ELLSWORTH — Spring is here and, at least in some sheltered spots, the daffodils are starting to bloom. But the water is still cold and Maine streams are just beginning to see their first big runs of the tiny moneymakers known as elvers.
The fishing season opened on March 22 and, as of Sunday 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 just beginning to show up in numbers.
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, but the price is rising.
From about $1,790 per pound a week ago, DMR reported an average price of $1,914 per pound as of 6 p.m. Sunday April 14.
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. Sunday, dealers reported buying a total of 2,532.6 pounds with a reported value of $4.84 million so far this season.
Of those landings, about 1,325 pounds came from DMR-licensed harvesters, leaving just under 6,241 pounds of quota remaining.
Passamaquoddy harvesters have been busy, landing a reported 1,122.38 pounds from the tribe’s overall 1,356.3-pound quota, and a balance of just under 182 pounds to harvest.
Dealers reported landings by Penobscot fishermen of about 74 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.