I’ve had several people ask me if you can eat certain kinds of non-traditional fish. I answered that question and wrote a post on stingrays (see here) and now it’s time to answer the same question when it comes to eels.
Can you eat eel and how does it taste? Yes, you can eat eel and it tastes fantastic. With that simple answer let’s dive deeper into this mysterious fish.
What’s an eel?
An eel is a ray-finned fish belonging to the class Anguilliformes. If you have never seen one before your first impression might be that it’s some kind of snake…it’s not. A couple of characteristics of an eel are:
- Ocean eels have no scales whereas freshwater eels typically have many small scales.
- They are covered with slimy mucus.
- They have sharp teeth.
- They are great swimmers…forward and backward.
- They don’t have the best eyesight.
- They can range from 2′ to 12′ in length
- They typically like to feed at night (I caught one in the afternoon sun)
Common types of eels
There are many types of eels. Here are some of your more common types:
Moray Eel…many different types.
Where do you find eels?
You can find eels throughout the United States and in the rest of the world in lakes, streams, and in the ocean. In the United States, it’s common to come across the American Eel all along the eastern seaboard. Stretching north into Canada and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico. They spawn in the ocean and then make their way into freshwater.
You will find them at the bottom of the waterways searching for food.
How do you catch an eel?
How do you catch an eel? Well, the two main ways are with a rod and reel and spearfishing. I will never forget the first time I caught an eel. I was about ten years old…many years ago. I was fishing off a rock pier back east and my line started to feel really heavy. There was no fish bite. I thought I must have hooked a submerged log or something. It just felt like a dead weight, as I pulled my line in. As I got this dead weight close to where I could see it, it took me a moment to realize what I had caught…it’s an eel!
Many eels like the bottom of deep water and then swim up to search for food. Get your line to the bottom and slowly reel in. Many times an eel will go after the bait…shrimp, worms, minnows, etc. I nice plump nightcrawler always seems to do the trick for me. They like to come out at night, but I’ve had some good luck in the late afternoon. In fact, my first one as I described above was using a nightcrawler and in the late afternoon. A 10 lbs line is good with a couple of split hooks will do the job nicely with a 6 – 10 oz weight.
As you can probably tell I love to spearfish and spearfishing is also a great way to go after eel. For more on spearfishing take a look at spearfishing.com.
Is it healthy to eat eel?
I can tell you as mentioned below I’ve been eating eel (unagi sushi-style) for many many years and feel like with most fish, it’s nutritional value is abundant. Eel is filled with many vitamins and minerals, such as vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B12, and phosphorus. It’s also a great source of omega-3 (Umami Insider).
Per an article from Shape Magazine. Unagi is very beneficial to women. Here are four benefits – 1. It can ease menstrual pain. 2. It protects your skin and reduces wrinkles. 3. Helps to fight breast cancer. 4. Good for your brain. Here’s a link to read more about these health benefits.
I absolutely love eating sushi and when I do a couple of pieces of unagi (freshwater eel) are always happily consumed. Typically you will find unagi in most American Japanese sushi restaurants. You will also come across anago, which is saltwater eel. Unagi is a common food in Japan, kabayaki. It is traditionally grilled and served with rice. The adjacent picture is a piece of unagi grilled over some rice, sushi negiri style with some ginger and wasabi. Absolutely delicious!
Are eels harmful to humans?
To some eels look like a vicious predator just waiting to strike. That’s not the case, like most fish they aren’t aggressive until they’re threatened. They do like to live in rock holes and crevices, so poking in their habitat could cause a “bite back.” When diving or scuba diving give them space and you will be fine.
What’s An Electric Eel?
An electric eel is fascinating. What is an electric eel? An electric eel (Electrophorus electricus) is not actually classified as an eel, but more like a catfish. It can produce an electric charge of up to 600 volts (source: National Geographic) which it uses to stun its prey for food. They can grow to a considerable size with a length of up to over 8 feet and weigh up to 45 pounds. They are found in freshwater in South America.
In conclusion, yes you can eat eel and it tastes great. All over the world, it’s a popular fish to consume from sushi to grilling it on the BBQ. If you have never tried eel go out and give it a try. Better yet go fishing for them and see if you can land one. Enjoy!