks prior to commencing their spawning migration.
A number of changes occur as they mature. The dorsal surface becomes grey-green
and the belly silvery white. The pectoral fins and eyes enlarge, the lateral line
becomes prominent and the skin thickens. Internally, the gonads enlarge, the stomach
degenerates and the anus constricts to reduce water loss. Mature eels are referred
to as "Silver Eels"
They leave the estuaries from late summer to autumn. Some eels swim distances
further than 3000 kilometres.
The main Australian commercial fishery for eels is in Victoria. Restrictions
apply. Longfin eels are not cultured on a commercial basis at present, but a number
of pilot projects are underway.
Did you know? Although they breed in
saltwater north of Vanuatu, shortfin and longfin eels spend most
of their lives in freshwater. Solely marine species, such as
conger eels (Conger spp), are also available, particularly in
Streams and Tributaries in Eastern Australia
All year round
To 106 cm in length (Female)
Australian Species Code
Delicate fishy flavour, firm to medium texture
For every 100 grams raw product
for Eel fillet.
33% of total
42% of total
25% of total
Angling for Longfin Eels:
Colour of raw
White to pink.
Firm to medium.
Variable, can be very oily.
Delicate fishy flavour.
The name and
appearance of eels inhibit some Australians from eating any
of the species, even though they are considered a delicacy
in other countries.
When purchasing eels, try to find ones that have been purged
(the digestive system emptied of wastes by holding them in
clean water) for 3 -7 days, or eels that are caught or
cultured in brackish water.
Eels are becoming
increasingly available live and chilled. They are most
commonly used smoked and in casseroles, p tÈs or soups, but
are also delicious grilled or barbecued. If barbecuing, it
helps to steam the eel first in an Asian-style steamer. For
kabuyaki, the fillets are grilled and steamed alternately up
to five times.
Poaching is also an excellent way of preparation because
eels are gelatinous. If left to cool, the poaching liquid
forms a fragrant jelly for use in sauce preparations. The
eel can then be used in soups formed from the poaching
liquid, or in p tÈs or casseroles.
Serve with tapenade or eggplant relish or try spit- or
char-roasting eel, complemented with deep-fried capers and
pickled beets. Eel lends itself also to the flavours of
chilli, shallots and soy for an Oriental-style dish.
Eel cutlets and steaks present beautifully, especially when
grilled on a very hot plate and served with a rich, red wine
and balsamic vinegar reduction.
Jellied eel is popular in Europe. Smoked eel is becoming
more readily available in Australia.
Eel Pie - Eels, puff pastry, flour, fish stock, egg,
onion, parsley, lemon juice, nutmeg.
Eel Stew - Eels, olive oil, almonds, red pepper,
onion, garlic, thyme, paprika, cayenne pepper, fish stock.
Caught year round, with peak supplies usually in spring.
However, catches vary along the coastline (e.g. the peak harvest
from the Clarence River, NSW, is usually during winter). Farmed
shortfin eels are mainly harvested in spring.
Wild and farmed, Mostly wild. Shortfin eels are also farmed
(mainly in Victoria and New South Wales) and longfin eels are farmed in
small-scale operations in New South Wales and Queensland.
Fillets: 50% from whole eel (gut in)
commercial eel fishery is unusual in that the resource is harvested at two
stages in its life cycle: the adult stage and the glass eel/elver stage
(juvenile). As such, the fishery is managed in two components:
an adult fishery (eels more than 30 cm
a juvenile fishery (eels less than 30
A commercial harvest fishery licence
authorises fishers for both the adult and juvenile components. The adult fishery
is designated by the symbol 'E' and the juvenile fishery by the symbol 'JE'.
Although fishers of adult eels and juvenile eels harvest eels at different life
stages and use different gear, both target the same eel populations.
Almost all of Queensland's wild-caught adult eel catch is exported as live
product to Asia - primarily Hong Kong, China and Taiwan. The market for live
long-fin eels is based on the eels weighing more than 400 g, with large eels
attracting premium prices.
Juvenile eels may be sold to authorised aquaculture enterprises in Australia for
on-growing only. The export of juvenile eels is not permitted.
The target species in the
Queensland eel fishery are:
the long-finned eel,
the short-finned eel,
Other eel species are found in
Australia but do not currently have commercial
In Queensland, adult
eels may be taken only
baited eel traps or
round traps that are
usually set on the
bottom of the
impoundment. Traps are
generally baited with
pilchards or mullet.
The maximum size
of an eel trap is
2.0 x 0.6 x 0.6 m
when set, and the
maximum size of a
round trap is a
diameter of 1 m and
a height of 0.6 m.
The trap's frame
must be made of a
rigid material and
usually covered by
knotted or knotless
A trap (other
than its pocket)
must have a mesh
size of at least 25
mm, but any rigid
mesh on the trap
must be at least 22
mm in each of its
A float of at
least 150 mm in each
of its dimensions
must be attached to
The trap and
trap float must be
marked with the
authority number and
full name of the
A trap may have
only one entrance -
a one-way funnel
through which the
eel enters as it
attempts to reach
the bait. Once
inside, the funnel's
small aperture makes
it nearly impossible
for the eel to
is attached at the
opposite end of the
trap to the entrance
and holds the catch
until the eels can
be removed. The
pocket must be long
enough to reach the
water surface. The
cod-end may also
have only one funnel
entrance from the
trap itself to the
pocket and must have
an aperture of at
least 20 cm in each
of its dimensions.
The tail of the
cod-end must be
attached to a float
or buoy of adequate
size so that at
least some of the
cod-end floats at
the surface to allow
access to surface
The pocket must
also have rigid
frames that are no
more than 1 m apart
and at least 20 cm
in each of their
first frame must be
no further than 1 m
from the exit of the
trap into the
pocket, and the last
frame no more than
0.5 m from the end
of the pocket. This
likelihood that eels
will be exposed to
stress and anaerobic
there are high catch
numbers. This also
species, such as
turtles, to breathe
at the surface and
avoid drowning if
caught in a trap.
The maximum amount of
total fishing gear
allowed to be used under
an authority is:
one small mesh
eel fyke net (long,
it must have
at least two
of each wing
must not exceed
the fyke net
must not exceed
four metres in
height, width or
the ends of
the wings and
the cod-end of
the net must be
marked with a
the net may
be fixed by
the net must
of debris at all
times to avoid
a float must
be attached to
the cod-end to
cod-end for any
three small mesh
three flow traps
with an effective
approved by the
prior to use.