View Full Version : Rigging eels...some rough drafts

07-18-2001, 03:33 PM
Here's some stuff i wrote a couple of seasons ago about rigging eels RI Style. I will be putting it all together in an article but wanted to get this stuff up asap since the person who asked about it recently will be leaving on a trip soon and I don't know exactly when I'll have it all pieced together for a final article for the article page. I also included a couple of posts concerning replies about rigging eels. Those are under replies since all together they are too long for one post.
to rig eels you start by saving your left over eels for a while. Its such a nasty job that I won't rig any less than a dozen at a time and prefer to do 2 dozen if posible. You simply bring your dead
or left over live eels home and freeze them. The next thing you need is a rigging needle. You make the needle yourself. Cut the long straight section off a coat hanger. Pound a flat spot in one
end then drill a hole in the flat spot. Sharpen the other end to a point and you have a 1 foot long sewing needle. A regular sewing needle is also needed. thaw the eels out by dumping into a
sink or pan of water. As they thaw the slime fluffs up around them. I wipe it off. that is gross work so hope you keep your chow down while doing it. take apiece of 50 or 30 lb mono (I like
50) and thread through eye of big needle. Shove the needle through the eels inside and out the blow hole. pull the mono through and take the needle off. I use 4/0 long shank Lazer Sharp
hooks. Tie the tail hook on with you favorite knot (I use a polamar but snelling will work well also). Pull the line up from the eels mouth so the shank of the hook goes into the blow hole.take
the head hook and thread it into the eels mouth point first. You want the hook to come out under the eel but with the point about an inch behind the back of the head with the eye of the hook
about in the middle to rear of the head. Tie the line onto this hook and leave a good tail coming out of the eels mouth. this eventually goes to you running line. take the smaller needle and sew
through the head trying to catch the eye of the head hook. You are trying to keep the hook pointing down with this sewing. Do the same with the tail hook. Now wrap some light mono around
the eel behind the head but in front of the hook end of the head hook. This wrap should be really tight and kind of compress the eel behind the head. That way the wrap has to come over the
big bump of the head to come off. Tie that wrap securely. that wrap eventually catches the hook part of the head hook and secures the whole thing for hard casting.I also wrap a light
thread around the front part of the eel to keep its mouth closed. this keeps it from gathering weeds. That's it. Work you fingers down the length of the eel and break all the vertabrae
cartiledge so the eel is loose and very limp. You simple cast them out and retreive slowly. you can cast them as hard as you want cause unlike live eels , they will not rip off do to that heavy
head wrap taking up all the load during the cast. I catch a lot of bass on the head hook as expected but the tail hook is also deadly. If the eels is good and limp , the tail whips around on a
strike and catches the bass under or aside the outside of the mouth. The tail hook also keeps the bluefish honest. One hit from a blue and the eels is done but with a tail hook at least you get to
land the fish. That's how I rig eels. Lots of guys also rig eels using a tin squid. This is a spoon type thing with a hook on one end. the hook gets placed inside the eels mouth. You still have to
tie the eels around the head though. This suid blade acts like the lip on the front of a swimming plug and makes the eel wiggle nicely. The squid work very well if drifting the eel in a current.
You can essentially just hold it in place and the squid and current cause the eels to wiggle. I don't use squids cause they are too expensive and also I think they get hung up more than the eels
rigged without them. If the vertabrae are all cracked well , that eel will wiggle pretty good without the squid. My personal preference for dragging the eels through rocky areas is no squid however , the guys who put squids in swear by them too.

You can simply freeze the eels till you are ready to use them and refreeze when done with them till the next time. Rigged eels are so economical its unbeleivable. You get the eels free cause
they are just eels that died while fishing them live. the hooks and line are pennies. I once fished rigged eels Thanksgiving weekend at Montauk. caught 2 bass on consecutive days , both over
25 pounds. Froze that same eel all winter long then pulled it out the following Memorial day weekednd and landed another keeper bass on that same eel just west of Fresh Pond Rock. can't
beat that for economy and effectiveness. Hope I covered it all. Any questions just ask and I'll fill in what I may have left out.


