Monster Eel, Monster Shock?

Tonight on Monster Fish, host and fish biologist Zeb Hogan takes a trip to the Brazilian Amazon in search of powerful electric eels. He wants to determine once and for all if size matters. That is, whether a monster-size eel delivers a monster-size shock due to their size. A troop of local Amazonian fisherman help him track and catch the fish using traditional fishing methods, while electric eel expert Will Crampton catalogs the severity of each eel’s shock–and perhaps recording the strongest voltage emitted by an eel ever documented. Amazon Shocker is full of dangerous barbs, teeth, and, of course, shocks that can only be found in the wild.


João Da Silva, a local fisherman in Manaus that is famous for catching monster-sized electric eels, leads Zeb down an Amazonian river in search of the best place to catch a couple “shockers.”



Handling monster fish is one thing, but navigating among the sneaking and sliding creatures that can discharge at least 600 volts of electricity from their electric organs is another thing entirely. 



A local fisherman managed to catch this monster-sized eel so Zeb can test his theory about size and shock correlation. They were especially careful on this fishing trip due to the eel’s shocking nature, but eels are not the only fish that produce electricity. Over 200 species in South America use electricity to communicate and navigate.



Zeb’s monster eel is over four feet long, and it emitted a record breaking shock of about 860 volts. Considering that electric eels can grow two times longer than that–up to eight feet in length–and can weigh over 40 pounds in the wild, it makes sense to be careful of stepping on one of these if you are ever meandering through Amazonian rivers.



Local fishermen are really the greatest experts in the field of eel hunting, and Zeb and Will Crampton quickly enlist some of them to show them the ropes.



João Da Silva teaches Zeb a fishing technique involving bamboo poles and flicking at the water to create enough noise and commotion that will attract an electric eel.



Patience is not exactly Zeb’s greatest virtue, however, and he soon ditches the bamboo pole for his fishing pole that reaches farther away, and thus more likely to catch an eel. There is always the danger that comes from using a metal fishing rod to catch something that could turn it into a powerful conductor.



Electric eels actually emit two different kinds of shocks: a strong shock for stunning prey, and a weaker shock for communicating and navigating.  Zeb is using an electric fish finder that converts those shocks into clicks depending on the eel’s proximity and the strength of its shock to see where exactly these fish are lurking.



Electric eels use low-level electric fields to navigate their way around and compensate for poor eyesight. Ironically enough, many mature electric eels are actually blind due to exposure to their own shocks, but that doesn’t stop them from being some of the best predators in their habitats.swimming


Tune in tonight, Monday, July 21 at 9 PM on NatGeo WILD to learn more about electric eels, and leave the shocks and bites to Zeb.


  1. Don
    August 23, 2014, 9:00 am

    I can’t believe that the two people and the production crew didn’t realize that it’s the current not the voltage that will do you in. Van De Graaff generators can put out thousands to millions of volts, but of such a low current that they can be relatively harmless. While 110 volts AC can kill. Interesting show, but do it again and measure the current.