Discover The Largest American Eel Ever Caught in Colorado

Written by Cindy Rasmussen
Updated: June 16, 2023
© Danny Ye/
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Key Points

  • American eels live in freshwater and are often used as bait to catch other fish.
  • American eels can be 6 feet long, but most are in the 2- 3 ½ foot range. They weigh between one and nine pounds.
  • .The largest American eel ever caught in Colorado was 3 pounds

Fishing in the clear mountain streams of Colorado may be a dream for many anglers. They may target beautiful rainbow trout, tasty walleye, or a good-sized kokanee salmon. Maybe you love bass fishing and are trying to land a trophy-sized striped bass. One of the reasons folks fish for American eel is to catch them to use as bait for larger fish like striped bass. It’s not to say you can’t target American eels to cook up for dinner, you can, and that is more popular in Europe. However, whatever reason you are fishing for American eel, bigger is usually better. Read on to find out about the largest American eel ever caught in Colorado!

What is an American Eel?

The American eel is a freshwater eel that looks and moves more like a water snake than a fish. However, American eels do have gills, tiny scales, and pectoral fins. They have long, skinny bodies with a dorsal fin that starts about a third from the head and continues to wrap around their back end to form a small anal fin as well. Their heads are a bit pointed, with small eyes on either side of their head. An underbite draws attention to the rows of tiny teeth. Just behind the gill cover are small fluttering pectoral fins. American eels look like they are scaleless. However, they are covered in tiny scales. They are also covered in a slimy layer of mucus. Probably not a fish you will see mounted above anyone’s fireplace!

Electric Eel Close-Up
The largest American eel ever caught in Colorado was three pounds.


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How Big are American Eels?

American eel can get to be 6 feet long, but most are in the 2- 3 ½ foot range. The females are considerably longer than males, with males only reaching lengths of 1 ½ feet. As adults, they average 1-3 pounds but can weigh as much as 9 pounds or more. Anglers that are catching American eel to keep as live bait will try to catch eel that fits the size of the fish they are targeting. Therefore, smaller eels are just fine for a smaller steelhead trout bait. However, larger eels are better for baiting striped bass or large salmon.

What is the Largest American Eel Ever Caught in Colorado?

The largest American eel ever caught in Colorado was 3 pounds! In the fish world, that isn’t a spectacular weight compared to, say, a 30-pound brown trout, a 43-pound channel catfish, or a 57-pound grass carp (all Colorado records). However, when it comes to American eel, many are either caught and released because they are targeting other species or they are meant as bait for larger fish and are not recorded because the sights are in higher glory.

The largest American eel ever caught in Colorado was caught by Juergen Kernel in 1996 on the Flagler Reservoir. The Flagler Reservoir is a small reservoir about 130 miles southeast of Denver. The Flagler Reservoir State Wildlife Area (SWA) surrounds what used to be the reservoir. However, in 2017, the lake was drained by an order from the Colorado Division of Water Resources. It only fills in during heavy rains, like in late July of 2022. Unfortunately, it looks like the next largest American eel will have to be caught somewhere else.

The largest American eel ever caught in Colorado was caught in 1996.

©Stan Shebs, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Where is the Flagler Reservoir Located on a Map?

The location of the Flagler Reservoir in Colorado is a question that many people may have when considering visiting or exploring this area. The Flagler Reservoir itself is situated within Kit Carson County, which is located in eastern Colorado, and spans over 2,160 square miles. Specifically, the reservoir can be found approximately 10 miles east of the town of Flagler and about 120 miles east of Denver. This makes it easily accessible to those traveling from larger cities such as Denver or Colorado Springs while still providing an opportunity to experience the natural beauty and peacefulness of a more rural setting.

What is the Largest American Eel Ever Caught in the World?

The largest American eel ever caught in the world was 9 pounds 4 ounces! That is three times as big as the record-breaker in Colorado. Jeff Pennick caught the largest eel in Cape May, New Jersey back on November 9, 1995. That makes it a 27-year-old record and counting. However, many states do not keep records for American eel, focusing on some of the more popular trophy fish like bass, catfish, trout, and salmon.

Was an American Eel used as Bait to Catch the World’s Largest Striped Bass?

Yes! The American eel gets the spotlight as the bait that was used to catch the world’s largest striped bass. The world’s largest striped bass on record was caught using a live American eel as bait. The largest striped bass weighed in at 81 pounds 14 ounces. This massive bass was caught by Gregory Myerson on August 4, 2011, and the record has held since. Myerson was fishing in the Long Island Sound off the coast of Westbrook, Connecticut, when he was lucky enough to reel in this bass, with the help of his wriggling live American eel, of course.

What is the Largest Fish Ever Caught in Colorado?

The largest fish ever caught in Colorado was a 57.8-pound grass carp pulled from Cottonwood Park Lake in 2013. Brian Husmann caught the record breaker that was 47 inches long, just an inch short of 4 feet. If you have a kitchen table for four, it is likely around 4 feet long. Imagine slapping a four-foot-long fish on the table, and you get some idea of how big this catch was! Cottonwood Park Lake is about 135 miles southwest of downtown Denver.

Largest eels - American eel
The largest American eel ever caught in the world weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces.

©Rosa Jay/

Did a Giant American Eel Wash Up on Shore in Texas?

When you are looking at the largest American eel, you can’t overlook a massive 4-foot-long American eel that just recently (January 2023) washed up on Mustang Island off the Gulf Coast of Texas. However, the circumstances behind its death are unknown. American eels can live outside of water by breathing oxygen through their skin for a limited time. This adaptation helps them navigate drier seasons and allows them to move to areas with more water. American eels are truly an amazing species, and besides the “Eew factor” of the “Eel”, they are an incredible creature!

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About the Author

I'm a Wildlife Conservation Author and Journalist, raising awareness about conservation by teaching others about the amazing animals we share the planet with. I graduated from the University of Minnesota-Morris with a degree in Elementary Education and I am a former teacher. When I am not writing I love going to my kids' soccer games, watching movies, taking on DIY projects and running with our giant Labradoodle "Tango".

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