Waterman’s tool of the day – can you guess what this is?

Sort of a fuzzy picture, but I think you get the idea. This is the working end of a long tool, hanging on my neighbor Bill’s wall.

Give up?

An eel gig. Mark Connolly tells me that they look for eels in early spring, March is the season – and find them under the sand near a grassy shore. You’ll see holes in the sand – and then you’ll shove this tool down in there – BOOM! and yank it up and hopefully, you’ll get one on there. Around here, eel pots are everywhere stacked up in barns, sheds, tied to pilings and docks.

An important member of the Chesapeake Bay fish family, eels are a food source for fish, mammals, birds and turtles. Most local eels are sent directly to Asia where they’re considered a delicacy (I’ve never tried it, but it was food for generations here on the Bay). It was often used as crab bait, but not as much anymore since the overseas commercial value has increased. Here are a few links to interesting facts about American eels –




And I suppose this whole conversation wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t mention the fact that yes, they’re slimy and yes, this is one more reason to wear good solid shoes when you’re swimming in the Bay.

~ by kbosin on April 21, 2011.

6 Responses to “Waterman’s tool of the day – can you guess what this is?”

  1. I knew what this was immediately. My father used to use one in the Hudson River. One evening he was out eeling and came home close to the time he had to go to work. So what did he do with all the eels that he had caught? He put them in the bath tub. Now my mom was at work when this happened and when she came home he was off at wok and guess who was looking forwad to a nice relaxing bath? You guessed it! From what I was told there were many words tossed around when Dad got home from work and they weren’t “hello darlin'”!

    • I’ll bet it wasn’t “hello darling!'” I would freak out if my tub was filled with eels – poor Mom! On the other hand, knowing my husband, if he were an eeler, I just MIGHT expect to find them in odd locations…..

  2. Couple tidbits of eel trivia fer ya:

    Tidbit 1) Eels are catadromous – meaning, they live in fresh (or brackish) water but must migrate out to sea in order to breed… exactly opposite of fish like salmon and rockfish. When it’s time to get their freak on, adult eels migrate *downstream* and cross the Atlantic to the Sargasso Sea to spawn (and subsequently die). Months later, the baby eels (known as elvers) swim all the from the Sargasso back to the rivers, creeks, and/or brooks from which their parents came – often thousands of miles.

    Tidbit 2)
    Before we built dams on all the rivers (and blocked the highways of eel reproduction), the baby eels used to swim to the upper reaches of the watershed to live their slimy lives. In colonial times, even “highlanders” had eel spears. My brother discovered one in the rafters of an old barn in Shenandoah County… the nearest waterway was a stream that you could almost jump across. A long time ago, there were eels in the mountains!

    • How cool is that? Like Gail’s father on the Hudson river.

      Elver is a great scrabble word, isn’t it? All those Es, sitting there, needing to be used, and that four point V. Sweet.

      Very interesting, as usual, Johnny! Thank you!

  3. I was going to guess backscratcher.

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