07-18-2001, 03:34 PM
Glad to hear you rigged some up! Now you know I wasn't kidding about the gross part. :)) A couple of comments. You want to rig more than 2 at a time. One reason is that if the
first 2 took 45 minutes , the last 2 of a dozen will take you 10 minutes. Fast learning curve. Now the bad news. The other reason to rig plenty is that a bluefish will destroy that rigged
eel in about 2 seconds. Sorry but that's the way it is. They chop the tail off and leave you with about a 3 inch cigar butt hanging from the squid. Even if you catch the blue on the
tailhook , the eel is usually chopped thru. I usually freeze the live eels a few at a time as I come home with extras after fishing them live. When I get quite a few I fill up the sink with
cold water and dump the eels in. When thawed in water the slime forms what looks to be a fluf around the eels. It gets about 1/4 inch thick. This I wipe right off. That's the gross part
and thats the stuff that smells. People say bass won't hit a slimeless eel. That's pure bullsh oops I mean in my opinion they will. better yet , in my experience they will. After rigging I
simply put in a ziplock and refreeze. The brine freezing is a good idea but when you have 2 dozen in the freezer they take up much less space if they are just frozen by themselves in
the ziplock. I keep them in a cooler if I have a cooler for drinks but if not , they can just be kept in a bucket. I have thawed and refrozen eels several times with no ill effects. I can';t
over emphasize the importance of the full wraps around the eel behind its head but in front of the hook part of the head hook. The big advantage of rigged eels is that you can cast them
much harder because the hook is secured in by that head wrap. That wrap should be real tight and about 10 times around. With only 2 , Id fish a plug or popper in an area to see
if blues are around. Then you can risk the eels. In the absence of bluefish , the rigged eels will last more than one season! I've never had to throw one away because it got ruined by
thawing and freezing. Sometimes they do get torn up though while catching stripers but they are surprisingly tough.

07-18-2001, 03:39 PM
I never did it with circle hooks. I guess if you fish the rigged eel such that you wait for the take but don't try to hook the fish , the
circles would work. As I said , on rigged eels , I'm going for a hookupo as soon as I feel anything. That strategy has worked well. I would say a lot of the fish I get on a rigged eel
get it under the chin from the tail hook. It happens when they are bumping the eel rather than going to swallow it. Bass often stun the bait with a bump then come back to eat. When
they wack that eel on a bump , that tail hook just whips up and gets them under the chin. BTW , you get a great fight out of a bass hooked under the chin. Since it can use its head in
the fight it can pull and shake much harder.

07-18-2001, 08:28 PM
Very good post Saltheart, very descriptive and informative. I assume a barrel swivel can be tied to the mono coming out of the mouth. And how does the freezing and refreezing and thawing effect the mono line? I was thinking of using dacron line.

Thanks for posting that. :)

07-18-2001, 08:55 PM
Good question Slipknot. I don't know what it does to the mono. I just know that I never had a problem , even after refreezing all winter. Yes a swivel is a good idea. If you don't leave the line inside the eel long enough , it will develop a little slack in the front part of the body and that makes it spiral in the water. A swivel helps. About 12 to 18 inches up.

07-18-2001, 08:59 PM
Here's my REAL lazy side showing... Has anyone seen these riiged eels offered at their B&T shop??? Was just wondering as I would consider trying one.

07-19-2001, 07:53 AM
Thanks Saltheart!

07-19-2001, 09:06 AM
Hi Saltheart, I was wondering about rigged eels and skin plugs.
I watched Pat Abate rig an eel and I don't know if I would be up for so much work! Seeing as i never did it before I would need a lot of exp.
On the other hand, Pat had some nice dandy skin plugs that just looked like they would be deadly.
Those looked a lot easier to make once you skin the eel. Hardest part looked like getting an eel big enough to fit the diameter plug you chose to slip it on.

You like the rigged eel, which one do you think is more productive: skin eel plug or rigged eels?


07-19-2001, 09:37 AM
They are used totally diferently. An RI rigged eel is dragged around through the rocks like a live eel. The skin plugs are worked at or near the surface. Rigged eels can be used almost anywhere while Skin plugs need certain conditions to be most effective. If I could only use 1 , I'd choose the rigged eels. However , under the right conditions , the skin plugs will get some big fish to come off the bottom and hit the lure.

