Apparent widespread declines in abundance of Anguilla rostrata (American eel) have reinforced the need for information regarding its life history and status. We used commercial eel pots and crab (peeler) pots to examine the distribution, condition, and abundance of American eels within the White Oak River estuary, NC, during summers of 2002-2003. Catch of American eels per overnight set was 0.35 (SE = 0.045) in 2002 and 0.49 (SE = 0.044) in 2003. There was not a significant linear relationship between catch per set and depth in 2002 (P = 0.31, depth range 0.9-3.4 m) or 2003 (P = 0.18, depth range 0.6-3.4 m). American eels from the White Oak River were in good condition, based on the slope of a length-weight relationship (3.41) compared to the median slope (3.15) from other systems. Estimates of population density from grid sampling in 2003 (300 mm and larger: 4.0-13.8 per ha) were similar to estimates for the Hudson River estuary, but substantially less than estimates from other (smaller) systems including tidal creeks within estuaries. Density estimates from coastal waters can be used with harvest records to examine whether overfishing has contributed to the recent apparent declines in American eel abundance.
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Distribution and abundance of American eels in the White Oak River estuary, North Carolina