Eel Species in South Africa

The Eel Species of Southern and South Africa.

There are 4 main eel species found in Southern and South Africa and these fish are quite hard to catch. You need to prepare properly if you want to target these fish.

African Mottled Eel.

(Anguilla Bengalensis Labiata)

African Mottled Eel Species

Longfin Eel.

(Anguilla Mossambica)

Longfin Eel Species

Shortfin Eel.

(Anguilla Bicolor Bicolor)

Shortfin Eel Species

Giant Mottled Eel.

(Anguilla Marmorata)

Giant Mottled Eel Species


Eel or in Afrikaans, Paling.

Eel species found in Southern and South Africa.

There are 4 Main species found in Southern Africa namely; African Mottled Eel, Longfin Eel, Shortfin Eel, Giant Mottled Eel.

Identification of the eel species.

All the Eel species have a long, muscular, snake like bodies with long anal and dorsal fins that meet at the back to form the tail of this fish, the dorsal fin is longer than the anal fin. These fish do have scales but they are very small and difficult to see with the naked eye. To distinguish between the four eel species found in our water one needs to look at the origin of the dorsal and anal fins.

The African Mottled Eel: The dorsal fin starts closer to the anus than to the gills, and the distance between the start of the dorsal and anal fins are between 7% to 14% of the total length of the fins. The colour of the eel is yellowish to brownish with dark brown to black mottled spots. These eels can grow up to 1.5 metres with a weight of up to 21 kilograms.

The Longfin Eel: The start of the dorsal and anal fins are widely parted, the colour is grey to bronze, and this eel can grow up to 1.2 metres long with the average weight of between 2 – 3 kilograms.

The Shortfin Eel: The start of the dorsal and anal fins are very close together. The colour is dark olive to blueish-brown becoming lighter towards the tummy. These eels can reach a lenght of about 1 metre and a weight of about 4 kilograms.

Distribution of these eel species through Southern and South Africa.

The African mottled eel can be found in the Zambezi river system and further north into East Africa. The Longfin Eel can be found in the rivers of the east coast of Africa from Kenia to Cape Agulhas and can move relatively far inland. The Shortfin Eel is limited to the lowland streams of our river systems near to the coast.

How to locate the eel.

Always look for structure like rock with hiding places, tree stums, weeds and reeds etc.

Baits to use for eel fishing.

All meaty baits should work well, baits such as, worms, fish fillets, fish head and general baits that are used for barbel will also work.

Tackle to use when hunting for eel.

Heavy tackle with thickish line, because these fish will wrap itself around any obstruction in the water to avoid being caught, and you will need some pulling power in your hands to land it.