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Eels in the Osage River
Midwest Region, May 1, 2010
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Andy Plauck with an American Eel from the Osage River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Andy Plauck with an American Eel from the Osage River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Colby Wrasse with an American Eel from the Osage River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Colby Wrasse with an American Eel from the Osage River. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

Working in the same place day after day can get monotonous, even if your job is fishing. When we were given the opportunity to try out a new “fishing hole”, we gladly accepted. Normally, field crews from the Columbia FWCO are fishing for sturgeon on the Missouri River.

Instead of battling the harsh conditions of the big muddy, the Columbia FWCO was tasked with helping Columbia ES office capture a pallid sturgeon in the Osage River (for more details about the Osage River Project see Andy Starostka’s article).

While the clear water of the Osage is quite different than the turbid Missouri River, Columbia FWCO staff were up to the challenge. Trotlines would be the gear of choice and the crews had just finished running trotlines for several months on the Missouri River.

Not only was a pallid sturgeon captured on the first day of sampling, some other interesting fish were brought into the boat.

On the first day of sampling, the first line was pulled into the boat to reveal a wriggling snake-like fish that we immediately recognized as an American eel. Not more than a few feet down the line, another eel came slithering through the water and was pulled into the boat.

We all studied the strange fish for a while and took several pictures before releasing them. While American eels are fairly common in some places, only two have been captured by the Columbia FWCO since we began monitoring projects on the Missouri River.

Several weeks later, another eel was caught near the lowhead dam. This one fell off the hook and slithered from the front of the boat all the way to the back. It was truly amazing to see how fast this fish could slither along the wet aluminum floor of the boat. When finally corralled into a corner, we were able to grab it long enough for a picture and measurement.

What makes this an interesting catch, for those who aren’t that in to fish, American eels are a catadromous fish. They spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean. When the young eels mature they find their way to North American shores. As they mature they swim up rivers and can stay in freshwater for as long as 30 years before making their way back to the ocean to spawn. These three eels swam at least 1,200 miles up the Mississippi and Missouri rivers before entering the Osage River. Apparently there is something they like in the Osage!


Contact Info: Andrew Plauck, 573-234-2132 ext 175, Andrew_Plauck@fws.gov



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