Tim LaRochelle sat in the bow of a 16-foot canoe, scanning the murky river water by the light of a headlamp and a nearly full moon.
“There’s one,” LaRochelle said, pointing at a squiggle created near the water’s surface by a tiny, translucent immature eel – an elver. LaRochelle kept looking, but nearly a minute passed before he pointed to another squiggle.
His wait summed up the lackluster opening days of what could be Maine’s most scrutinized commercial fishing season in years.
Elver fishermen and dealers reported minuscule catches in the first week and a half of the season. The price for elvers is also dramatically lower, with dealers paying $400 to $650 per pound, down from $1,800 to $2,000 last year.
Veterans of the industry aren’t surprised by the small catch or the low price – even as they hope that both will rebound.