Country Corner - Seaside discovery uncovers an amazing tale

Eels
Eels

Rockpooling with my grandchildren at Longniddry recently, we were surprised to catch this young eel, writes George Hogg (Hogg Estate Services).

Glass eels are simply the immature stages of the common eel of our rivers and burns.

However, I have never found one in salt water before, so set off on a little research.

Many folk have heard of the Sargasso Sea being the spawning grounds of our eels, without actually knowing where it is.

The Sargasso Sea is a region of the North Atlantic Ocean bounded by four ocean currents circulating around it.

Unlike other regions called seas, it has no land boundaries.

When mature, as much as 20-years-old, eels in our rivers reach breeding size and migrate downstream and out to sea.

Satellite tracking shows they swim near the surface by night and dive to hide in the depths by day.

Following clockwise currents they travel south towards the Canaries before crossing the Atlantic towards the Sargasso where they mate, spawn and die.

That spawn produces planktonic ‘leptocephal’, which continue to drift clockwise until returning to our estuaries by which time they have grown into 'glass eels' like the one we found.

These young eels tend to hide by day and hitch hike upstream on incoming tides by night.

Eventually they enter the river or burn they will live in until mature, when the whole amazing cycle will start again.

You may well ask why they don’t just spend their whole lifecycle in freshwater, without all the rigours of travelling all the way round the Atlantic?

You can ask, just don't ask me!