20 thoughts on “Eels in the Big Sur River?

  1. Really cool! Lamprey eels back in the Sur river. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen such wildlife back in the river…Steelhead should follow!

  2. I think they are actually Pacific Lampreys. They migrate from the ocean to spawn and rear in the river before going to sea…just like steelhead do.

  3. Has anyone seen land wildlife return after the fire other than some native plant and tree sprouts?

  4. *Those look like lamprey (Lampetra tridentata) to me.*

    *But I don’t know why they are upriver like that; perhaps because there is so much freshwater running,*

    *they could enter from the sea? Or they are being washed out of a freshwater source.*

    *True eels are only on the east coast and rivers of the United States.*

    *Cheers,Greg Cailliet*

    *Ichthyologist, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories*

  5. I live at Riverside Campground. Once the river goes back down and turns to that beautiful Jade Green I will look for them.

  6. Kate and John,
    Great photos! Those are upstream migrating Pacific Lamprey, a native anadromous fish. They will probably spend the next year hunkered down in cover as they build up their gonads preparatory to spawning next Spring. During that time they are not feeding and will actually shrink by about 4-6 inches. Next year they’ll build a redd (nest), using their mouths to move rocks around, spawn, then die – contributing their marine derived nutrients to the stream. The larvae, known as ammocoetes, live in the sand, have no eyes or teeth and are filter feeders, mixing the bottom like earthworms. They’ll stay there for 5-7 years, growing to the size of pencils, before transforming and heading out to sea to feed on fishes and even hitching rides on whales. In the photo you can see how they dyno climb up vertical surfaces with their sucker mouths, even 30 ft waterfalls. The only time they have a problem is when they encounter a sharp 90° edge, like the one on the crossing, but this is easy to fix and they should be able to get past this one with some effort. Big Sur is currently the southern limit for Pacific Lamprey, which used to make it all the way south to Baja, but we’re hoping they’ll re-expand southward with the good rains. Nice work!

  7. Roger and anyone else,
    Great to hear about the lamprey sighting in Little Sur. Any location info, photos or observations of size? We just put out a paper on lampreys in coastal drainages. Thanks. Welcome to email me at westernfishes@opendoor.com

  8. We saw this thing at Big Sur this week. Is it the same thing? A Pacific Lamprey? It was way bigger than the size of a pencil. More like 18-24” long and at least an inch thick. We thought it was a snake at first, but this dark black creature had an eel-like tail.

  9. That is an adult Pacific Lamprey, either migrating in from the ocean or dying post spawning (I didn’t actually see the picture). The “pencil-sized” lampreys in the Big Sur are older , larger larvae (called ammocoetes). They are filter feeders, cleaning the water, live in burrows in the bottom, and have no eyes or teeth. Typical larval period is 3-5 years, during which they go from 8mm to about 180mm (pencil), then they transform, get eyes and teeth and head out to the ocean, where they grow to the size of the individual you saw. Wonderful creatures. – Stewart

  10. Thanks for the confirmations! I’d happily post the photo, but couldn’t figure out how given the blog moderation. But if the moderator (BigSurKate?) or someone who has seen the photo knows how to post it, feel free!

  11. speaking of anadromous fish, apparently there were salmon, king salmon in the Big Sur river years back. would be a joy to see them again but I believe the genetics are lost for that. lovely to see signs of health in the river though.

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