HEAD FOR THE EELS: Elvers, baby eels the size of toothpicks, float thousands of miles from their birthplace in the Atlantic before ending up each spring in Maine's rivers and streams, where catches bring up to $2,000 a pound.

EEL SQUEEZE: A worldwide shortage of the prized dinner fare, exported from Maine to Asia ,has buyers paying top dollar. A pound of eels could be worth $30,000 when full- grown.

CASH CATCH: Some fishermen stake out spots weeks ahead. Asian buyers have shown up at some rivers in the dead of night, paying cash for elvers on the spot.