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Kansas Angler Lands American Eel, Unseen in the Area for a Decade

BioWeb University of Wisconsin

It’s not every day that you see an American eel in Kansas. In fact, it’s been about 10 years since one has been spotted.

Angler Tim Smith was surprised when he caught an American eel, a very rare species, in the Kansas River in September, according to a press release from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (WPT).

“This species spawns in the Sargaso Sea of the Atlantic Ocean,” said Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Fisheries section chief, Doug Nygren.

“So, this eel made a long journey from the Atlantic Ocean, through the Gulf of Mexico, up the Mississippi, took a turn at St. Louis to enter the Missouri River, and another turn to go up the Kansas River to the Bowersock Dam.”

The American eel once inhabited waters as far as the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coastlines, from Greenland to Brazil, and inland from Minnesota to central New Mexico.

In the early 1800s and 1900s, there were several accounts of the American eel in Kansas, says the WPT, but dams blocking upstream migrations have made this species’ appearance a rarity today.

The WPT reports that the eel caught measured 30 inches long. Smith was using a simple worm as bait.

The Kansas state record American eel was caught in 1987 and weighed 4.4 pounds. That eel was also caught in the Kansas River.

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Kansas Angler Lands American Eel, Unseen in the Area for a Decade