Anguilla Rostrata

I could not remember ever finding one washed up in the surf.  Its as rare as finding a crow hit by a car....just never seems to happen.  After putting two and two together...the reason why that sea serpent lay before me at high tide was more than coincidence.
 
Many surfcasters are like a one man band.  They choose a means of pursuing the linesiders and when it works they tend to use it each and every time...no matter when and where.  If plugs were a success at the canal.....then guys become plug men...and so on with bait and jigs and....................eels!
 
Earlier that very sunny day at dead low tide on a Sunday afternoon, I saw two surfcasters set up for some fishing near my house.  I do believe that if your line is in the water you have a better chance than the couch potato, to catch a fish.......but......in full sun..with people everywhere..at low tide...my impression is that you will have yourself a biteless land charter.  Let me assure you, I am not the kind of person that will go down and tell these guys otherwise.  When I approached them and saw the vigor and excitement they had as they got ready for their first cast, I was absolutely not going to question their approach at all!
 
Hey guys.....wow this is a nice day huh?...It sure is...we plan on sitting here, catching some fish, and having a few beers. This is our Vacation.  Should be a great day for you guys.  Hey what are you using for bait?..or are you plugging?  We are fishing for stripers and as far as I am concerned..there is only one way to catch them and that is using live eels.  I chimed in with some reinforcing comments on that bait for our beloved foam feeders.  Its the only thing we use for stripers.....every time we go we use eels.  I nodded with approval, but since that is my turf and I know it well...low tide ..on a sunny day...on a sandy beach...with yelling kids everywhere seemed to make their quest futile, but remember hope is part of fishing.
 
I enjoyed the beach also that day, swimming, reading, and generally nodding in and out of la la land from the soothing sun.  I also kept an eye on the two eel boys.  It a natural thing for fisherman to watch other fisherman.  The two guys laughed and talked about fishing and recast a number of times and never even moaned about the cold truth at the end of the day...........they never had a bite.  So as the tanning crowd was heading home, I was heading out again, with my fishing gear.  High tide was rolling in and on my beach, the gradual sand arena, that is when I fish.
 
It was a calm evening and I planned on chumming a bit and using my fish oil to take advantage of the calmness.  It was during this prep time that I noticed the washed up eel.  It was from those guys earlier in the day.  They had discarded it before heading home.  I chuckled as I recalled their insistence on eels all the time.  I chuckled at the enthusiasm they had when on the beach.  I chuckled how fishing can make men kids in a second.  After my chuckles I put my fishing cap on and leaned down to pick up the used...washed out...EEL (Anguilla Rostrata)
 
I had brought two rods. One for chunking and one for plugging if pluggable fish entered my domain.  I took the plugging rod...lightened the sinker down to an ounce, and rehooked ol Mr. sea serpent through the eyes.....and heaved him.  After gathering the slack I opened the drag and would just put it in the holder in case some striper decided she wanted an ol limp dead eel.  I wasn't in the mood to work it.  I had recent success with mackerel and I focused on that rod for my possibilities.  I held that one.

The American eel, Anguilla rostrata, also known as the common or freshwater eel, can be found in a variety of habitats across an extensive geographic range. It probably has the broadest diversity of habitats of any fish species in the world. The American eel occurs in freshwater rivers and lakes, estuaries, coastal areas and open ocean from the southern tip of Greenland, along the Atlantic coast of North America, throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, to Venezuela, and inland in the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes. The eel is an abundant resident of all tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay in its yellow eel phase. Before reaching this life-history phase, which comprises most of its life, the eel has undergone several physical and geographical changes

The life history of the American eel is complex and not fully understood. It is a catadromous species, which spends most of its life in rivers, lakes and estuaries, but migrates to the ocean to spawn.

The eel begins and ends its life in the waters of the Sargasso Sea, an area north of the Bahamas. The leptocephalus, a pelagic larvae of less than two inches in length, drifts with the ocean currents for 9 to12 months before entering coastal waters.
When it reaches approximately 2.4 inches in length, the leptocephalus metamorphoses into a transparent, "glass" eel.
In autumn the glass eels migrate into estuaries along the Atlantic coast, including Chesapeake Bay, where they become pigmented. These eels are known as elvers. Some elvers remain in the estuaries, but others migrate varying distances upstream, often for several hundred kilometers, overcoming seemingly impassible obstacles such as spillways, dams, falls and rapids. Now in their yellow eel phase, the American eels will remain in the brackish and fresh waters of these rivers for the majority of their lives for at least five and possibly as many as twenty years. The yellow eels are uniformly greenish-brown to yellowish-brown dorsally, and whitish-gray ventrally. Females reach a maximum length of five feet, and males grow as long as two feet. These residents of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries are nocturnally active omnivores, feeding on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, worms and other fish. Before beginning its life-ending migration back to the waters of the Sargasso Sea to spawn, the eel must undergo further profound physical changes. Just prior to the reproductive migration, the eel stops feeding, the eyes and pectoral fins enlarge, the visual pigments change and the body color pattern transforms. The sexually mature eel has a gray back, pure white belly, and a silvery bronze sheen on its flanks. The migration occurs throughout autumn nights with adults descending streams and rivers, swimming through deep grass and shallow ditches, for a January spawning in the warm Caribbean waters.

So lets see what striper mikes little science lesson did for you.  Here is your QUIZ:

Every American eel ever caught in rivers, bays, and ponds in the Bay was hatched from an egg below the surface of the Sargasso Sea, southwest of Bermuda.

True
False

The answer is TRUE. Incredible as it may seem, ALL eels originate from this location and migrate to other parts of the world, including the Chesapeake Bay!!!!!!!!!!

In a typical sand bar fashion, the crabs kept invading the mackerel and I was kept busy rebaiting the chunking rod.  Some tiny nibbles that I felt were stripers kept me going, but as we all know, surfcasting can be veryyyy unrewarding.  This tide had Nada written all over it.  I would go both barrels. I will use the limpy eel rod for a chunk now and hope that would up my odds for a fish.

Only because I am so fanatical, I actually slowly worked the eel in even though it had sat there for an hour......without the company of a striper!  I kid you not, I hadn't moved the dead eel 5 feet when a nice fish put the brakes on my retrieve.  I was hooked up..unbelievable!!!!!!  A scrawny 34' striper gazed up at me from the sand after a spunky fight. and the washed out eel dangled from its mouth.

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I wish I could have found the guy again......The eel Man.....cuz you know what, He was right...his eels did work!!

After countless hours from the beach, I have learned one thing and I hope you all learn it too........the absolute most that we can do is learn information about stripers and surfcasting, but one fact remains....we are humans and they are fish. Accept that.  because, we will always be using guesswork and hope to bait our lines, while our quarry already knows what it wants.  Accept your amateurism with humility....its part of surfcasting.....

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