Beyond that, not much is known about American eels in Maine or elsewhere along western shores of the Atlantic Ocean, except that Maine’s annual springtime baby eel fishery is collectively worth about $17 million to the hundreds of Mainers who catch them.

Eels — which spawn at sea each spring before swimming into freshwater watersheds where they live for years before swimming back out to sea to reproduce and die — are considered one of the world’s most enigmatic fish.

The smallest larval eels scientists can find are in the Sargasso Sea, out in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, but no one has ever seen adult eels reproducing. Nor has anyone ever been able to get eels to reproduce in captivity. Sigmund Freud, before he became known as the founder of modern psychoanalysis, once famously spent a summer as a student dissecting eels in Trieste, Italy, searching for their reproductive organs — before it was determined that eels don’t develop these organs until late in life, not long before they return to sea to procreate.