Discuss as:

Panning for slippery, translucent gold in Maine

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Bruce Steeves uses a lantern while dip netting fort elvers on a river in southern Maine, March 23, 2012. Elvers are young, translucent eels that are born in the Sargasso Sea and swim to freshwater lakes and ponds where they grow to adults before returning to the sea.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

A handful of elvers are displayed by a buyer in Portland, Maine, March 23, 2012. The baby eels are shipped to Asia where they will grow to adults. Adult eels are sold for food in Asia.

AP reports:  Tiny translucent elvers - alien-looking baby eels the size of toothpicks, with big black eyes and spines - are mysterious creatures, floating thousands of miles from their birthplace in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean before ending up each spring in Maine's rivers and streams.

But there's no mystery about what's drawing hundreds of fishermen to riverbanks to catch the creatures during the two-month fishing season. The price of the eels has skyrocketed to unparalleled levels, with catches bringing up to $2,000 a pound.

A worldwide shortage of the prized dinner fare, imported in infancy from Maine to Asia to be raised in farm ponds, has buyers paying top dollar for the baby American eels. A pound of eels should be worth around $30,000 on the open market once grown to market size, according to one dealer. Continue reading...