Discovering Anquilla rostrata

The ongoing effort to expand and interconnect the South Portland trail system brings opportunities fo all of us to share and enjoy the wonders of the natural world and brings us closer together as a community. In a larger sense it also helps us understand our interconnectedness with the world’s ecosystems and our duty to help protect them. Most of us are now a short distance from our city trails and their water resources but some little creatures travel thousands of miles to get here.

Many years ago my children were out “sploring” the woods and ponds and reported bunches of “bloodsuckers”. A small fish tank dip net soon revealed the glass eel stage of Anquilla rostrata, the American eel. As my career was in the marine sciences I was thrilled and understandably curious.

Born in the Sargasso Sea the elver stage of the American eel rode the Gulf Stream currents where they were distributed along the coast from New England to Iceland. The eels in this adventure entered the Kimball Brook and Trout Brook system via Eel Creek by today’s Hannaford’s parking lot during Spring season. They enjoyed passage through Mill Creek Park and split into two groups , one toward Trout Brook Preserve and the other toward Hinkley Park and the many small ponds in the chain above it. Part of that chain is now in the new Dow’s Woods addition which is where my little explorers came in contact with them.

The American eel is mostly nocturnal, burrowing in the substrates in the day. They will stay in the freshwater ponds and lakes and in coastal estuaries until maturity, anywhere from a few years to a couple decades. Being catadromous they live in fresh, brackish, or salt water and return to sea to spawn . The Fore River has no doubt distributed eels into the Long Creek and Clark’s Pond water systems, once again helping join our neighborhood trail system to the larger world around us.

Robert Morrill
SPLT Board Member
May, 2019

SPLT Program Manager