The snake eel had
The snake eel had "really sharp teeth" so they had to hold it by its head.

One eel of a catch for fishing family

AN Auckland family reeled in more than they bargained for when they discovered they had a snake eel on the end of their fishing line.

Prateek Bhatia and his family were hoping to catch a few snapper and kahawai to have for dinner but they ended up catching an unusual fish, a snake eel out in the waters of the Hauraki Gulf.

Mr Bhatia, 26, and his family, including his cousin Rajeev Bhatia, 48, and son Jeet, 14, were fishing out at sea on Sunday afternoon when they reeled in the 2.2m long creature.

"We were very surprised. We've never seen anything like this before," Mr Bhatia said.

He said the snake eel had "really sharp teeth" so they had to hold it by its head.

The eel had a similar colour to a snapper fish and felt "really slippery and sticky", he said.

The family got back to shore and asked people at a dry stack boat storage what it was.

They didn't know what it was either.

Baffled Mr Bhatia googled it.

"We thought it was a snake but then found out it was a snake eel," he said.

The eel is now in a chilly box in the family's Remuera home.

"We don't know what to do with it yet," he said.

The Bhatias did manage to catch fish during their trip, reeling in five kahawai and one snapper.

NIWA principal scientist Malcolm Francis said snake eels were relatively common in the outer Hauraki Gulf but were rarely seen.

"They burrow in the sand with just the head visible at the entrance hole."

Mr Francis said it was possible snake eels emerged at night for food.

"No one is sure. They may just ambush small fish and shrimps that wander too close to their hole," he said.

He had only seen one snake eel which was caught by a commercial snapper longliner.