Generations of Maine Lobster Fishermen

Meet Captain Alex!

Generations of lobster fishermen are the norm, as the ‘art of fishing lobster’ is handed down through families in Maine.  Alex’s license came from his great grandfather, when he was just 6 years old, and at the time it was an open fishery.  Today with a waiting list for licenses, the Maine apprenticeship program allows children to bypass the list if they complete the program and apply for a license by age 18.   Alex’s two sons, age 12 and 15, are now in the program and also have their own lobster boat.

“It’s just in the blood.”  With a long lineage and family network of maritime fisherman, Alex’s own father hauled lobster and several other species to make ends meet. He would sell herring to the local factory and return home with canned sardines for Alex to use as lobster bait. For generations of families, lobster can be a true love affair.

It’s a Family Affair on Scenic Orr’s Island, Maine

Meet Captain Chuck!

Lobster fishing is a way of life and often a family affair.  On Orr’s Island, which is connected to another larger island by bridge, Chuck has a mother, wife and 2 daughters that work at the local island restaurant (serving countless lobster rolls to locals and tourists alike.)  This family involvement of several, if not all family members, in the business of lobster, can be witnessed among hundreds of ocean harbors along the eastern seaboard.   Local employment is driven by fisheries, and in this delicious case, the wild caught fishery of lobster.

Chuck, like many lobster fishermen is found selling a portion of his catch fresh from the boat.  Like a farmer’s fruit stand on a scenic country road, nautical settings like Orr’s Island, offer hungry customers, the opportunity to know exactly who caught dinner.  In this case it’s our hero, and each day, his family sells live lobster from a wharf in front of their home.  This flash sale opens for a whopping “one half hour” each afternoon.  Now that’s island living!

Located in Casco Bay and the Gulf of Mane, the small group of islands that make up Chuck’s community consists of 300 – 400 lobster fishermen in the surrounding waters.  They rely on the sea for their livelihood, as did the generations of fishermen who frequented the fish shack, photographed above with our hero.  Having stood the test of time for over 200 years, the shack and  surrounding land have been put into a special trust.  The protective trust names commercial fishermen as the focus and honors a long line of fishermen and future generations to come.

Ensuring a sustainable way of life in Maine

Passing it down to the next generation.  

Tied up next to John’s boat in Bass Harbor, are his Dad’s boat and his brother’s boat.  It’s a family of lobster fishermen, and John’s two year old son will most likely grow up to work alongside them.  Sustainability of lobster populations for future generations is crucial to this family and the countless thousands like them, in lobster fishing communities from Quebec, Canada to Long Island, USA.

In order to ensure bountiful lobster catches, lobster fishermen like John and his sternman Victor, practice a regulatory measure called v-notching.  This practice involves cutting a V into the tail of any egg bearing female lobster they catch.  Once notched, the lobster is placed back into the ocean, so it may produce millions of juvenile lobster eggs over a lifetime.  These v-notched females may never be harvested and are a testament to the lobster fishermen “doing good for seafood. ”

Although costly to the lobster fishermen, the catch and release of egg bearing females, is a self sustaining practice.  Lobster fishermen are heroes of a well managed lobster fishery.

Lobster Lady – Catches Lobster for Husband’s Pub

Lobster Lady in Massachusetts

Since she was a little girl, Therese has been hanging around lobster boats and learning the ways of the sea.  Conveniently living down the street, she would watch the lobstermen’s activities, at the same dock where her boat is tied up today.

At approximately 10 years of age, Therese was given a few lobster traps by a kindly mentor and her childhood play turned to a life time of lobster.  over the years, her fishing vessels grew from a little row boat, to a skiff, and finally a full size boat like she runs today.  When asked what she loves most about catching lobsters, she says “Being on the ocean, is like being in heaven.”  Like all lobster fishermen, this is way more than a day job for Therese.

Lobster is a family affair, and the lobsters Therese hauls out of the ocean become the lobster dinners for patrons at her husband’s restaurant, The Anchor Pub.  An icon in Beverly, Massachusetts this restaurant serves up lobster lunch and dinners to 1000’s of visitors each summer.  Fresh lobster is always on the menu.

