American Eel
Return To Search
Name and Code
Anguillidae - freshwater eels
Anguilla rostrata
Taxonomic Authority
(Lesueur, 1817)
Common Name(s)
American Eel
French Name
anguille d'Amérique
Family TSN
Parent TSN
Species TSN
Conservation Status
Global Rank (GRank)
G4 (2011-10-20)
National Rank (NRank)
N4 (2005-11-03)
Provincial Rank (SRank)
S1? (2008-05-15)
Threatened (May 2012)
SARO Status
AFS Status
Ecological Value
Ontario Origin
General Abundance
Economic Importance
commercial fishery (historical)
Habitat and Feeding
General Habitat(s)
lacustrine; riverine
Trophic Class
Thermal Regime
Habitat Preference
near cover over muddy bottoms in lakes, ponds, rivers and creeks at depths <15 m; preferred water temperature range 16-19°C
Reproductive Guild
Nonguarders: Open substratum spawners: Litho-pelagophils
Spawning Habitat(s)
Spawning Season
Spawning Month(s)
Spawning Temperature (°C)
Nursery Habitat(s)
riverine; estuarine; marine
Size and Age
Adult Length (cm)
22.8-39.8 TL (m); 53.2-111 TL
Adult Weight (kg)
0.02-0.13 (m); 0.26-3.34 (f)
Age at Maturity (yrs)
5-15 (m); 12-23 (f)
Maximum Length (cm)
61 TL (m); 152 TL (f)
Maximum Weight (kg)
Lifespan (yrs)
6-16 (m); 13-24 (f)
Ontario Range Map
American Eel range
Ontario Distribution
Great Lakes and tributaries, St. Lawrence River and tributaries, Ottawa River and tributaries (extirpated); native to Lake Ontario, Ottawa River and St. Lawrence River watersheds
American Eel photograph
catadromous life strategy, spawn in Sargasso Sea; adults semelparous; most eels in Ontario are female; Ontario populations have declined 99% since the 1970s; tolerant of turbidity
Ontario Records
Record Length (cm)
120.0 TL
Record Weight (kg)
Information Sources
Barbour, M.T., J. Gerritsen, B.D. Snyder, and J.B. Stribling. 1999. Tolerance and trophic guilds of selected fish species. Appendix C in Rapid bioassessment protocols for use in streams and wadeable rivers: periphyton, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish, second edition. EPA 841-B-99-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Office of Water. Washington, DC.
Becker, G.C. 1983. Fishes of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI. xii + 1052 pp.
Bernatchez, L. and M. Giroux. 2000. Les poissons d’eau douce du Québec et leur répartition dans l’Est du Canada. Broquet Inc. Saint-Constant, QC. 350 pp.
Carlander, K.D. 1969. Handbook of freshwater fishery biology. Volume one. Life history data on freshwater fishes of the United States and Canada, exclusive of the Perciformes. Iowa State University Press. Ames, IA. vi + 752 pp.
Coad, B.W. with H. Waszczuk and I. Labignan. 1995. Encyclopedia of Canadian fishes. Museum of Nature and Canadian Sportfishing Productions. Ottawa and Waterdown, ON. viii + 928 pp.
Coker, G.A., C.B. Portt, and C.K. Minns. 2001. Morphological and ecological characteristics of Canadian freshwater fishes. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2554:iv+89p.
Cooper, E.L. 1983. Fishes of Pennsylvania and the northeastern United States. Pennsylvania State University Press. University Park and London. vii + 243 pp.
COSEWIC. 2012. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the American Eel Anguilla rostrata in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Ottawa. xii + 109 pp.
COSEWIC. 2017. Canadian wildlife species at risk. October 2017. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. Gatineau, QC. iv + 119 pp.
Cudmore-Vokey, B. and E.J. Crossman. 2000. Checklists of the fish fauna of the Laurentian Great Lakes and their connecting channels. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2550:v+39p.
Desroches, J-F. and I. Picard. 2013. Poissons d’eau douce du Québec et des Maritimes. Éditions Michel Quintin. Waterloo, QC. 471 pp.
Ditz, K., A. Dextrase, and E. Holm. 2009. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources fish species codes & common names. Ichthyology and Herpetology, Royal Ontario Museum. May 1994. Revised September 2005 by A. Dextrase, MNR and modified January 2009 by E. Holm, ROM.
Etnier, D.A. and W.C. Starnes. 1993. The fishes of Tennessee. [2nd printing, 2001]. The University of Tennessee Press. Knoxville, TN. xiv + 689 pp.
Goldstein, R.M. and T.P. Simon. 1999. Toward a united definition of guild structure for feeding ecology of North American freshwater fishes. Pages 123-202 in T.P. Simon [Ed]. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL. xx + 671 pp.
Goodyear, C.S., T.A. Edsall, D.M. Ormsby Dempsey, G.D. Moss, and P.E. Polanski. 1982. Atlas of the spawning and nursery areas of Great Lakes fishes. Volume thirteen: Reproductive characteristics of Great Lakes fishes. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Washington, DC. FWS/OBS-82/52.
Halliwell, D.B., R.W. Langdon, R.A. Daniels, J.P. Kurtenbach, and R.A. Jacobson. 1999. Classification of freshwater fishes of the northeastern United States for use in the development of indices of biological integrity. Pages 301-337 in T.P. Simon [Ed]. Assessing the sustainability and biological integrity of water resources using fish communities. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL. xx + 671 pp.