About the time it takes to rig eels. I find it takes about an hour to do 3 but only 3 hours to do 24. If you do a lot of them at once they aren't too bad per eel. They are very durable too. Except for bluefish , you can usually make one last a long time. Of course the blues chew up your 15 minutes work in 1 second! :)

07-19-2001, 09:51 AM
It seems like working a large sluggo except it looks and smells natural. Pat had some huge hooks on his. When your using them do you put them in your surfbag??
Don't forget to put em back in the freezer!


07-19-2001, 10:38 AM
I've tried rigging eels before but always had a hard time keeping the eel's snout secured under the nose wrap. I also sewed the tail hook to both sides of the eel's body so that it stayed aligned with the front hook. I have most often seen these rigged with a 7-9/0 Siwash. How do your hooks compare?

07-19-2001, 12:26 PM
John S , yes i do often just grab a few from the freezer and put them in my surf bag.

The hook question is a good one. I've debated that with myself a lot. For example , I ran into Steve McKenna last year in the fall. #^&#^&#^&#^&#^&#^& had said he used rigged eels. I made it a point to talk to Steve about his eels but only had one question , "What hooks do you use" He used big Siwash hooks too. I like the 4/0 eagle claw lazer sharps cause they are thin wired and super sharp. Both combine to make them very effective at nailing the bass on a strike. I already said I get a lot of foul hook ups outside the mouth and I doubt I'd get that many with the thicker wired siwash hooks. I do worry that Mrs 80 Pounder may straighten a 4/0 lazer sharp but so far I've never lost a fish cause they straightened out. There may be a better hook choice out there but you will give up a little in one area to gain some in another.

One thing I have considered is using a jig hook with a 45 or 90 degree bend ahead of the eye. The reason I've considered them is because I think it would be easier to lash them in place and keep them pointing down from the eel because it would be easier to lash around the bend in the hook.

Keeping the eels mouth shut is not hard . The easiest way is to do the light thread head wrap using a fly tying bobbin. The thread can be very light and you can almost make the wrap continuous like you would when finishing a fly head. Don't confuse this thin wrap around the head with the ten wraps of heavier thread behind the head. The thin wrap is just to keep the eels mouth shut. the thicker thread behind the head is so you can cast hard without the head hook tearing out. If you want you could start by actually sewing the mouth shut with thin thread through the lips and then wrapping all the way up the head with thin thread.
There are a lot of chemically sharpened hooks now. It would be a good idea to experiment with different ones but when you do , be sure to try thin wire lazer sharp hooks. I think you'll get more hook ups.

07-19-2001, 08:41 PM
If you get a chance I would love to see a photo of one of your rigged eels. I think I get the point although I am still a little uncertain about the sewing of the head and tail

07-24-2001, 08:28 PM
nightfighter , sorry I missed you question. I have never seen real rigged eels for sale. I have seen Flemlee eels rigged and for sale. A real eel , rigged , is the best way to go.

07-24-2001, 08:30 PM
Fishguts , I'll try to get a picture for the article when I do the finished thing.

07-24-2001, 09:27 PM

Thanks for the reply! Mebbe I could get you to part with one some time this season? (Got wampum, go fish rigged eel?)Guess we'll just have to hook up and fish together....
Word this evening on the North Shore is that blues showing up, and the macks are disappearing.

07-25-2001, 09:39 AM
Thanks for the informative posts. Having recently experimented with making riggies for the first time, I gave them a shot this past weekend out in Chatham during the day so I could get a good idea of how they were swimming (didn't hook up with any great whites). I encountered one major problem, occassional spinning. During a slow retrieve they swam relatively well, but when plugged with a little jerk, they had a great slither but would often roll over.
I was using 7/0 or 8/0 Siwash hooks on some, and Gammy 7/0 HD live bait hooks on others, and both seemed to have the same results (was hoping the bigger Siwash would have a better keel effect). I rigged the rear hook with 60 lb. coated nylon leader, crimped to the hook and in a loop that came out of the mouth of the eel, hopefully matching up with the eye of the head hook. The rear hook was sewn to both sides of the body, and the head hook was wrapped out the mouth, and at the bend in the shank of the hook (not heavy enough as some casting pulled the eel back on the hook).
Two questions: have you ever had to combat the spinning problem, or do you only maintain a slow retrieve with no plugging action? And also, with the way you rigged yours, how do you tie the line from the rear hook to the front hook? I struggled with this, but ended up opting for tying to both the rear leader and front eye. Thanks for any info, and I appreciate your help.
P.S. I met Steve out at Napatree one night, and made the awful mistake of not examining his riggies close enough!