Lobster fishing handed down through generations

Since he was 8 years old, Dale has been fishing the waters around Deer Island, New Brunswick, Canada.  The island, which is near the Maine and Canadian border, boasts about 750 full time residents.  Accessible only by car ferry, Deer Island is surrounded by the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the highest tides in the world.  With up to 28 feet rise and fall of tide every twelve hours, you have to be careful where you leave your boat. Timing is everything when it comes to fishing in these parts of Canada.

Lobster fishing with his son by his side, Dale recounts how his father fished, his grandfather fished and several generations before that fished.  Fishing knowledge is handed down from generation to generation.  “My father and I were best friends. I chased him every day; whatever he was doing, I was doing.”

Life in the lobster business has been good for Dale, who says everything he has comes from fishing.  This includes his wife, who he met when she was on island doing her PhD study on the Deer island fisheries.  As part of her research, she called to interview him.  They were married 7 months later.

The lobster fishing family in Alma, NB

Fishing Family of Lobster Fishermen

Nestled in the beautiful seaside village of Alma, NB, gateway to Fundy National Park, lives a family of lobster fishermen with large boats and even larger hearts. Up and down the Atlantic Coast, fishing families working alongside each other are not uncommon. At the top of this family tree is grandfather Reg Collins, who in 1959 paid only 25 cents for his first lobster license.

A lot has changed since then.  This family of now seven lobster fishermen owns a lobster pound and shop, while the grandsons own and operate the largest custom built lobster fishing vessels in New Brunswick. They own five boats in Alma Harbour and perhaps as a homage to their good fortune and life on the sea, two boats are named “ Grateful One” and “Thankful Too”.

Captain Ryan – Young Fisherman from Gloucester

Captain Ryan

Ryan fishes year round out of the maritime port of Gloucester, Massachusetts.  First allowed aboard a commercial lobster boat at the age of 11 with a student license, Ryan was 4 years old when he first “play set” lobster traps in a little skiff.  As a committed and hard working lobster fisherman today, Ryan has grown to fit perfectly with his boat name No Excuses.

When asked about what makes him happiest about lobster fishing for a living, this college graduate speaks passionately about working in a natural environment.  “Taking in everything around you and visually seeing the weather…I see about every sunrise and every sunset.”  For those of us with office jobs, this sounds pretty sweet!

Visit Stonington – Maine’s largest lobster port

Home to Capt John

Fishing out of the largest lobster port in Maine, John hauls approximately 800 traps in scenic Stonington. He has made lobster his life’s business and is situated at the epi-center of Maine’s lobsterland. Recent reports show that 149 million pounds of American lobster were caught in the USA last year, with more than 127 million pounds landed in Maine. This whopping lobster catch number makes up 85% percent of the nations harvest.

If you go, bring a camera with lots of space for pictures!  Stonington is a visual delight and beautiful harbor town.  Offering quaint shops and charming places to eat lobster, this lobster village provide a very good dose of Maine fishing life.  Where to eat lobster?  For fine dining visit Aragosta and for more casual choose Fisherman’s Friend.

Why we love it?  Filled with lobster boats!

St. Andrews by the Sea – Lobster fishing duo and tours

Married fishing team offers lobster boat tours.

Captain Jamie with his wife and Sternman Alison catch lobsters in the Bay of Fundy and also charter educational tours.  Located in the scenic town of St. Andrews by the Sea, these business partners offer an up close and personal view of catching lobster. As with many lobster fishermen, they say lobster has brought many good things into their lives.  The two were actually married on the lobster boat in a unique wedding ceremony.

Jamie and Alison’s passion for the industry is evident.  In addition to fishing lobster for a living,  their boat tours pass on important knowledge to the end consumer.  Hauling lobster traps, learning about catch requirements and hearing about the industry’s sustainability efforts, makes for  priceless adventure.  A must for the to do list, the boat tour.  http://spearsfishingandcharter.com/

Boat tours provided by a lobster fisherman – Boothbay Harbor

Take a trip.

