Mystery man dumped more than 100 live eels into lake in Brooklyn, New York park

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Who knows what species those were but in general, eels (American and European eels anyway) are catadromous, born in saltwater but live most of their lives in freshwater before returning to the ocean to spawn.




Finally, a solution to the Eel Question.

Hopefully this is a species of eels that respects local noise ordinances.



The Hudson River which flows by Manhattan is an estuary - it is more salty when the tide is high, less salty when the tide is low. If he absolutely had to take them somewhere (instead of cooking them, eels are delicious) the Hudson would have been the place to take them. They could then swim whichever way they needed to, to get into either salty or fresh water.


EW. But also: great reference.


Assuming they are native species? I am assuming they are, but please don’t dump non-native species in the wild. This has fucked up so many things.

/>.> looking at you asian carp and lion fish.


Eel fisheries aren’t all that strong these days but most likely these were either American or European eels as those are the standard eels at market here in the North East. There’s an outside chance they’re farmed Japanese Eels. Assuming the photo at top is from this incident, I wouldn’t be able to tell you which it is. As they’re all rediculously similar.

It’s depressingly common in NY these days for people to illegally stock lakes and ponds with target species they feel aren’t available enough. Or with non-native species they’d like to fish near home. This is often rationalized as “helping” by reintroducing fish, or harmless on the theory that the fish can’t get out of an enclosed body of water. And most of the non-lake waterways in New York state should have eels in them but don’t. There are multiple ponds near me with illegally introduced eel populations.

That’s what the guy was referring to in the video when he says “I know what you’re doing”. The perpetrator wasn’t trying to save eels. He was trying to stock the lake so he could easily catch eels there later.

But this probably wasn’t all that harmful to the eels. They can live, and establish a breeding population in a lake like this. And just because they might be from a fish market doesn’t mean “they’re all dying”. Eels can live for days or weeks out of water, and as for climbing out of the lake. They just sort of do that in shallow water. Eels will cross surprisingly large stretches of land to bridge from one bit of water to the other. They’re weird critters.

Still not good, and still illegal. But it isn’t necessarily cruel.

If that was the motivation. Which it almost certainly wasn’t.

Kinda a 50/50 shot given what’s carried at NYC fish markets. Bait shops tend to only carry American Eels. European Eels are very closely related, and damn near identical. They have been accidentally or intentionally released in areas of the North East and don’t seem to cause the same issues as the carp and snake head. But there’s still the issues of disease/parasites and the fact that they aren’t generally supposed to be in lakes and ponds. Could definitely wreak havok in the wrong water way.


I knew that eels did that, but I did not know it has its own word! Thanks.


Anadromous is the opposite. Like striped bass and salmon.


Perhaps his hovercraft was full.


But they were huge sources of food for native peoples of the US. You can still see the remains of old eel weirs in some streams of Pennsylvania today, especially the Susquehanna River. Right now the river is low, and you can see what I believe is one from the I-83 bridge.


They’re an incredibly important commercial fishery on the East Coast. Both as food and as bait, but populations are collapsing. Similar things are happening with the European eel. And IIRC the Japanese eel is now endangered. Additionally a couple of sizes they’re a keystone bait species for larger predator fish. Including stripped bass, fluke and other flatfish.

Hence the interest in illegally stocking them and the misapprehension that releasing any eels anywhere is “helping”. Eel farming has become common in Europe and Asia (predominantly using European Eels). But hasn’t caught on in the US yet.


The PA Capitol building in Harrisburg is known for its artwork, and it’s biggest piece is the Mercer tile floor. The installers added designs here and there depicting things like animals. By one exit facing the Susquehanna River is a design of a fish labeled “shad.”

I like to point that out to visitors because at the time the Capitol was constructed American shad were plentiful in the river and no doubt a favorite spring food, but can’t find them in the river anymore. Shortly after the turn of the last century the first of four hydroelectric dams went up, and the shad (and the eels) became a thing of the past.

Edited to add: Yes, there is some fish ladders and shad trucking up the river, but it’s basically a gesture that moves a few thousand each year. In 2019, no shad even made it as far as the York Haven dam. Sad.

I knew I was going to be late with the hovercraft reference.


If you think NY is bad for non-native species you should see Florida. Hardly a native fish in sight in some freshwater locales. One thing though, those eels won’t establish a breeding population. They do their breeding somewhere deep in the Sargasso sea! (if they’re an American or European eel)

Some anadromous catadromous species can adapt/switch/deal with living and breeding in one environment. This is what makes it feasible to farm raise salmon, stripped bass (though they’re often hybridized to simplify things), and eels.

I don’t know that it’s confirmed that there’s breeding going on in the illegally stocked ponds near me. But it is assumed they are since the population has hung around despite fishing and attempts to remove them in a way that would require it. Or continual introductions.

I doubt it would be too persistent a population. But it’s a thing apparently. Eels are remarkably adaptable and hard to kill critters. I’ve seen a bag of them live for a week in a plastic bag in the fridge, I’ve found them crawling across roads, and I’ve had a single eel live lined for striper bait last for hours when the fish weren’t biting. Pulled it off the line, dumped in a bucket of water. And used it again the next day.

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Although some eel species have been induced to spawn artificially it’s not an easy task and I would guess even less so in a Brooklyn pond. Which is why farmers still rely on buying elvers, including sometimes illegally from the US and Canada. The full breeding cycle of American and European eels is still a wonderful mystery.


the hudson is also quite a distance from prospect park. tough to take a couple of bags of eels on the subway. but i am sure there is ample evidence out there that it has been done.

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