A rare fish typically found closer to the Gulf of Mexico or in the Atlantic Ocean was reeled in out of the Kansas River in Lawrence not long ago, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
On Sept. 11, Tim Smith, of Larned, pulled a 30-inch-long American Eel out of the river from off the Bowersock Dam, said Ron Kaufman, a spokesman for the department. It has been around 10 years since another eel was documented in the state.
The American Eel can be found in either salt or fresh water, Kaufman said. They spawn in the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.
“So it would have migrated from the Atlantic through the Gulf, up the Mississippi,” he said. “It would have taken a turn at Saint Louis to get to the Missouri River and another left to get into the Kansas River.”
Up the Kansas River the eel traveled until it was blocked by the dam from going upstream any farther.
For one eel to make the entire trip isn’t all that impossible, Kaufman said, and it’s possible others are lurking in the area, but unlikely they’ll be seen.
“They’re pretty secretive and active mainly in the evening and night,” he said. “I think it’s possible that there are more in the Kansas (River) and possibly more around the Bowersock Dam area.”
Smith caught the eel using a rod and reel with a worm for bait, Kaufman said, but it wasn’t immediately clear if he kept the fish or threw it back into the river.
And while the capture of this eel isn’t the first and likely won’t be the last, it sure makes for an interesting fishing outing, Kaufman said.
“It’s always a matter of interest when something like this is caught,” he said. “We occasionally get reports of other species that aren’t often seen, and for our biologist this was likely pretty intriguing.”