Hasnain, S.S, C.K. Minns, and B.J. Shuter. 2010. Key ecological temperature metrics for Canadian freshwater fishes. Climate change research report: CCRR-17. Applied Research and Development Branch, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Sault Ste. Marie, ON. 54 pp.
Holm, E., N. Mandrak, and M. Burridge. 2009. The ROM field guide to freshwater fishes of Ontario. Royal Ontario Museum Science Publication. Toronto, ON. 462 pp.
Hubbs, C.L. and K.F. Lagler. 1964. Fishes of the Great Lakes region. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor, MI. xv + 213 pp.
Hubbs, C.L., K.F. Lagler, and G.R. Smith. 2004. Fishes of the Great Lakes region, revised edition. University of Michigan Press. Ann Arbor, MI. xvii + 276 pp.
Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS). 2014. On-line database. (, accessed 07 June 2014.
Jenkins, R.E. and N.M. Burkhead. 1993. Freshwater fishes of Virginia. American Fisheries Society. Bethesda, MD. xxiii + 1079 pp.
Lane, P.A., C.B. Portt, and C.K. Minns. 1996. Adult habitat characteristics of Great Lakes fishes. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2358:v+43p.
Lee, D.S., C.R. Gilbert, C.H. Hocutt, R.E. Jenkins, D.E. McAllister, and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 1980. Atlas of North American freshwater fishes. North Carolina State Museum of Natural History Publication 1980-12. Raleigh, NC. x + 867 pp.
Mandrak, N.E. and E.J. Crossman. 1992. A checklist of Ontario freshwater fishes annotated with distribution maps. Royal Ontario Museum Life Sciences Miscellaneous Publication. Toronto, ON. v + 176 pp.
McAllister, D.E. and B.W. Coad. 1974. Fishes of Canada's National Capital Region/Poissons de la région de la capitale du Canada. Fish. Res. Board Can. Misc. Spec. Publ. 24: 203 pp.
Meador, R.M. and D.M. Carlisle. 2007. Quantifying tolerance indicator values for common stream fishes of the United States. Ecol. Indicators. 7:329-338.
NatureServe. 2015. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 7.1. NatureServe. Arlington, Virginia. (, accessed 11 June 2016.
Nelson, J.S. and M.J. Paetz. 1992. The fishes of Alberta, 2nd edition. The University of Alberta Press and The University of Calgary Press. Edmonton and Calgary, AB. xxvi + 437 pp.
Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters (OFAH). 2017. Ontario record fish registry. ( Updated March 2017.
Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (OMNRF). 2015. Species at risk in Ontario (SARO) list. (, updated October 1, 2015.
Page, L.M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico, second edition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Boston, MA. xix + 663 pp.
Page, L.M., H. Espinosa-Pérez, L.T. Findley, C.R. Gilbert, R.N. Lea, N.E. Mandrak, R.L. Mayden, and J.S. Nelson. 2013. Common and scientific names of fishes from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 7th Edition. American Fisheries Society, Spec. Publ. 34. Bethesda, MD. 243 pp.
Phillips, G.L., W.D. Schmid, and J.C. Underhill. 1982. Fishes of the Minnesota region. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN. x + 248 pp.
Portt, C.B., G. Coker, and C.K. Minns. 1999. Riverine Habitat Characteristics of Fishes of the Great Lakes Watershed. Can. MS Rpt. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 2481:vi+62p.
Ross, S.T. 2001. The inland fishes of Mississippi. University Press of Mississippi. xx + 624 pp.
Scott, W.B. 1967. Freshwater fishes of eastern Canada, second edition. University of Toronto Press. Toronto, ON. xii + 137 pp.
Scott, W.B. and E.J. Crossman. 1973. Freshwater fishes of Canada. Bull. Fish. Res. Board Can. 184. [1998 Reprint] Galt House Publications Ltd. Oakville, ON. xx + 966 pp.
Scott, W.B. and M.G. Scott. 1988. Atlantic fishes of Canada. Can. Bull. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 219. University of Toronto Press. Toronto, ON. xxx + 731 pp.
Scharpf, C. 2005. Annotated checklist of North American freshwater fishes, including subspecies and undescribed forms. Part I: Petromyzontidae through Cyprinidae. American Currents 31(4):1-44.
Smith, C.L. 1985. The inland fishes of New York State. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. xi + 522 pp.
Smith, P.W. 2002. The fishes of Illinois. University of Illinois Press. Urbana and Chicago, IL. xxix + 314 pp.
Stauffer, Jr., J.R., J.M. Boltz and L.R. White. 1995. The fishes of West Virginia. Reprinted from The Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 146:1-389. Pennsylvania State University. 389 pp.
Stauffer, Jr., J.R., R.W. Criswell and D.P. Fischer. 2016. The fishes of Pennsylvania. Cichlid Press. El Paso, TX. 556 pp.
Trautman, M.B. 1981. The fishes of Ohio with illustrated keys, revised edition. Ohio State University Press. Columbus, OH. xxv + 782 pp.
Wallus, R., B.L. Yeager, and T.P. Simon. 1990. Reproductive biology and early life history of fishes in the Ohio River drainage. Volume 1. Acipenseridae through Esocidae. Tennessee Valley Authority. Chattanooga, TN. vii + 273 pp.
Werner, R.G. 2004. Freshwater fishes of the northeastern United States: a field guide. Syracuse University Press. Syracuse, NY. xiv + 335 pp.
Wismer, D.A. and A.E. Christie. 1987. Temperature relationships of Great Lakes fishes: a data compilation. Great Lakes Fish. Comm. Spec. Pub. 87-3. 195 pp.