Horseshoe crabs are used as bait to catch American eel (Anguilla rostrada) in mid-Atlantic states. Eels are catadromous fish that live part of their life in freshwater streams and rivers but spawn in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in a region called the Sarragaso Sea. Horseshoe crabs are the preferred bait used to catch American eels.
Unique chemical odors emitted by egg-laden female horseshoe crabs strongly attract American eels to an eel pot. It is because of this strong attraction that eels prefer female horseshoe crabs to other types of bait. The eel pot fishery only uses female horseshoe crabs as bait. Male crabs do not emit the same chemical odors as the females and are not used. As a result, the eel fishery has the potential to change the ratio of males to females and affect the overall spawning population throughout the mid-Atlantic coast.
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Raising Horseshoe Crabs in the Classroom
- Stacy Epperson
Aquatic Resource Education Dept
Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave., E-2
Annapolis, MD 21401