Rare ‘banana eel’ found by boy fishing in irrigation ditch

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A yellow and black spotted eel in Tsu, Mie Prefecture, on Saturday.

TSU — A 7-year-old boy fished out from an irrigation ditch an unusual yellow and black spotted eel that was later confirmed by experts to have a mutation that causes a congenital lack of pigment, in Tsu, Mie Prefecture.

Yoshihito Ueyama, a first-year elementary school student in the city, caught the odd-colored eel on Friday using a mullet fingerling as bait at an irrigation ditch where he usually enjoys catching crayfish and loaches.

Ueyama saw the eel the prior day but failed to catch it, so he set trap consisting of a wooden stick, an attached thread and a baited hook.

When he tried to land the eel after it chomped on the bait, the thread broke under the eel’s pull. But he saw that the eel was still hanging on to the hook at the end of the broken thread, and pulling on the thread, he managed to net the eel.

According to Takeya Moritaki, 52, a curator at Toba Aquarium in Toba, Mie Prefecture, the unusual eel is believed to be a common Japanese eel with a color mutation. Such eels are found from time to time and are called “banana eels” because of their appearance.

Ueyama said he was so happy that he wrote about the eel in his picture diary for summer vacation.

“I was thrilled to catch a rare eel I’d never seen before,” he said.

The eel was subsequently given to Mie Prefecture’s Ise Sea Paradise aquarium in Ise, at which it went on display on Monday.