Eel (Anguilla anguilla)


Common throughout the area, eels need no description and are of little interest to anglers. Unlike other fish in the area, the eel is a catadromous species migrating to the Sargasso Sea to spawn. Upon hatching it is thought that young eels drift towards the Gulf Stream before metamorphosing into glass (unpigmented) eels when they reach the European Continental Shelf.



migrating elvers

Migrating elvers (C. Daphne)

The young eels, or elvers, run into the rivers in May and June, often on dark nights following a new moon. The elvers occupy a wide range of estuarine and freshwater habitats enjoying a varied diet of invertebrates and fish. They then grow in freshwater until mature, when they begin their seaward migration to spawn. This can take more than 20 years in Sutherland waters. Prior to migration the eels change colour and become known as silver eels.


There have been dramatic declines in eel populations since the 1980s. There are a number of reasons for this including increases in fishing pressure, pollution, habitat degradation and climate change. Consequently the eel is listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a priority species for conservation and Eel Management Plans have also been developed by Marine Scotland Science.




Watch migrating elvers here


European Eel Lifecycle
The European Eel Lifecycle
monster eel
Monster of the loch (S. Marshall)



See also under publications:


  • West Sutherland Elver Project
  • Geisgeil Eel Project
  • A protocol for monitoring elver recruitment

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