Captain Larry catches lobsters off the waters of Boothbay Harbor, Maine and also charters educational and sightseeing tours.  Captain Bruce is his business partner who sails alongside him during the consumer trips, providing an up close and personal view of catching lobster. During the hour and a half they are out on the boat, Larry and Bruce haul lobster and teach about catch requirements and sustainability efforts.

They measure all lobsters with a lobster gauge and throw the undersized lobsters back. If a lobster is too small, it is not ready for harvest it goes back into the ocean. If it’s too big it goes back too. “Maine is the only state that has a maximum size,” says Bruce. Larger lobsters mean more eggs, which helps the lobster populations.

Learn more about the Maine lobsterman – Loves what he does

Captain John, Lobster Fisherman

A father of five, John is quick to say he choose the simple life but the “ simple life is not so simple.”  His family and lobster business keep him extremely busy.  As an active lobster fisherman, John is also the President of a marketing co-op called Calendar Islands.  It’s rare to see John without a smile, his love for life is written all over his face.

John is one of the lobster fishermen with independent lobster boats who make up Calendar Island’s co-op.  Each of the lobstermen owns a piece of the company providing ownership of the process from boat to plate.  Calendar Islands helps to turn the lobster caught by John and his fellow fishermen into gourmet, ready-to-eat lobster delights found in local USA supermarkets.

Captain Clinton – Fishes off of Deer Island, New Brunswick

Lobster fisherman Clinton

Lobster is a family affair for Clinton, a lobster fisherman who fishes with his father (Laurie) and grandfather (Allison).  His aunt works for a large lobster processor on the same island, which ships lobster internationally.  Much of the lobster caught in Canadian waters is shipped to far away places like Europe and Asia.  Due to the time of year lobster is caught in Canada, it provides lobster with a hard shell that is ideal for the long journey.

Generations of lobster fishermen in Canada are quite common, as lobster is the lifeblood for many communities along the eastern seaboard.  The coast is dotted with small communities just like the one found on Deer Island.  With approximately 600 residents, Deer Island is linked to the mainland by ferry, the only way on or off the island for those not lucky enough to own a lobster boat.

Captain Alcide – Cape Egmont, Prince Edward Island

Captain Alcide

In his mid eighties, Alcide is still fishing in a small village on Prince Edward Island.  Lobster fishing is not easy, but when asked about the best part of his career, he said “whether a fisherman or a lobster fisherman, it’s all the same.  It’s the healthiest life you can know.”  Certainly the truth in this case.

Alcide started fishing when he was 14, and his father and grandfather were lobster fishermen before him.  With 70 years in the business, he has seen many changes to the industry.  For many years, fishing boats were not required to have names on them.  He also remembers the days before boat trailers.  He recalls hooking up horses to haul the boat down into the water for fishing and to pull it back out when returning to shore.

♥Learn more about Prince Edward Island.

The Living Wharves – Lessons by Local Fishermen

The Living Wharves

Visit one of the many “Living Wharves” along Yarmouth and the Acadian Shores and listen to the many fishing stories of retired and active fishermen.  Hear all about working conditions and what it is like to brave the elements in the name of lobster and other species. Try your hand at splicing or braiding ropes for lobster traps!

Daily demonstrations from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

What we love:  Conversations with the fishermen who catch our lobster dinners!   

Fresh Facts:

 

Fishing Lobster – Long Time Sandwich Love Affair

Loves his job!

Motoring out to the end of the Cape Cod Canal to go fishing, this lobster fisherman is serious amongst the beautiful scenery. Wearing a knife attached to his waders, he takes safety as first rule of thumb. He tells the story of how they lost a fishermen hauling traps last summer, when his line went overboard and they went down as well. The knife is a constant reminder and safety precaution against the dangers of working at sea.

Despite the long hours and wet conditions of catching lobster for a living, Captain Dave is happiest out on the water. “It’s an adventure every time you go out. You never know what you are going to catch and you are your own boss. You either make or break yourself.” A sentiment echoed with every lobster fishermen from Cape Cod up to North Atlantic Canada. Their daily rituals involve a strong faith of “fish and you will receive”, with a constant adherence to keeping only the lobsters that meet size requirements by law.

