Taming Eels

I had gone to visit my friend Morrie. He had been telling me about his tame eels and I was interested to see what he had achieved. The creek was about 29 meters behind Morrie’s house. It wasn’t a very big creek in fact about 2 meters wide and  half a meter deep.

When we were still about 10 metres from the creek Morrie began whistling a tune and to my surprise an eel raised its head completely out of the water and looked straight at Morrie. Morrie walked down to where he had a board placed so that it was about 50mm below the level of the creek water. On the board he began to place pieces of finely chopped liver. The water around the board began to swirl as eels were there waiting for his food. To get their food they had to slide up to and on the board and as they did so their backs were exposed.

Morrie was standing in the water with the eels. “Watch this,” he said,as he leaned down and placed his hands around a large eel. HE WAS ABLE TO LIFT IT COMPLETELY OUT OF THE WATER. All the while Morrie was talking gently to the eels. “The trick to lifting the eels is to hold them firmly but not too tight,” said Morrie. The visit was one big surprise for me.eel2

Several years later I was teaching at Halsey Drive, an Auckland school. One of the 10 year old boys came along one morning and told the children how he had caught an eel in a small creek which ran through some bush near to the school. I suggested to the boy and his friends that they might have a lot of fun if they attempted to tame some eels. Go down to the creek at about the same time each afternoon I suggested. When you are getting near to the creek begin to whistle a tune. Cut some liver or meat into small pieces put it in the water and watch what happens. After a few days of doing this the boys came along one morning. They were really excited as they thought there had been an eel waiting for them the night before. They were right as that night the eel was there. Over the next few weeks the number of eels grew until they had four.

This surprised me, as the creek was only a metre wide and the water was about 300mm in depth. I suggested they push a board into the side of the creek bank so that they could put the food on it and the eels would then have to come partly out of the water to reach the food. The boys did this and sure enough the eels began to feed from off the board. I told the boys how Morrie had been able to pick up an eel and so they began to try.

By this time all the eels had been named and Greena turned out to be the eel they could lift out of the water. This caused great excitement as you could imagine. I new that eels were supposed to have a memory for 1000 different scents so I suggested to the boys that they  begin an experiment to try to establish the favourite food of these eels. I should add that the boys, the creek and the eels had become a talking point in the whole school. Many children went to the creek to see the eels and nobody ever tried to harm them. If fish are hurt by humans they remember the act and become very wary.

A few weeks after I had suggested the boys trial different foods my wife and I received an invitation to go to The Creek at 5pm one school day. When we arrived there, there were a large group of parents and children. To my surprise a special display had been organized. The parents were all very pleased with their children. The boys demonstrated to the whole group how they could pick up their really tame eel. Then using small sticks they began to demonstrate how they had discovered the eels favourite food. On each stick a different food was placed , Then each boy held their sticks and placed them in the water. The eels all swam toward the one stick. On it was their favourite food. And much to my surprise the favourite food was Cottage Cheese.

So a group of boys and girls had countless hours of fun down by a very small creek


Warren Agnew