Modern eel fishing almost exclusively employs the use of ‘fyke’ nets with a leader and multiple funnels.

The nets can be either baited to attract downstream eels up to the net or un-baited and relying on habitual daily movements of the eels. 



To read more about modern eel fishing CLICK HERE.

Fyke net
eel fishing
eel fishing

Fishing can be carried out from a boat in navigable waters.  Of course, you must be able to access a launching spot. 

Boats can vary enormously between sophisticated dories right through to rubber rafts, old dinghies or even an earth mover inner tube!

setting fyke nets
full eel net
measuring eel for minimum size

North Island commercial eel fishers no longer target downstream migrating female eels. 


EECo believes that maintaining an excess abundance of female breeding stock is the corner stone of eel sustainability.

Fine Scale Reporting

Fine scale GPS based reporting of fishing and catch is desirable.  EECo are working through data storage, software and privacy issues along with developing user friendly and affordable hardware.  Touch screen tablets we have tested simply do not cut the mustard with wet or muddy fingers.     

Extent of Fishing

A recent Niwa study has shown that only 22% of North Island waters are regularly fished.  However, data informing management decisions only comes from the fished areas.  It is reasonable assume that there is a very large area with eel abundance and size structure unaffected by commercial fishing.

Access to Fishing Waters

If you are not setting in navigable waters, land owner permission would normally need to be obtained to cross their land and access fishing waters.  Land owners are sometimes concerned about sustainability issues and ask how the fishery is regulated.  Most are satisfied once the stringent fishery management regime has been explained.   


Rotating Fishing Areas  


Fishermen regularly rotate their fishing areas to allow fished areas to replenish.  The time it takes to replenish can vary greatly depending on recruitment and growth rates.



Due to mild temperatures, eel fishing is carried out all year in the northern half of the North island whereas it generally shuts down for the winter in the south.  Spring, early summer and autumn are normally the best times to catch eels.

The best markets tend to occur during the northern hemisphere winter, around Christmas and through the Chinese New Year celebrations.



Commercial Eel Fishing Today

Fyke nets can also be set from the bank or by wading through a shallow waterway. 


The nets are set using either stakes or anchors or a combination of both.

Nets are required to have ‘escape tubes’ fitted to allow eels below c.220g to swim out.


EECo has recently advocated for larger 31mm tubes which equate to 300g eels, effectively raising the minimum size landed.