Eel - life cycle from birth to death (let's get to know the eel)
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In the reservoirs of the Baltic basin (and, accordingly, in the rivers and lakes of the Leningrad and neighboring regions), an amazing fish is found - the European freshwater, so-called river eel. This fish is extremely interesting not only as a trophy, but also in a cognitive sense. And although it has been known for a long time, it is perhaps the most unknown representative of the large order of eels.
For a long time, the way of life of this snake-like fish has been little studied. Although research has been going on for a very long time, it is still very far from its completion. Indeed, even in modern times, there are many contradictions and inconsistencies among the opinions of ichthyologists who study eels. Both by the way of existence, and by the determination of the reasons for the steadily sharp decline in the number of this fish and the constant decrease in its size.
So what exactly is eel? Here is what our compatriot, the great fisherman L.P. Sabaneev writes about him:
“… The long body of the eel is almost completely cylindrical, only the tail is slightly compressed from the sides, especially towards the end. His head is small, slightly flattened in front, with a more or less long and wide nose, as a result of which other zoologists distinguish several types of eels; both jaws, of which the lower one is slightly longer than the upper one, are seated with small sharp teeth; the yellowish-silvery eyes are very small, the gill openings are very narrow and set aside a rather considerable distance from the occiput, as a result of which the gill covers do not completely cover the gill cavity ... The color of the eel changes and is sometimes dark green, sometimes bluish-black; the belly, however, is always yellowish-white or bluish-gray. "
It should be added that the color changes depending on the color of the bottom of the reservoir and the age of the fish.
L. Sabaneev asserts: “... Eel adheres preferably to waters with clay or muddy soil and, on the contrary, avoids rivers and lakes, where the bottom is sandy or rocky, if possible. In particular, he loves to rotate between sedges and reeds in the summer. "
Indeed, eels love to stay in such places. Especially juveniles. Here they can, if necessary, hide or bury themselves in the ground. But not only ... Underwater hunters claim that they have repeatedly observed that large individuals, waiting for prey, always stand near any obstacles. Near shell banks, stony placers, algae-covered sandbanks. Thick eels are found in shallow water. In addition, I and other fishermen have successfully caught eels on a rocky, sandy and rocky-sandy bottom.
I continue to quote L. Sabaneev: “... Eel is a carnivorous fish; feeds on other fish and their eggs, as well as on various small animals living in mud, crustaceans, worms, larvae, snails. Of the fish most often prey for him are those that, like him, revolve more along the bottom of the reservoir, such as, for example, stonefishes and lampreys; but, however, he seizes any other fish that he can catch, and therefore often falls on the hooks of the necks ... In the spring and early summer, when almost all carp fish spawn, the eel preferably feeds on this caviar and exterminates a huge number. (He also does not refuse spoiled meat, note - A. N.) There is almost no way to hold the caught eel in your hands, as it is slippery, strong and resourceful. If you put it on the ground, then it moves along it quite nimbly, forward or backward, as needed, and bends the body in a completely snakelike manner. "
This method of movement (as well as in water), of course, does not allow developing high speed, but it saves energy. This allows eels to move through wet grass or dew from reservoir to reservoir, even if they are isolated and located at a considerable distance from each other. But all sorts of tales that eels creep out into the fields at night to eat peas and when released to the ground choose the shortest distance to the nearest reservoir is a strong exaggeration. Experiments have not confirmed this. For a long time, the life cycle of the European eel was a mystery: only adult fish were found in water bodies. No one has ever seen the eggs, milk and fry of the eel and did not know the places of its spawning.
Only at the beginning of the last century it was possible to find out that eels, having lived in a river or lake (according to various sources, from 5 to 25 years, this period depends on the conditions of existence), slide into the sea for spawning. At this time, their appearance changes noticeably: the back turns black, the sides and belly, on the contrary, brighten, become silvery. The skeleton becomes soft and fragile, the snout stretches, the lips become thin, the eyes, like all deep-sea fish, are huge. Such a transformation lasts from three months to a year, or even longer.
Spawning itself takes place several thousand kilometers from Europe, in the south-west of the Atlantic Ocean, in the most exotic sea - without shores, surrounded by multidirectional currents, covered with a huge accumulation of brown algae - Sargasso - Sargasso Sea.
In this, the saltiest place of the Atlantic Ocean, eels that have arrived here, at great depths (presumably 1000 meters, there is no more accurate data) spawn and die. The glassy larvae emerging from the eggs rise to the surface and begin to migrate: partly to the shores of Europe, part to the shores of America. They are passively carried by currents. A powerful stream of the Gulf Stream delivers them to the shores of Europe.
According to various sources, this journey lasts 2.5-3 years. At the end of this part of their life, the larvae begin to turn into eels: the body is rounded and stretched, but still remains transparent. Only in the fourth year, transparent small fish - they are called glass eels - enter fresh water bodies, where, finally, they acquire their usual color.
From this moment they begin to actively feed, which means that it is time to catch them. But we will talk about this, probably the most exciting process for any angler, in the next issue.