Elvers prove elusive in cold spring waters

AUGUSTA — The Maine elver fishing season is more than halfway done, but the tiny juvenile eels that can provide a year’s worth of income from a 10-week season have been hard to catch.

The season opened March 22 and will close on the last day of May. During that time, fishermen hoped they would catch enough eels to fill the 9,688-pound catch quota allocated to the state by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Of that amount, 2,122 pounds were allocated to fishermen from Maine’s four tribes, with most of it going to the Passamaquoddy Tribe, and 7,566 pounds were allocated to the states approximately 400 licensed non-tribal harvesters.

So far, the fishing hasn’t been good.

With the season about 60 percent complete, harvesters have landed only about 19 percent of the total catch quota. According to the Department of Marine Resources, preliminary reports indicate that through Monday afternoon, total landings throughout the state were just 1,830.49 pounds.

The reason, according to harvesters and dealers, is that the water is still too cold to entice the elvers up the rivers. Many ponds were frozen until just a few weeks ago, and the ocean waters near the mouth of many Maine rivers has yet to reach 40 degrees.

The spotty catch has had some impact on price. At the beginning of April, many dealers were paying $2,000 per pound for elvers. On Monday, the price in Ellsworth had fallen to $1,900.

“I think the price has stabilized,” elver buyer Larry Taylor said early this week at his buying station on the edge of the Union River. “I don’t think it will go anywhere from here.”

Stephen Rappaport

Stephen Rappaport

Waterfront Editor at The Ellsworth American
Stephen Rappaport has lived in Maine for nearly 30 years. A lifelong sailor, he spends as much time as possible messing about in boats. [email protected]

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