December 18, 2013

Maine elver fishermen to hunt prey on ‘Animal Planet’

Three teams will battle for supremacy in the lucrative pursuit of the tiny Maine delicacy.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

Beginning in January, people around the country will get a chance to watch a few clever Mainers try to strike it rich in the slippery business of eel fishing.

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The Maineiacs, from Scarborough, will compete for eels on Animal Planet. Team members, from left, are Lee Leavitt and his son Jason Leavitt, and Jason’s brother-in-law Mike Bradley.

Animal Planet photo by David Johnson

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Three Maine teams fishing for elvers, or baby eels, will be featured starting in January on an Animal Planet show.

The Associated Press

“Cold River Cash” will debut on the Animal Planet cable network at 10 p.m. Jan. 2. The reality show will follow the work and play of three teams of Maine eel fishermen during last spring’s 10-week eel season.

Baby eels, known as elvers, are in such high demand in Asia that they can bring as much as $2,000 a pound. Some eel fishermen can make hundreds of thousands of dollars in one season.

“The stakes are high; the rivalry is intense; and the threat of danger is constant as each team struggles to come out ahead,” reads a line of the news release from Animal Planet announcing the show. The “stakes” mentioned are the fishermen’s potential earnings. No prize money is awarded.

Animal Planet crews were around Greater Portland in March and April, filming scenes for the first season. At that time, the show was tentatively being called “Eel of Fortune.”

Also at that time, the season was off to a slow start and Maine Department of Marine Resources officials had already seen 20 violations by eager fishermen, mostly for fishing without a license or fishing too close to a dam.

The three teams that Animal Planet will feature on the first season of “Cold River Cash” are from southern or central Maine, and all have flashy names for the show.

The Eelinators, from Brunswick, are brothers Dana and Chris Hole and their friend, Ken Cornelison. The three brought in $600,000 during one eel season.

The Grinders, from Hebron, include brothers Chad and Justin Jordan. The Maineiacs, from Scarborough, are father and son Lee and Jason Leavitt, and Jason’s brother-in-law, Mike Bradley.

The show promises to show the fishermen exploring out-of-the-way riverbanks, sometimes at night, trying to get the best spots in fierce competition with other fishermen.

The first season of the show will run for eight episodes.

Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or
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