For the first time in five years, the state has issued new licenses for Maine’s lucrative baby eel fishery.

Eleven people were chosen through a lottery that more than 3,000 Mainers hoped to win, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The deadline for submitting applications to participate was Jan. 15.

In 2013, the last time the state held the drawing, more than 5,000 people applied for the chance to win one of four new elver fishing licenses.

Each new licensee will be allowed to catch up to four pounds of baby eels, also known as elvers, which usually sell for more than $1,000 per pound. Since 2014, the average annual price paid to elver fishermen has varied from about $875 per pound to more than $2,100.

The licenses have become a hot commodity as the price for elvers has skyrocketed, driven by voracious demand in Asia for eels. In 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, approximately 1,000 licensed Maine fishermen netted nearly $13.5 million worth of elvers.

Those who won licenses in the lottery were:

— Warren Elsaesser of Naples

— Michael Griffin of Whiting

— Cathie Harrington of Nobleboro

— Amanda Harvey of Swanville

— Ryan Larrabee of Stonington

— Marcel Nuss of Surry

— Raymond Pomeroy of Stockton Springs

— Gregory Ring of Sorrento

— Celeste Risbridger of Gouldsboro

— William Schad of North Yarmouth

— Krista Tripp of Spruce Head

Not among the winners was Frankfort couple Michele Christle and Derek Yorks, who applied for licenses in the hopes of increasing their income. They told the Bangor Daily News last week that they could use extra money to help pay for renovations to their home overlooking Marsh Stream and to support their 18 month-old daughter.

“We’re not crying,” Christle said Wednesday. “We’re also not surprised. We knew the odds would not be in our favor.”

Christle added that she and Yorks are glad for those who won and that they hope DMR holds another lottery next year.

The lottery was open to Maine residents who will be at least 15 years old by the time the 2018 season starts on March 22. The season in Maine, one of only two states that allow elver fishing, lasts for approximately 10 weeks each spring.

The statewide annual harvest limit for 2018 is 9,688 pounds, as it has been for the past three years. Quota allocated to the new license holders comes from licenses that were not renewed after the 2017 season and thus became available for redistribution, according to DMR.

DMR officials will contact the winners, who have until March 1 to submit additional paperwork and fees in order to get their license. Each winner will choose whether to use a hand-held dip net or a large, stationary, funnel-shaped fyke net for harvesting.

Applicants were allowed to submit up to five applications each at a cost of $35 per application. Of the 3,136 people who applied, nearly 1,500 entered once, while the rest each entered multiple times. A total of 8,093 applications were submitted.

The lottery generated $283,255 from application fees that will go to a designated fund used to support research, management, administration and enforcement of Maine’s eel and elver fisheries. Of each $35 application fee, $25 goes to the fund while the remaining $10 goes toward covering the costs of administering the lottery.

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Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for more than 20 years, Bill Trotter writes about how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coastline help to shape the lives of coastal Maine residents and visitors....