New Zealand Longfin Eel

Diet Fish and meat, dead or alive. Including insects, ducklings and frogs.

Breeding At maturity the longfin eel stops eating and migrates downstream to the sea. Its believed that they then travel thousands of miles somewhere in the Coral Sea to spawn. The larvae drift on the ocean currents and eventually reach the coastal waters of New Zealand and metamorphose into elvers (baby eels). What happens to the longfin eel if the ocean currents change with global warming. How will the young drift home?

General This Longfin eel is only found in New Zealand including the Chatham Islands. Grows to 1.2m and 10kg but up to 2m and 50kg. Teeth are sharp, fine and point backwards. They can traverse moist land and absorb oxygen through their skin so are often found on wet grass travelling between waterways. My friend found one in a tiny spring feed puddle 5km from a waterway high on a hill. Males live for about 35 years and females to 50. They were an important food source for the Maori and make good eating, especially smoked. They are usually caught by hook and line or a fyke net having a mesh fence to guide them into a trap having a reverse cone shape entrance being easier to enter than exit. The Maori made such traps (hinaki) from vines. The days of going eeling for fun and not even eating them are gone, or at least should be. The Australian longfin eel has been caught in New Zealand recently. That Australian longfin is mottled in colour.

Photos © Natural Heritage Collection

Head of Longfin eel freshwater fish of New Zealandschool of Longfin eel freshwater fish of New Zealand
Mouth of longfin eel freshwater fish of New Zealand
Eyes of longfin eel freshwater fish of New Zealand