Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World's Most Mysterious Fish

James Prosek

Language: English

Pages: 304

ISBN: 0060566124

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


“This is a delightful work with the urgency of a good detective story.” —Thomas McGuane

“I loved it! A beautiful adventure story of one of the most wide-spread and least-known but ecologically important fish.” —Bernd Heinrich, author of Summer World

Famous for his deeply informed, compulsively readable books on trout, writer-painter James Prosek (whom the New York Times has called “the Audubon of the fishing world”) takes on nature’s quirkiest and most enigmatic fish: the eel. Fans of Mark Kurlansky’s Cod and The Big Oyster or Trevor Corson’s The Secret Life of Lobsters will love Prosek’s probing exploration of the hidden deep-water dwellers. With characteristically captivating prose and lavish illustrations, Prosek demystifies the eel’s unique biology and bizarre mating routines, and illuminates the animal’s varied roles in the folklore, cuisine, and commerce of a variety of cultures.

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for flood protection,” Charlie continued, “but the willows suck all the water out of the swamps. There are not many tadpoles or native fish. The giant kokopu are gone. They’re cleaning out the drains and they dredge up the mud and toss it up on the bank, and many young eels dry in the mud with it. You can’t bloody explain it to the regional council people. You can’t talk to the bloody pakeha about it, they’re bloody brainless.” Charlie’s vision was bad enough that he couldn’t see that I was

making the hoops. They tie four supplejacks and they plait it. Them Maori, they got their way of making everything. They run out of supplies, they just go off in the bush and get some more.” He laughed. Down at the swamp at Pekapeka, Charlie said, they had two big weirs that were repaired and rebuilt for the fall migration of eels. In preparation for the run the Maori would go upstream of the pa tuna and clean up the whole creek, because when the flood came they didn’t want sticks and things to

the country.” “There are two methods commonly employed for smoking fish,” DJ instructed, “hot smoking and cold smoking. Cold smoking is done when you have time. Hot smoking is done when you’re hungry.* Maori used to cold-smoke the heads of their enemies and relatives.” Stella began preparing salad and boiling potatoes on the gas stove inside the guesthouse. While the trout was cooking DJ poured me a glass of wine and then put me to work mending holes in the eel pot we would set that night. DJ

The land was very dry and thirsty for the water, and the reservoir upstream was below capacity. We spent the day preparing—cleaning out the canoes, filling buckets with salt, draining the eel tank and filling it with fresh water. Toward nightfall we returned to Ray’s house for a dinner of “pancakes”—oatmeal and corn, flour and Bisquick and raisins. It was pretty tasty. Ray offered me a beer while he himself drank out of a large mason jar, a 50-50 mix of orange juice and water with a can of

to prepare me for what I might see and hear. The first element of my education was the taniwha (pronounced “tanifa”).* “A taniwha,” Wiki said, “is something that makes itself known at certain times to certain people. Sometimes to warn them of danger, like a guardian. Friends of mine who live on a farm not far from here, at one time or other, have seen this creature with cow legs, half human, crossing their land.” Stella pointed out that the taniwha can assume many shapes, but more often than

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