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New Jersey freshwater fish identification

Eels and Lampreys

Family Anguillidae, Family Petromyzontidae

American and European freshwater eels (Anguillidae) migrate from fresh water to a place in the Atlantic Ocean

where they spawn and die. It is assumed that they migrate to the Sargasso Sea between Bermuda and the West

Indies. It takes about 1 year for the North American eel to make the journey and about 3 years for the European

eel. Newly hatched freshwater eels transform from larva ("glass eel", small and transparent) to an elver (darker

pigment, but still very small), and finally to adult. Males usually remain in brackish water; females may migrate far

upstream and remain there for up to 15 years before migrating to repeat the cycle. Lampreys are a very primitive

fish and are from the Petromyzontidae family. They are usually parasitic. They build spawning sites of stone using

their suction-disc mouths. Lampreys do not have jaws, scales or paired fins.


American eel (Anguilla rostrata) can grow to 60 inches, and have a long, slender snakelike body. They have a

pointed head and a long dorsal fin that extends over more than half of its body. They have a small, single gill slit

just in front of its pectoral fin, and a protruding lower jaw. They are yellow to brown above and pale yellow to

white below. Eels hide during the day in deep pools or near logs and boulders. The 6 Lbs. 2 Oz. NJ state record

was caught by James Long at Round Valley in 1994. There is a 25 eel daily bag limit with no minimum size.

American brook lamprey (lampetra appendix) grow to about 14 inches, and are not parasitic. They do not feed

as adults. They have 67 to 73 unpigmented lateral line organs. Lead gray to slate blue above, white or slivery

below, with a dark gray to black splotch on the tail. Breeding adults are olive-green to pink-purple with a black

stripe at the base of the dorsal fin.

Sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) reach about 47 inches, landlocked individuals grow to about 25 inches.

They have 66 to 75 trunk myomeres (body segments), and large sharp disc teeth. Blue-gray to olive-brown

back, side and fins, with black mottling, white-yellow below. These parasites are a serious pest to lake trout.


questions about fish terminology? GO TO: FISH BODY CHARTS

GO TO NJ FRESHWATER FISH ID MAIN PAGE

GO TO NJ COMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE

GO TO NJ UNCOMMON FRESHWATER FISH PAGE

By Joe M. Cianci. See main page for list of sources. Send E mail to me at joecianci@comcast.net Comments welcome!

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04/11/99