** Archived Article - please check for current information. **
June 5, 2013
First tagged eel released at St. Stephen collected at Wateree Hydro eel trap May 24
Back in April and June of 2012, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) along with the USFWS, Duke Energy and others tagged 3,377 elvers (young eels) with orange elastomer.
This was an experiment with slim odds. Would the eels survive the tagging, would they retain the tags, would they be eaten, would they migrate or take up residence in the reservoirs, if they migrated would they choose the Wateree over the Congaree, and if they entered the Wateree would they continue upstream to the dam?
That question was answered on May 24, when the first tag was recovered at the Wateree Hydro eel trap. The elver was 132 mm. Notes indicate the average length of these 2012 eels was 93 mm at tagging so that's almost 40 mm of growth.
"The main channel is around 142 miles, but it is unlikely the elvers remained in the main channel for the entire journey," said DNR Diadromous Fishes Coordinator Bill Post. "They probably swam along the shoreline which would have increased the distance considerably."
The American eel is catadromous; it spawns in oceanic waters but uses freshwater, brackish and estuarine systems for most of its developmental life. Sexually mature adults, called silver eels, migrate from freshwater to the sea in fall. American eels are opportunistic carnivores, feeding on a vast array of animal life depending on the size of the eel and the availability of prey within a given habitat. Larger eels feed primarily on small fishes and benthic invertebrates, including crustaceans, aquatic insects, worms and mollusks. Elvers and small yellow eels feed primarily on aquatic insects, small crustaceans and worms. The American eel occurs along the Atlantic coast from Canada to Central and South America.
Within South Carolina, eels occur from estuaries to the headwaters of coastal streams and at least
as far inland as the fall line in longer river basins, including the Savannah, Santee and Pee Dee.
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