07-25-2001, 10:53 AM
But Chris, did you get any fish?

btw - I'm not too sure Steve would cough up much info - he's probably seen Saltheart enough but even money whether he'd cough up info. Probably not when he's out on a rock....

07-25-2001, 09:57 PM
Yes I have had the same problem. I don't think the fish care but on a spinner , you could end up with twist. I think it happens more if the line going to the tail hook is a little too short and you get a little bend in the eel cause the tail hook is pulled up by the line to the head hook. Some have suggested that using braid insid ethe eel from the head hook to the tail hook will prevent this. I don't like the idea of rigging eels with braid. I'm sure it would work great but the eels are so gross , I wouldn't want to take any chance of cutting myself with braid that has eel guts on it while tying the hooks on. But yes , they might twist a little or turn oever. Don't worry , they'll still catch fish.

I don't really attempt to put any action on the rigged eels. I figure if the vertabrae are all popped , the eel is so supple that it wiggles with the least movement through the water. I also think a slow retrieve is best , just like a live eel.

Tying the the head hook is tough. I've played around with that a lot but its a tough knot since you are halfway down the eels throat and the line is all slimed. I used to try a snell the hard way but it comes out bad. You can force the eel down onto the tail hook hard and that gives you a little more room to get at the head hook for a good knot. When I've been in a hurry , I've just gone through the eye twice , tied two hitches around the hook shank , then back towards the eye for another hitch outside the first two (this locks them in then pulled the end through the eye again. Its not a good knot but its in 50 or 60 lb Ande so it never lets go. The only thing you have to be careful of is if the knot slips , it will pull the tail hook forward and then you get the bend in the eel which will make it twist on the retrieve. If anyone figures out a better way to tie that head knot , I'd like to know. Its always an area you struggle with.

Bob Senior
07-25-2001, 11:10 PM

Great description. Just a few questions:

1. How do you tie the heavy line onto the head hook if its eye is inside the mouth located near the back of the head? You don't just thread the line through the head hook eye and out the mouth to the rod line, do you? Stated differently, do you secure the line tightly to the head hook eye or just run it through the eye? And if you tie it, how do you do that given that the eye is way into the throat?

2. When you use the small needle to sew the eye on each hook, do you wrap the line around the eel, or just thread it back and forth through the eel a few times? And what kind of line/thread do you use for this hook-eye-sewing step? And I understand that you do this step to keep the hooks oriented downward, right?

If you can straighten these points out for me, then I'll become a neophyte eel rigger. However, my wife will probably not go along with doing it in the kitchen sink!

Again, thanks for the description.

Bob Senior
07-25-2001, 11:35 PM
'Sorry I RE-asked the head hook eye tying question--I didn't see the second page.

Could you use two of the 30/50# lines, side-by-side, where one goes to the tail hook the usual way, but the other is pretied to the head hook and the head hook then inserted through the mouth? You could then tie the two lines together a few inches in front of the eel, cut one of the lines, and run the other to the rod line. This would allow you to get the right tension on both lines so as not to crimp the eel and create a twister. But it seems you could then tie line to both hooks outside the critter and it could go a lot faster. ??????????????????

07-26-2001, 12:15 PM
Saltheart - this is from Steve in Mass (His internet ist kaput)...

[quote]I rigged up some eels Saltheart style. Since I'm having internet problems, I
can't post the question on the board. If I put a small egg sinker to gain
some casting distance on the main line above the swivel to the eel leader,
will that cause any problems. I suppose the same question applies to live

Personally, I think the added weight beyond a rubber core might be too much but being absolutely nowhere near expert on these....

07-26-2001, 12:25 PM
You can always add a sinker in front of the eel but then it gathers weeds or gets stuck some times. For rigged eels , you have a big advantage cause the eel is dead. Just shove a small torpedo shaped sinker (or 2) down its throat after you run the line down through the blow hole but before you insert and tie the head hook and lash the mouth closed.

