Discover The Largest American Eel Ever Caught in Missouri

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: May 9, 2023
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When you think about fishing, eels don’t immediately come to mind. But some anglers specialize in catching these squirmy creatures. People fish for eels for several reasons: sport, food, and bait. While some will fish for anything just for the sake of fishing, others specifically look to catch eel. 

Eel is a delicacy, and many people eat it and even smoke it! However, eel blood contains toxic proteins that can be dangerous to humans. That being said, they are safe to eat as long as they are cooked properly. 

People also fish for eels to use them as bait. You can use these creatures as bait for saltwater game, like striped bass, who can’t resist taking a nibble.

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Whatever the reason, people enjoy catching these catadromous fish. And some can get pretty big! Discover the largest American eel ever caught in Missouri, including where it was caught and other state records.

American Eel Overview

American eel

American eels live the opposite life of a salmon. They are born in saltwater but migrate to freshwater and estuaries to live out their days.


The American eel is both a freshwater and saltwater fish. They are long and slender, with a body like a snake. While they have small scales, they appear shiny and smooth due to the layer of mucous that covers them. The average size of an American eel is 2.5 pounds and 16 to 33 inches in length.

They live the opposite life of a salmon. They are born in saltwater but migrate to freshwater and estuaries to live out their days. And they return to saltwater to spawn and die. You can find them along the Atlantic Coast and eastern river systems. 

Eels are nocturnal, meaning they feed at night and stay hidden in the mud and sand during the day. The best time to fish for eels is at night when they are more likely to be active. The best way to catch eels is to use traps and live bait, such as maggots, nightcrawlers, insect larvae, herring, chicken liver, and dead fish.

Are There American Eels in Missouri?

American eels are native to Missouri. However, they are pretty rare. Only females live in the state. Males spend their entire lives along the coast, while females travel to freshwater. American eels can be located in Missouri’s rivers, streams, and lakes. They prefer deep pools near logs and large rocks. Due to the unusual way they spawn, their numbers have dwindled in the state.

The Largest American Eel Ever Caught in Missouri

The biggest American eel on record in Missouri was 4.8 pounds. Steven Buerk caught the eel on the Meramec River (pictured above) in 1993.

©Kbh3rd / Creative Commons – License

The largest American eel ever caught in Missouri was 4.8 pounds. Per Missouri’s state records, Steven Buerk caught this large fish in August 1993 in the Meramec River. The Meramec River is over 200 miles long and one of the longest free-flowing bodies of water in the United States. Near St. Louis, the river empties into the Mississippi River. And the Mississippi eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

But in 2021, a man catfishing in Southeast Missouri on the Current River unexpectedly caught a record-breaking eel. After being weighed on certified scales, the American eel was recorded as six pounds and 15 ounces, which is 1.35 pounds more than the previous record. 

What is the Biggest American Eel Ever Catch?

Largest eels - American eel

Jeff Pinnick caught caught a nine pound American eel in 1995 in New Jersey. This record-breaking fish is the largest ever caught.

©Rosa Jay/

The largest American eel ever caught was nine pounds and four ounces. Jeff Pinnick caught the enormous eel in Cape May, New Jersey, in 1995. 

Check out this article about the largest American eel ever caught in the Mississippi River.

What is the Biggest Fish Caught in Missouri?

The biggest fish ever caught in Missouri was a paddlefish weighing 139 pounds and four ounces. George W. Russell caught the fish in March 2002 at Table Rock Lake, a reservoir in the Ozarks of Southwest Missouri. 

The second-largest fish caught in Missouri was a blue catfish weighing 130 pounds even. Greg Bernal caught it along the Missouri River in 2010.

What is the Hardest Fish to Catch in Missouri?

Here are a few rare and difficult fish to catch in Missouri:

  • Muskies – large predatory fish hesitant to bite hold of the bait
  • Smallmouth bass – aggressive fighters who love cold, deep waters
  • Lake sturgeon – rare, erratic, and speedy-moving fish

Where is Meramec River Located on a Map?

The Meramec River, which can also be spelled as Maramec River, is a lengthy unobstructed watercourse in Missouri, USA. It covers an area of 3,980 square miles and meanders for 218 miles from its source in the southeast of Salem until it meets the Mississippi River close to Arnold and Oakville in St. Louis.

Here is Meramec River on a map:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © IrinaK/

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Florida State College. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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