I used to catch some large eels when I was a kid in MD. I fished a small tidal creek near home, and would occasionally hook some that were in the 3' to 3 1/2' length range. I wouldn't call them tackle busters either, but they can pull hard, and were very slimy and hard to hold on to and often swallowed the hook. I carried an old bath towel with me just for those Eels. When I got one in, I would pin down it's head with my foot, while holding the line tight, and cut the line near it's mouth. Then later retrieve the hook when I cleaned them.
I didn't mind catching them that big either, as I was usually fishing for Bullheads and a big eel was very tasty and not difficult to clean. There's only one bone and the meat is white & flaky. My mother would have me cut them into pieces about 5" long and she would batter & fry them.
American Eels in MD used to be good business too. Many of the waterman around the Chesapeake Bay caught them and used them for baiting crab pots, sold as crab baits for hand lining crabs, and the smaller ones were sold live as baits for Striper anglers. Stripers love eels! As I understand it, they were also a delicacy in Japan and other Asian countries and the demand caused a huge depletion of their numbers. I haven't heard of any big one's caught in a long time and it had been a lot of years since I had caught a big one when I still lived there.
Stripers love eels so much that I often used ribbontail worms when fishing for them.