American Eel

American Eel - copyright Joe Tomelleri

The American Eel, Anguilla rostrata, is an amazing fish with a remarkable life history involving huge migrations. While widely distributed across most major river drainages of the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada where it's well studied, relatively little is known about the populations of drainages of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean.

We've been interested in, and learning more about eels in Texas (and elsewhere) for several years now, and have been funded by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to study them across Texas. We have now given a number of presentations reporting our progress and trying to get more people involved and contributing data to this effort. Here are some links to those presentations:

  1. January 2023 update - Since what's listed below, there've been more presentations, an exhibit on American Eel installed in the UT Life Science Library (Hendrickson, D. A., Casarez, M., Cohen, A. E., Chapman-Tripp, H., Maisano, J., Elmer, N., & Kennedy, A. (2021). A Case For Eels [Physical exhibit]., and we filed our final report with Texas Parks and Wildlife (it's still not fully approved, but we can provide copies on request), Finally, late last year, the first specimens of American Eel glass eels ever collected in Texas were taken near the coast. We have yet to see the specimens, but the collectors are confident of their determination to this species.   
  2. In March 2018 Dean was a guest speaker for the Colorado River Alliance's Barstow Speaker Series program.  The talk highlighted the species of the Colorado River with a special attention on American Eel and what is known of their distribution and status in Texas.  A published version of the talk can be found here and an archived video is on the Colorado River Alliance FB page here.
  3. In November 2017 Dean presented this talk to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's 31st Annual SWQM (Surface Water Quality Monitoring) Workshop on November 8, 2017 in Bandera, Texas.
  4. In September 2016 Dean gave a keynote address at Barton Springs University, then in October presented an expanded version of the same talk to a meeting of the Austin Bastrop River Corridor Partnership. That Powerpoint (with content in notes fields as well as in slides themselves) is available via the link below.
  5. In January 2016 we presented  a paper reviewing what we knew about American Eel in Texas at the Texas Chapter of the American Fisheries Society. The data we were able to compile (included in the archived presentation) indicate that eels likely still occur in all Texas rivers, but there are very few specimens in collections, and almost none from which we could get tissues for genetics or otoliths. Then, another version of the talk was given in early 2017 at the annual meeting of the Southern Division of American Fisheries Society. 

Given that our core mission as a scientific collection is to collect and archive specimens and observations, we decided to invest some of our time in initiating a "grassroot" collaboration to acquire and share information and specimens. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) partnered with us by providing materials to build some eel mops that we distributed to volunteer samplers, and both we and TPWD have obtained new specimens from our own sampling efforts, as well as via legacy data. But more will be needed.

If you have observations to report, or specimens to provide, or know anyone who does, please help us compile and share that information. We will make any data received available online to all researchers via our Fishes of Texas Sandbox, and Fishes of Texas website.

We welcome all interested in American Eel in the Gulf of Mexico and its tributaries to join our email discussion list.


eels_for_austin-bastrop_river_corridor_partnership_2.pptx19.22 MB