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Longfin Eel (Anguilla reinhardtii) Photographs and Information

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.

eel, eels, harvesting eels, anguila
L&B Taspac - New Zealand Seafood

Longfin Eel - aguilla reinhardtii

Map of Australia showing where Longfin Eels are found

longfin eel

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 southern Australia.

Scientific Name Anguilla reinhardtii
Location Streams and Tributaries in Eastern Australia
Season All year round
Size To 106 cm in length (Female)
Australian Species Code 37 056002
Taste, Texture Delicate fishy flavour, firm to medium texture


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Eel fillet.

Kilojoules n/a
Cholesterol 26 mg
Sodium n/a
Total fat (oil) 1.5 g
Saturated fat 33% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 42% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 25% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 31 mg
Omega-3, DHA 80 mg
Omega-6, AA 90 mg

Angling for Longfin Eels:

fresh eel, eels on ice, longfin eel photo

Cooking Longfin Eels:

Colour of raw fillet:

White to pink.


Firm to medium.

Fat Content:

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, pies 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 pies 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.

Poached Eels in Dill Sauce - Eels, wine vinegar, white sauce, fresh dill, court bouillon.

Poached Eel in Tomato & Basil - Eels, olive oil, onion, tomatoes, basil, white wine, fish stock, polenta.

Commercial Fishing for Longfin Eels:

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.

Recovery Rate
Fillets: 50% from whole eel (gut in)

The Queensland 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 long)

  • a juvenile fishery (eels less than 30 cm long).

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, Anguilla reinhardtii
  • the short-finned eel, Anguilla australis.

Other eel species are found in Australia but do not currently have commercial significance.

Eel Fishing Gear
In Queensland, adult eels may be taken only commercially, using 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 nylon net.
  • 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 dimensions.
  • A float of at least 150 mm in each of its dimensions must be attached to each trap.
  • The trap and trap float must be marked with the authority number and full name of the authority holder.
  • 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 escape.
  • A cod-end/pocket 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 trapped animals access to surface air.
  • The pocket must also have rigid frames that are no more than 1 m apart and at least 20 cm in each of their dimensions. The 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 reduces the likelihood that eels will be exposed to stress and anaerobic (low-oxygen) conditions when there are high catch numbers. This also enables non-target 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, narrow wing-mouthed net), and
    • it must have at least two wings
    • the length of each wing must not exceed 15 metres
    • the fyke net must not exceed four metres in height, width or diameter
    • the ends of the wings and the cod-end of the net must be marked with a reflective float bearing the holder's name and address
    • the net may be fixed by anchor or supported on stakes
    • the net must be kept reasonably free of debris at all times to avoid mortalities
    • a float must be attached to the cod-end to provide a breathing space within the cod-end for any accidentally trapped air-breathing animals
  • three small mesh dip nets
  • three flow traps with an effective bycatch excluder approved by the chief executive prior to use.




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See Also:  Conger Eel Freshwater Eel, Moray Eel


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