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Godzilla, Electricus & Electric Eels

Godzilla, Electricus & Electric Eels

Electrophorus Electricus!

Say those words aloud in front of us when we were kids and we knew you were talking about some kind of monster, like Godzilla, a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Godzilla! Electricus! The names explode with power. Electrical power in the case Electrophorus Electricus because they’re not dinosaurs, they’re electric eels that grow up to eight feet long and in the event that doesn’t worry you, they can zap you with 800 volts of electricity.

Yes, I know, the facts say electric eels (Electrophorus Electricus) are fresh-water beings and they live in South America

Well, I’m here to tell you, one of these eels was swimming in the waters off the New Jersey shore in the neighborhood of 1963. How do I know this is true? I caught it early one morning in the Navesink River near Rumson. I was 11 years old.

   My grandparents had a rowboat with a 3.5 horsepower outboard Johnson engine. I’d go out early in the morning to fish. Always I wore my life jacket. Early morning nearly always found the water covered by a misty blanket of fog.

I could see a handful of other boats, mostly rowboats like mine, with one or two people onboard, fishing. We were floating on the water and fishing in a cloud, the morning’s whispered quiet, punctuated by the voices of Seagulls. It was beautiful.

On the morning of the great electric eel capture, the only fish I’ve ever caught before was a flounder, a fairly small, flat fish. On top of that, there was something about the very word flounder that makes me want to cringe.

There was a tug on my fishing line. I slowly reeled in what I was sure was another flounder.


I’d caught an electric eel, an Electrophorus Electricus! Granted, the eel was maybe three feet long, but I wasn’t fooled.

I knew I was looking at a dangerous creature. If I touched it, I’d get zapped.

I yelled out to the nearby fisherman, “Is this an electric eel?”

I heard a chorus of, “No”.

I was stunned at how uninformed my fellow fishermen were. After all, they were grownups, and I was just a kid.

Anyway, I knew I had to get help and I knew my father was the one person in the world I could bring everything and anything to, including, in this instance, the Electrophorus Electricus dangling at the end of my fishing rod.

An hour later found me, along with my fishing rod and dangling eel, going into the bedroom where my dad was sleeping.

“Dad, “I said, waking him. “Dad, look. Is this an electric eel.”

My dad opened his eyes and gave the eel the once over. “No, Peter. It’s a dead eel.”

Later, out of remorse for ending the eel’s life, I buried it in my grandparents’ backyard and marked its grave with a small pile of rocks.

The truth was, I’d caught an American eel (Anguilla rostrata) and they are not electric. As of this writing they are an endangered species.

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