If you pick good sized eels to start with , they cast good. Remember that with a rigged eel , you can cast then visiously cause with that heavy wrap behind the head , the whole head would have to tear off (never happen) for the hook to come out. With a live eel if the rod is too stiff or you cast to violently , you will get cast offs but not with a properly rigged eel.

07-26-2001, 12:31 PM
Bob Senior , you may have a good idea there about the two lines. Actually , maybe one line thats doubled through the eel so you just loop the tail hook in with the head hook pretied. Hmmm.... let me think about that one. Good thought though! :)

Bob Senior
07-26-2001, 11:11 PM
I'm gonna try it with two lines, and then with the looped line. We'll figure it out.

Charlie M
04-23-2002, 08:13 AM
I have been searching for this for a while and since it is a great read... BUMP! :)


04-23-2002, 11:51 AM
I need a month off to write articles , build a web page , make the rods , make the jigs , go fishimng , keep in touch with my girlfriend. !!! I got too much going at once. :smash:

However , the rigged eel is about the best trick out there for big fish so I will turn this into an article someday.

Thansk for bringing it to the top. Lots will get to see it and it reminded me I have to get it into an article form.

Spare Spool
04-25-2002, 02:54 PM
Hey Saltheart, nice thread. I have to try rigging some this year. I haave a question about potentially using braid or dacron as Slip mentioned above for the rigging. We go to a lot of effort to use invisible leader material (i.e flurocarbon), wouldn't using braid or dacron defeat this idea? Or does the leader not matter as much with eels. Thanks.

04-25-2002, 03:17 PM
That's a good point SOTB. In some conditions the visibility might hurt you.
As I stated above , I don't like the idea of rigging with braid since you may get cut tightening the knots and I want to avoid getting any of that extremely fouls smelling eel guck in any cuts.

I have always used 50 or 60 LB Ande and it works fine if you leave a little extra length inside so the tail hook doesn't pull up and put a bend in the eel which will cause it to twist wildly. On my eels the tail hook actually gets pulled out when a fish is hooked on it. that's because I leave a little extra length inside. You just shove the tail hook back up inside when you get the fish off and keep fishing for the world record.

If you are going to rig some , try the laser sharp hooks. I think the fact that they are so sharp and penetrate easily do to the low wire diameter is what makes them so deadly.

07-21-2002, 12:49 PM
Just a note, instead of trying to hammer the coat hanger flat and drilling a hole

If you have access to a bench grinder, grind one end flat on both sides then carefully bend it over onto itself making a loop

Then spin the other end against the wheel and make a nice needle point.

Saves alot of hammering ;)

If you're going to do pictures of the whole thing, I can submit pics of my eel needle, it actually came out quite nicely... prolly use it for rigging whole bluefish for shark also...



10-14-2004, 10:47 AM
has anyone come up with any pics of a rigged eel? I have an idea of what it looks like but without seeing it, there sure is alot of info to draw it up in my it is pretty full of crap in there already:smash:

10-14-2004, 02:26 PM

10-14-2004, 02:33 PM
perfect, thnx alot hooked, I owe ya:cheers:

12-19-2004, 02:57 PM
When I tie off the hooks I like to use a waxed string like bow string comes in black the wax keeps tension when u pull it down.i usually tie off on the hook bend with square nots an then tie off around the body i find this holds the hook in place better keeps it from rollin up on its sides.Sevral knots around the hook an eel gets it done right then i tie off around the eyelet to make sure she don't slide up.i know guys used to take great pride inthier riggeds.some usta slice down the bellies an remove the entrails san sew em back up after toughening with salt.this prolonged the life of the eel an kept em from breaking down i kill my riggeds slowly by putting them in a pail an slowly adding kosher salt as to purge them an hewlp pickle em from the inside.O I use squids with my riggedeels doubled up 50 lb black dacron.Makes the eel swim in a S like fashion they absolutely mug it when they hit em.

12-19-2004, 03:35 PM
Are rigged eels really worth all the trouble?? I caught 3-4 of my biggest fish on dead eels rigged no differently then if they were alive, taken fresh out of the freezer. Seems like a lot of work .:confused: