Maine's 'Grandfather Of Eel Fishing' Faces Poaching Sentence

May 3, 2018

A Maine fisherman who played a key role in the rise of the state's baby eel fishery is awaiting sentencing for buying and selling the fish illegally.

Seventy-one-year-old William Sheldon, who has been described by national news media as “Maine’s elver kingpin” and “the grandfather of eel fishing,” is due in U.S. District Court in Portland on Thursday. He's charged with violating federal law by trafficking in baby eels that were poached.

Sheldon pleaded guilty last fall to a felony count that said he trafficked in baby eels caught in New Jersey and Virginia. Maine and South Carolina are the only states in the country where it's legal to fish for baby eels, which are also called elvers.

He's one of 21 men charged with catching, selling and transporting more than $5 million worth of poached elvers. The elvers are valuable in Asia for their role in aquaculture.