Connecticut River Coordinator's Office
Northeast Region
Painting of an American eel - Credit:  U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Duane Raver
Painting of an American eel. Credit: Duane Raver, USFWS

American eels are an unusual animal for a number of reasons. They baffled scientists for years before the spawning grounds were located in the Sargasso Sea (south of Bermuda). The progeny return to freshwater to feed and grow into adults, a process that can take as long as two decades. And, perhaps most unusually, eels can live for an extended time out of water and can crawl on land to get around a dam if the soil is moist.

We have little scientific data on eels. However, the Connecticut River eel population is thought to be declining especially above high dams. So, there has been an effort to facilitate eel passage above dams. Where eelpasses have been built, eel numbers are being monitored so that we can better understand the status of the population here.

Management Plan

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has a fishery management plan for American eels, and the Connecticut River Atlantic Salmon Commission is currently developing a Connecticut River Basin American Eel Management Plan. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader software to open this document. If you do not have this software, you may obtain it free of charge by following this link.

Please visit the Interstate Fisheries Management site for more information about American eels.


Eel Habitat

The following projects were completed in 2005; both received partial funding through the Connecticut River Coordinator’s Office:

DSI Eelpass Retrofit in Westfield, MA


  • Redesigned, installed and repaired eelpass damaged by ice flows

  • Returned eelpass to operational status – the eelpass facilitated passage for 350 eels this year as opposed to about 500 two years ago. The difference is probably more a function of how many potential routes there are for an eel to take around the dam rather than a reflection of the changes to the eelpass

Connecticut Eel “Omnibus”

  • Lead-CTDEP, USGS, City of Norwich, Farmington River Power Company, Old Saybrook Land Trust, Old Lyme Land Trust, Town of Groton, Beardsley Park Zoo, USFWS

  • 8 projects, including upgrades to existing eelpasses, new projects and improved monitoring – 4 barriers removed

  • Improved access at Greeneville and Bunnells Pond dams and added eel access upstream of the Hyde Pond and Rainbow dams adds 76 miles of eel access

At least one more eelpass is planned. The Athol Bird and Nature Club/Millers River Environmental Center is working on an eelpass at the New Home dam on the Millers River in Orange, MA.

The Mary Steube fishway in Old Lyme, CT. The structure on the left is an eel pass and on the right is a herring fishway.

Photo of a dam with an eel pass - Photo credit: CT Department of Environmental Protection
The Mary Steube fishway in Old Lyme, CT. The structure on the left is an eel pass and on the right is a herring fishway. Credit: CT Department of Environmental Protection


Last updated: August 25, 2010
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