ENDEMIC. COMMON. MIGRANT.
DISTRIBUTION: Common in wetlands of all kinds throughout New Zealand. It is New Zealand’s most widespread freshwater fish.
HABITAT: Found in almost any body of fresh water including lakes, streams, rivers and water-races. They usually hide under river banks or log jams during the day as most foraging is done at night.
LIFE SPAN: They often live to 60, although some have been known to live to over 100 years old.
BREEDING: Spawning at sea, eels migrate large distances to spawning grounds which are thought to be somewhere east of Tonga. They are thought to spawn on mass deep in the ocean. When the fertilised eggs hatch, the baby eels drift back to New Zealand on ocean currents then, when about 6 cm long, they join the whitebait migration upstream.
FOOD: Strictly carnivores, eels eat a range of food including small fish, fish eggs, ducklings, mice, and any carrion that falls in the water.
GENERAL: A very large eel in which the dorsal fin extends along the back to a point considerably forward of the level of the belly fin. They are very dark in colour but paler underneath. Their skin is soft and velvety and easily damaged. Females grow much larger than males, and may reach 2 meters in length and weigh nearly 20 kg. Numbers are dropping because of commercial fishing.