A member of the Newcastle-Nobleboro Fish Committee said authorities plan to watch the waters below the Damariscotta Mills fish ladder for people illegally harvesting elvers.
The state bans all fishing in the area from March 15 to June 30, Stan Waltz said, whether fishermen have licenses or not.
Last year, the Maine Warden Service discovered several elver poachers in the area, Waltz said. High prices for elvers – the season began March 22 with prices around $1700 per pound – has led to a sharp increase in illegal fishing.
Poachers of elvers, or juvenile American eels, break Maine law and face substantial fines and penalties. In Damariscotta Mills, they can also disrupt the journey of alewives upstream to spawn in Damariscotta Lake.
During the yearly run, a net stretches across the water to direct the fish away from a hydroelectric station on the Newcastle bank and toward the fish ladder.
Years ago, before the construction of a dam and hydroelectric plant, alewives would swim up a stream near the present-day power station, and instinct continues to point the fish in this direction, Waltz said.
Last year, poachers cut holes in the net. Before anyone could repair the damage, many alewives swam through the net. The fish, unable to enter the lake, wear themselves out and eventually die, Waltz said.
The waters can also be dangerous for fishermen, especially around the power station, where the water level can rise quickly.
Waltz said he plans to work with the Maine Warden Service, Kruger Energy, which owns the hydroelectric plant, and the towns to install surveillance cameras in the area.