Blog4NZ – Taming the Monsters

With all the news that is going on in the world right now, we forget that it was only one month ago that New Zealand was struck by a devastating earthquake. The good people of Christchurch and the surrounding areas still need our help, and so Blog4NZ was created by a group of enterprising Kiwi’s and friends to remind us that just because new news strikes, it doesn’t mean the problems of old news have been solved.

Now we all know how amazing New Zealand is. In fact, it is the #1 place on my travel list, and I am hoping to spend part of 2012 using my two weeks to travel there. So, as I like to do here, I wanted a guest post that pointed out something amazing about New Zealand that is off the beaten track so to speak. Beyond the hiking, and nature and adventure sports and wonderful people, this post is about something truly amazing…taming eels.

My guest post is by a fantastic blogger named Jim McIntonsh of A pretty interesting guy himself, he is a custom shoemaker, gardener, musician, sailor and guerrilla pumpkin planter. With his wife, 3 kids and in his words (before I get the animal lovers on my case) mongrel dog, he travels the world. Next up is Namibia and then Botswana’s Kalahari. (Editor’s note: the definition of Jealous fits in very well here).

So, without further haste, enter Jim:

Taming the Monsters.

Fishing for eels.

Growing up in New Zealand, eel fishing was part of my life, as it was for most young boys. Long, hot summer days spent trying to catch one with baited hooks, or spear fishing for them. Real exciting kid stuff. We kids were warriors battling the demons in the murky waters. Wasted a lot of those slimy, horrible, looking snakey things. Even ate a few of them too. I spent my early life on the Canterbury Plains in the Kirwee area, west of Christchurch. We lived 2 miles away from the wee town, and spent so much time roaming the forest plantations, farmer’s fields or playing in the irrigation ditch that crossed through our property. We’d dam it, create a swimming hole and spend hours there, and pull out the odd trout or even better, an eel.

But kids grow up and as I did, a deep interest in wildlife developed also probably fostered by that early carefree, raw with nature life that was sorely missed when city living.

Eels became interesting creatures, no longer slimey monsters, but creatures in their own right-fascinating subjects to study, and where they fit in our natural environment. Sure, when my own boy was young, off he would go eel fishing also as I had done. But on a holiday in the Takaka area of Nelson’s Golden Bay we took our children along to see the tame eels there. I was hoping then that he would also appreciate them as the incredibly beautiful fish that I see them as today.

Feeding tame eels..

Recently at a our local Nga Manu Nature Reserve, I was able to step back into my childhood and take part, along with many other children and adults in feeding the eels.

Some facts-

New Zealand has 3 species of Anguillidae family of fish.

Longfin eel (Anguilla dieffenbachii), found further inland and the largest growing, sometimes more than a metre long.

Shortfin eel (A. australis), found in estauries, and rivers close to the coast.

Spotted eel (A. reinhardtii) found in some northern rivers.

All begin life in the sea then live adult life in our rivers, lakes and streams.

Spawning of the longfin eel is up around Tonga, and the shortfins thought to be near Noumea.

Eels were once plentiful but deforestation and pollution have destroyed much of their habitat, and numbers have plummeted. Damming rivers for hydroelectric stations has also affected them. The longfin eel now thought to be critically endangered.

Respect eels.

So spare a thought for these misunderstood beautiful creatures. Sure they may awake in us our primordial fears of snakes or slimey monsters in the unseen waters, but they have a place in our environment. An important treasure, or as our Maori would call them a Taonga. Enough species are facing extinction without our losing these. After all, they do have a strange and fascinating beauty about them, once we put aside our fears and see them for what they really are. Beautiful!

You can feed tame eels at many places in New Zealand. Here’s a few-

Jester House – Ruby Coast, Tasman region.

Bencarri Farm Park – Takaka, Tasman region.

Nga Manu Nature Reserve – Kapiti Coast.

Mt Bruce – Pukaha, Wairarapa

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