Pacific Snake Eel

Snake Eels—Family Ophichthidae

Pacific (Spotted) snake eel from the Hermosa Beach Pier in 2007

Species: Ophichthus triserialis (Kaup, 1856); Ophichthus, from two Greek words meaning serpent and fish, and the Greek triserialis, meaning three-rowed referring to the pattern of spots

Alternate Names: Spotted Snake Eel.

Identification: Typical snake or eel-like shape with a spike-like tail and no fin rays. Body dusky-yellow or tan with large black spots.

Pacific (Spotted) snake eel from the Hermosa Beach Pier in 2007

Size: To 44 ½-inches and 4 ½ pounds.

Range: From Peru to off the Klamath River (Del Norte County), California. Southern areas include the Galapogos Islands and the Gulf of California. Abundant north to Magdalena Bay, California, but considered rare north of Baja, California.

Habitat: Found on shallow sandy and muddy bottoms to about a 75-foot depth; burrows in the bottoms tail first. Shrimp trawlers in the Gulf of California reportedly catch large numbers of these eels.

Piers: PFIC has only had a report from one pier — the Hermosa Beach Pier.

Shoreline: A rare catch by southern California shore anglers.

Boats: An inshore species rarely seen on boats.

Bait and Tackle: Taken incidentally by anglers fishing on the bottom for other species. Their recorded diet includes bivalves (i.e., clams), small fish and shrimp so all should work as bait. However, given their habitat on the bottom I would think saltwater worms (bloodworms and lug worms) might be the best bait. Tackle should be kept simple: a medium-sized outfit with light line and a size 6 to 2 hook. Be prepared for a surprisingly spirited tassel.

Food Value: Don’t know anyone who has eaten one although most eels are considered fair to good eating.

Comments: Only a couple have been recorded to PFIC and Department of Fish and Wildlife records indicate most of the eels caught were during the summer July-September months.

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