The American Eel in Algonquin Park?

///The American Eel in Algonquin Park?

The American Eel in Algonquin Park?

I was 99% certain that I just saw two American Eels in Booth Lake, Algonquin Park on August 29, 2016. At first, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing- the size and form of the creatures I was watching in the shallows adjacent to my campsite just did not register. I have been fishing in Ontario for more that 40 years, and I have never seen an eel in person – until now.

It happened while out photographing the night sky from a rocky point at the north end of my campsite on Booth Lake.  Earlier that evening, I had tossed into the lake the bones and skin from a small pike that I filleted for dinner.  I knew that the remains wouldn’t last long in the water as I watched countless scavengers nearby in the lake and creek – cormorant, mink, otter, turtle, catfish, leeches and crayfish.

AT 11:30 pm, I shone my powerful headlamp into the water near shore, and I saw what first registered in my brain as a really skinny pike about 40 cms long.  But when it moved, it was fast and writhing, more like a snake than a fish.  It appeared to be after the fish scraps.  I darted back into the light, and back out again and disappeared.  I convinced myself that it had to be a northern pike and went to bed without giving it a second thought.

The following morning, as I was pushing off from shore to photograph the sunrise from the island to the north, I glanced down into the water and saw that the fish scraps were gone, but that something was swimming away, well underwater near the marshy bottom, with a 3-4 cm fish in its jaws.  Once again, the image did not register.  It was definitely swimming like a snake, but I have seen hundreds of northern water snakes over the years and it didn’t quite match the swimming movements, the size or the shape.

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I gave one hard paddle stroke and almost caught up to it, but it disappeared beneath thick water plants and did not emerge again.  Now, I was almost 100% certain that it was an eel.

After doing a little bit more research this morning, I now think it was something else.  I have seen several of these over the years, and caught a few while ice-fishing on Georgian Bay for bottom feeders.  It was this;

So, unless someone tells me otherwise, I will go with the more likely answer – mudpuppy.

By |2016-11-16T22:13:47-05:00August 31st, 2016|Self Reliance|6 Comments


  1. BorisToronto August 31, 2016 at 1:38 pm - Reply

    Could have it been a Bowfin? They have an eel/snake like body and possibly a similar swimming pattern?

    • Shawn September 5, 2016 at 7:31 pm - Reply

      No, not a bowfin, much to slim and it undulated like a snake. I’m now 99% sure they were mudpuppy.

  2. Nord64 September 3, 2016 at 6:19 am - Reply

    Hi Shawn,

    It is quite possible that you have seen American Eels. I have not seen the in Ontario either but they are apparently as far inland as Algonquin Park.

    Also they do not quite look like Mudpuppys either I have caught both fishing.
    The Eels as a kid in northern Germany ( They are just called Eel there not sure why they call the American Eel here same fish come from the Sargasso Sea) used to be plenty of them there. An endangered species now. The Mudpuppys I caught in Lake Nippissing ice fishing not sure they get that big 40cm.
    Giving that you threw fishs craps in the water is another reason you have seen eels they like that stuff and also feed mostly during the night.
    That is also when we most ofthen fished for them way back when…:)
    I say you probably saw an Eel.
    Love your videos – keep up the good work.

    • Shawn September 5, 2016 at 7:34 pm - Reply

      Hi, now I wish I threw out a baited line to catch one! I know they use to live there early in the last century, so it is still possible. Intriguing

      • Nord64 September 5, 2016 at 9:30 pm - Reply

        A big fat dew worm placed right in the area of the fish trimmings would have been a good strategy.
        They just swim away with the bait and usually swallow the whole thing. Since the inside of the mouth is like sandpaper (fine teeth) no hook will usually set there.
        When u land them be aware, they wiggle and try to get back in the water they know where it is 🙂 At a certain size they are almost impossible to hold with your hands especially without practice – you would need a rag of some kind at least. They are strong and extremely slippery But, they do not bite…no real teeth.
        They will also go through any mesh/net or jump/crawl out of any bucket unless it is really high.
        I have experienced many amazing eel escapes…all you have left after, is their slime on your hands ha ha

        Happy Fishing!

  3. Shawn March 29, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    Sort of looks like a “Ling fish”

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