What is a Conger Eel?

Kathy Heydasch

The conger eel is one of the larger members of the Congridae family of eels. It is usually gray or black with a prominent fin that runs along its back, called a dorsal fin. Eels are long, predatory fish that can range from 2 inches (5 cm) to over 12 feet (3.7 m) in length and over 125 lbs (57 kg) in weight. They are found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean, and many varieties of conger eels are valued as fierce game fish and used in fine cuisine, especially Japanese sushi.

A conger eel's diet might include small squid.
A conger eel's diet might include small squid.

The conger eel is any one of more than a hundred varieties of the family Congridae within the animal kingdom. For the most part, conger eels are found in shallow water, although some make their home in the deep ocean. It is thought that conger eels travel great distances to spawn, which is a common characteristic of eels in general, as they do go to deeper waters to produce their young, sometimes 10,000-12,000 feet (3-4,000 m).

Even in sushi, eel meat is typically cooked.
Even in sushi, eel meat is typically cooked.

Conger eels start life as transparent larvae that float in the sea’s surface waters for as many as one to two years before becoming adults. At this time they are only about 2 inches (5 cm) long. They grow to adults once they drift closer to shore, and some species can reach over 12 feet (3.7 m) long and weigh over 125 pounds (57 Kg).

All conger eels are grayish-black, depending on the terrain in which they make their home. European congers are gray with black tips on their fins. They are distinct from other fish because they have no scales, and they have an elongated shape and dorsal fin that runs the length of their body. Some conger eels have pectoral fins as well.

The conger is also known as the European conger eel, and the conger oceanicus is known as the American conger eel. Both species are hunted off the coasts of Europe and North America. They are known to be a fierce species of fish to hunt. The conger eel is not an endangered species.

Conger eels stalk and kill their prey with their wide mouth and sharp teeth. They are typically bottom-feeding fish and wait to ambush their prey. They dine on animals such as fish, crustaceans, squid and octopus. Conger eels are different from electric eels, which are actually knifefish and not eels, in that a conger eel has no method for stunning their prey.

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