ELLSWORTH — The deadline for a chance to look for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or at least in a Maine stream or river, is fast approaching.
Last year, the Legislature directed the Department of Marine Resources to establish a lottery for new licenses to participate in the state’s lucrative elver fishery, which begins March 22. The law caps the number of licenses issued each year at 425.
Last year, Maine elver harvesters landed 9,282 pounds of the transparent baby eels — 334 pounds less than the annual catch quota of 9,616 pounds — worth more than $12 million. At the height of the 10-week season, dealers paid harvesters substantially more than $2,000 per pound for their catch.
The application fee to enter the license lottery is $35, and this week, the DMR issued a reminder that the entry deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15. Lottery winners, if any, will be able to purchase a resident 2018 elver fishing license for $205. The fee for a nonresident license is $542.
Applications may be filed either online or in person at the DMR office in Augusta. That office will be closed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday on Monday, so Friday of this week is the last day to apply in person.
According to the DMR, at least seven licenses will be available through the lottery. Additional licenses may become available to replace any 2017 elver license that has not been renewed by the lottery deadline.
Winning the license lottery could be the practical equivalent of winning the lottery. Each new license holder will be allocated a minimum of four pounds of the state’s overall landing quota. Based on last year’s average price of just under $1,300 per pound, four pounds of elvers would be worth $5,200.
Each individual is allowed to submit up to five applications at a cost of $35 per application, plus a $2 processing fee for online applications. Of the application fee, $25 will go to the DMR’s Eel and Elver Management Fund, used to research and manage Maine’s eel and elver resources, to enforce laws related to eels and elvers, and to cover the costs associated with determining eligibility for elver fishing licenses. The remaining $10 goes to the DMR to fund its costs administering the lottery.
Visit the DMR website, maine.gov/dmr.elvers, or call 624-6550, option 2.