ELLSWORTH — With the onset of spring, many a young man’s fancy may turn to love, but in Maine it’s elvers that get the juices flowing.
With ice still in many ponds and rivers, though, Maine has yet to see its first big run of the tiny moneymakers.
The fishing season opened on March 22 and, by Saturday evening, dealer reports to the Department of Marine Resources suggested that the juvenile eels that were the source of Maine’s second most valuable fishery last year were still scarce. The shortage of elvers has apparently failed to drive up the price that dealers were paying fishermen to the $2,800-per-pound level seen last year, at least not yet.
Maine elver harvesters fish under a statewide quota of 9,688 pounds imposed by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. Of that, just over 7,566 pounds are allocated to harvesters licensed by DMR. The balance is allocated among Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes: the Aroostook Band of Micmac; the Houlton Band of Maliseet; the Passamaquoddy Tribe; and the Penobscot Nation.
All harvesters, whether licensed by DMR or by one of the tribal governments, are required to sell their landings to state-licensed dealers and those dealers are required to report their purchases electronically to DMR on a daily basis.
As of 6 p.m. Saturday, dealers reported buying a total of just over 230 pounds with a reported value of $369,321 — an average price of $1,606 per pound.
Of those landings, about 103.5 pounds came from DMR-licensed harvesters, leaving just under 7,463 pounds of quota remaining.
Passamaquoddy harvesters landed a reported 122.48 pounds from the tribe’s overall 1,356.3-pound quota, leaving just under 1,234 pounds available for harvest.
Dealers reported landings by Penobscot fishermen of just under 3 pounds of the tribe’s 620-pound quota.
Because the number of licensed fishermen is small in each case and their respective quotas small — the Maliseet have just over 106 pounds and the Micmac about 39 pounds — landings by those tribes remain confidential.
Last year, in a season shortened by DMR to deal with illegal fishing issues that threatened to put Maine’s elver landings over the allowable quota, dealers reported buying 9,191 pounds of elvers and paying fishermen $21,747,190, an average price of $2,366 per pound.