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A simple and easy way to convert an old cooler into a suitable storage tank for keeping eels alive at your home.
By Chris Keppler
Tags: surf

Dropping an eel into the watery depths is a nearly surefire way for both boaters and shore bound anglers to hook up on a trophy striped bass. It’s a wonder then why so many anglers bypass this highly productive bait for less effective means. Following several years committed to slinging eels, I discovered several tricks to manage the logistics of storing a sufficient supply of striper-candy at home.

Any dedicated eel-fisher will tell you how quickly they go through a supply of quality eels between bluefish, the inevitable cast-off here or there, natural die-off or the slump that inevitably occurs mid-season when good casting eels are hard to find in local tackle shops. It pays to have a simple live well to ensure a supply is always at the ready. I have kept 12-dozen eels (when legal) in good condition for over a week prior to a pilgrimage to the islands, and typically keep a minimum of a three dozen in the tank at any time during the season. An added benefit of a home live well is the savings over a given season; returning unused baits back to the well after fishing limits the need to buy eels for each outing. Finally, the ability to stock up on select eels when shops receive a good shipment of large eels pays dividends in presumably larger fish landed down the line.

Required Supplies:
PVC ball valve
Threaded male adapter
PVC screen
Marine adhesive sealant
Black spray paint
30-gallon cooler
Aquarium air pump
Aquarium air hose
Air stone
Hole Saw

Storage Tank
The first hurdle to overcome to ensure a steady supply of eels is always at the ready is to build a large storage tank. Over the years I’ve used a few different designs for mass-eel storage, first employing a black 55 gallon barrels painted white on the outside with a thru-hull fitting and plug installed for water drainage. This worked well for a few years but had several unforeseen drawbacks. First and foremost is the large volume of water needed to fill the barrel to maintain cool water in the un-insulated drum during summer heat. Changing the water was a time consuming endeavor. When full of water, the tall barrel made it difficult to locate and catch the eels which always seem to stay on the bottom. Wet sleeves were almost guaranteed with this setup. The deep, black tank also made it hard to see and pick specific eels and a flashlight was required even during daylight hours. My current setup, a standard 150-quart cooler, addresses all the issues that I encountered with the barrel.

Be sure to familiarize yourself with local possession limits on eels as recent changes have limited the number any angler may retain at once.

Keeping eels is fairly straight forward task, but there are some aspects to keep in mind when building and maintaining a tank. First and most importantly is selecting a tank that holds an adequate amount of water for the quantity of eels you intend to keep. I found that 30 gallons is sufficient for holding a fair supply of eels. However, draining 30 gallons of water can be time consuming so it is a good idea to install an oversize drain; 1.5-inches or larger works best. Most local hardware stores carry everything you will need for around $20 total investment; a PVC ball-valve, a threaded male adapter, plastic-coated screen and marine adhesive sealant. I prefer 3M 5200 because it is an ultra-strong bonding marine sealant, but be careful where its applied, and make sure to where disposable gloves, as this stuff never comes off.

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