CHELSEA — Joey Doody scooped gravel from the bottom of a stream with his pan and swirled the contents, pausing now and again at flashes of gold.
Yes, there’s gold in them thar streams.
Tiny yellow nuggets have been found in Chelsea. Not in large quantities, but enough to keep miners such as Doody busy.
Not surprisingly, miners tend to be secretive about their finds.
But not Doody, a member of Central Maine Gold Prospectors who enjoys prospecting Togus Stream, which runs through 145 acres he owns on Foster Lane.
Doody, a retired Frank Pomerleau Inc. employee, says he pans a number of locations throughout the state, including Gold Brook in Appleton, Fogg Brook in Readfield and Togus Stream in Chelsea.
He said anyone can do it.
“You can do as little as you want, or you can spend $2,500 and get the best equipment,” Doody said. “It’s just a whole lot of fun and I encourage everyone to try it.”
Doody said he is more than happy to allow members of Central Maine Gold Prospectors — a chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America — to pan for gold on his property.
There haven’t been any “big strikes” yet, but he’s always hopeful.
He said he first got interested in mining after watching a gold prospecting show on television. He said he was shocked to find Maine actually had a prospecting club that met in Windsor.
“I figured if I was going to do it, I wanted to do it right,” he said. “There’s a lot of laws in Maine. There’s places you can’t go, there’s opening dates and closing dates. And you can’t dig inside banks or tear out vegetation. You have to stay within the stream bank.”
Harry Blake, president of Central Maine Gold Prospectors, said 208 families belong to his organization, which is all about educating the public about mining and its laws.
“Our goal is to teach,” Blake said. “We want to teach you how to look for gold, how to get it, to respect the laws of the state, and respect of the landowner who gives permission.
“We hold different events at the Maine State Museum . . . panning demonstration for 600 to 800 kids. We want people to go out and experience Maine. It’s ours, why not? It doesn’t cost anything, but you have to do it correctly. You don’t want to lose the privilege of gold prospecting.”
He said 80 percent of his members hold full-time jobs and just wanted something to do as a hobby.
Well, except for the one club member who moved up to Nome, Alaska, to work on a gold dredging barge.
“He’s part of a crew working on a barge that’s dredging the bottom and getting 10 to 15 ounces a day,” he said. “So it can be profitable, depending on the location.”
Blake said the local club schedules gold mining outings throughout the summer.
One was held in Chelsea in July.
He said Coos Canyon in the Oxford County town of Byron is really the hub of gold prospecting in Maine.
“There’s a lot of rivers up there and history,” Blake said. “People have been panning up there for eons. There’s still a lot of gold found.”
Gold Prospectors Association of America president Brandon Johnson said historic highs in the price of gold over the past few years have led to more people interested in prospecting.
But he said prospecting isn’t necessarily about finding the gold.
For many, it is about the experience of enjoying the outdoors with family and friends.
“Spiking gold prices are sometimes the deciding factor to stop watching TV and actually go prospecting and experience it for yourself,” Johnson said. “That quarter ounce or couple pennyweight is worth a lot more now than it used to be.”
Doody said this past week gold prices dropped by $200 an ounce.
But that doesn’t bother him. “It’s all just for fun,” Doody said. “You’re not going to get rich.”
Blake said he tells “greenhorns” flat out: “Don’t buy a pan, sluice box or dredge. Start off with a small amount of equipment,” such as a gold pan and snuffer bottle for sucking up the gold.
“If you don’t like it, you haven’t anything invested, just a day in the woods,” Blake said.
Mechele Cooper — 621-5663