For more than 25 years Eel McPherson proved to Whangārei children its kind were more than disgusting, slimy monsters.

Now the adored local celebrity - who shot to fame during the days of the Whangārei Museum of Fishes at the Town Basin - has left the suburban life and is believed to have made its way to sea during the one-in-500 year storm.

Alyce Charlesworth, the granddaughter of George Campbell who owned the museum, said Eel McPherson disappeared from its pool at Campbell's house in the storm last Friday.

"I was out there on Saturday morning checking the beach, just in case it had been injured between the little travel between the pool and the beach.

Advertisement
Eel McPherson in about 1995 at the Museum of Fishes. Photo / Supplied
Eel McPherson in about 1995 at the Museum of Fishes. Photo / Supplied

"There was a man clearing the beach of big logs and things and I said to him 'this is a bit random but if you do happen to come across a freshwater eel - dead or alive - can you please let us know?' and he said to me 'you don't mean Eel McPherson?' and I said yes and he said 'oh that's devastating'."

But while it was a bit of a shock. Charlesworth said her granddad was pretty certain Eel McPherson had made its way out to sea to spawn, which he reckoned was a good outcome.

"He believes it was signalled by that storm to leave which is absolutely to the book of how that happens to eels when they go to spawn. So, knowing that, we're actually happy with the outcome," Charlesworth said.

Charlesworth said her granddad had owned Eel McPherson - who was named in a competition run by the Whangārei Leader in 1995 - since 1993.

The eel - they're not 100 per cent sure of the gender - was a popular feature of the museum, and changed many people's perceptions of eels.

"I've been around them my whole life and some of them can be so creepy and they do have a stigma that they are disgusting, slimy, monsters.

"When it was first in the museum most schools in Northland - especially rural ones - would have eel hunts and it would be a big day. Grandad noticed after these schools came to the museum and had a talk and met the eel, those competitions actually stopped."

Eel McPherson and the kokopu living their best life after the Museum of Fishes closed. Photo / Supplied
Eel McPherson and the kokopu living their best life after the Museum of Fishes closed. Photo / Supplied

The museum was sold in 2001 and Campbell kept a majority of the live fish, and Eel McPherson.

Advertisement

"He's always had that interest anyway, so it's never been a burden to him. He'll have people walk up his driveway to check on the eels and how they're all doing and sea horses and stuff like that," Charlesworth said.

Even after the museum closed, through Seaweek events at Campbell's Onerahi home, Eel McPherson continued to show kids that, just like humans, there are eels that are nice, and eels that are mean.

Charlesworth, who is 29, basically grew up in the museum and is now keen to continue the legacy educating kids.

"I've got an eel of my own which I hope to put out there like Eel McPherson was and I also have sea horses. It's really nice to be able to have that interest that [Grandad] has as well."