Souvenirs of Yesteryear: Eel weir in the Unadilla River

A large V-shaped, man-made, stone structure lies on the bottom of the Unadilla River about a quarter-mile north of Batterson Bridge. One of the photos shows it from a high bank in the Town of Unadilla, Otsego County. In the background is the Town of Guilford in Chenango County.



The structure points downstream with uneven arms. The east arm spans 280 feet on the bank and the west arm spans 150 feet on the bank. The river is about 260 feet wide here.

The other photo shows the owners of the east side of it, George and Polly Stafford. The structure was there when they moved here in 1961. It is normally not visible because the water covers it. It can be seen only on dry years.

When George first described it to me over the phone I immediately thought it might be an eel weir. Back when eels were common here, the Native Americans, and later the Euro-Americans, built V-shaped stone structures, almost like this one, to catch eels and other fish. The V pointed downstream.

However, eel weirs have an opening in the point of the V, where two men held a submerged, porous, woven basket in a horizontal position, one man on each side. Their collaborators upstream stomped in the water moving toward the point, thereby driving the fish into the basket. When the basket contained a sufficient mass of fish, the two men heaved it upright and hauled their catch to shore.


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