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Silver Eel Study – East River, Chester & Oakland Lake, Mahone Bay

Coastal Action is currently performing silver American eel studies in two locations; Oakland Lake, Mahone Bay and East River, Chester.

Oakland Lake, Mahone Bay 

Beginning in 2009, Coastal Action has been conducting a mark-recapture study on Oakland Lake, Mahone Bay to assess American eel population. Starting each year in June, a number of eel pots are placed in the lake in varying habitats and are baited and checked for eel throughout the field season. American eel captured are measured for length, weight, and tagged using Passive Integrated Transponder (PIT) tags. PIT tags are used to identify specific eels so that their movements and changes in size or condition can be tracked. Captured eels are also assessed for life stage (yellow or silver) and any characteristics, such as scars or injuries, are recorded. 

Also beginning in 2009, a trap has been placed annually in the fall in Oakland Stream, which is the only outflow from Oakland Lake. This trap is constructed to capture any seaward migrating silver eel on their way to spawn in the Sargasso Sea. Captured eels are measured for length, weight, eye diameter, fin length, colour (sometimes yellow eel migrate to coastal waters for the winter), and are scanned for the presence of a PIT tag.

East River, Chester

Beginning in the Fall of 2014, a mark-recapture study was conducted in East River, Chester to assess American eel population in the river system. In September, a fyke net was placed in a small branch of the river upstream from its mouth. A second fyke net was placed at the mouth of the river in tidal waters. The upstream trap caught all of the silver American eel migrating down this branch of the East River. Captured eel were measured for length, weight, eye diameter, fin length, and general condition. The eel captured in the upstream trap were also tagged using streamer tags so that they could later be identified as recaptured if they were captured in the trap at the mouth of the river. 

Biological characteristics as well as population estimates of American eel will be monitored through these silver eel studies. Otoliths are extracted from a portion of the captured eels to determine their age. This information can be used in the future to address species management plans as well as recovery options. The data acquired from the study is shared with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and stakeholders so that we can collectively work towards the goal of a sustainable commercial fishery for elvers and eels as well as the longterm viability of the species. 

If you have any questions, please contact Danielle Pernette at (902) 634-9977 or