Anguilla anguilla


Eels are very long, narrow fish which can grow over a metre in length. Eels look smooth and lack the obvious scales and gills of other fish. They can be found in rivers and ditches but leave the freshwater to breed at sea, in an area of the west Atlantic called the Sargasso Sea. Young eels (known as 'elvers') return to freshwater rivers to develop. Eels are predators and scavengers, feeding on dead animals, fish eggs, invertebrates and other fish.

How to identify

The eel is the most common snake-like freshwater fish. A group of bizarre fish called lampreys look similar but have large sucker-like mouths and no pectoral fins. Eels range in colour above, from silver to olive-green, and have yellow bellies.

Where to find it

Found throughout the country.


When to find it

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December

How can people help

Eel populations have declined dramatically in recent years, possibly due to pollution, overfishing and habitat degradation. Across town and country, The Wildlife Trusts are working towards a Living Landscape: a network of habitats and wildlife corridors which are good for both wildlife and people. And in our marine environments, we are working towards a vision of Living Seas where marine wildlife thrives. You can support this greener future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.

Species information

Common name
Latin name
Anguilla anguilla
Freshwater fish
Length: up to 1m Weight: 0.5-1.5kg Average Lifespan: 15-70 years
Conservation status
Classified as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Classified as a Priority Species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.