A sustainable fishery is always top of mind, and like many lobster fishermen, long days at sea are coupled with equally hard work on land. As secretary/treasurer of Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, Dave also serves on the Board of Directors of the Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation – truly working for every lobster fishermen and a better industry for all.

Meet Ryan – A Lobster Fisherman from Rockport

Started Lobstering as a Young Boy

Growing up among the scenic waters of the Rockport area, Ryan used to skip school to go out on the water.  Since the age of 12 and his first boat (a dinghy), he would be careful to not be seen by his father – who was nearby catching lobster.

“It’s in my blood, I just fell in love with it.”   Lobstermen own their own boats, and Ryan is no exception.  As captain of his own livelihood, he works extremely hard to stay afloat and manage the 800 lobster traps he is licensed for.  With a daily wake up call of 4 a.m. and a floating office, lobstering is truly a labor of love.

p.s.  Ryan’s dog Jacoby is named after Boston Red Sox center fielder, Jacoby Ellsbury, and was star of our day!  He certainly loves the water and jumped in the harbor during shooting.

 

Lobster fishing in Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia

Captain Peter – Sheet Harbour, Nova Scotia

Since the age of 11, Peter has been setting lobster traps.  His family home was located on the waterfront and he worked with his father learning the lobster trade.  Peter also practiced with his own traps, using a rowboat to lay 5 or 6 out in front of their house.  Today, Peter’s own son Leonard fishes lobster and the tradition of generations continues.

Like many lobster fishermen, Peter sites the sense of independence as a benefit of being a lobster fisherman.   Much has changed in the years he has been fishing but not the freedom.  Technology has made fishing easier.  Today lobster boats are equipped with a winch, which mechanically helps to hoists the heavy lobster traps up onto the boat.  When Peter first began fishing, traps were hauled hand over hand.

It’s True – Fishing Lobster in Boston Harbor

Meet Captain Steve

As President of Boston Harbor’s Lobstermen’s Association and a weekend warrior selling lobster direct from the wharf, this lobster fisherman is quoted as saying, “If I fail in life it will be my own doing.” Watching him sell lobster to long lines of consumers on a Saturday afternoon (from the back of his boat), there is no doubt he is committed to making lobster a true living and passion. The day we visited him at the dock, he was assisted by his wife and two daughters. A true family effort.

One of the unique aspects of Steve’s lobster fishing in Boston Harbor is the fact that he can’t use buoys to mark his traps. Instead he locates his lobster traps through GPS tracking and then hoists them up by a long heavy grapple hook. Watching this process can make your arms “ache”.

Newport RI Sternman – View the Lobster Boats

Catching the Lobster on Our Plates

Brad has been helping lobster boat Captain Lanny for three years. With his wife working a few hundred feet away in the Newport Lobster Shack, Brad is part of an effort to sell lobster fresh from the boat. The shack is part of a co-op made up of independently owned lobstermen who sell their catch directly to hungry lobster lovers!  The “shack” is just that situated on Pier 9 in scenic downtown Newport.  This is the place to see some lobster boats up close, with marine vessels of all sizes and plenty of seagulls in the air.

In order to provide a steady stream of lobster for consumers to enjoy, Brad and fellow lobster fishermen are up in the morning around 4 am to start work. The delicious end result is the option to purchase live lobster to make at home or to enjoy steamed with drawn butter on rustic picnic tables nearby.

Why we love it:  Grab an overstuffed lobster roll at the shack and enjoy while checking out the lobster boats.  Be on the lookout for Brad!

Fresh Facts:

Meet Jarrett in New Bedford – The State’s Largest Seafood Port!

Started Lobster Fishing as a Young Teen

Having worked on lobster boats since he was 13, Jarrett has spent almost thirty years in the business. Like lobster fishermen along the Atlantic coast, Jarrett has a ton of heart for the business and life. His boat Cynthia Lee is named after his wife.

As a second-generation fisherman in Massachusetts, Jarrett plays an active role in the state’s ongoing lobster legislation. He keeps his boat in New Bedford Harbor, which remains the largest fishing port in the United States.  New Bedford boasts fish landings values at approximately $369 million (of which lobster plays a part).

Yes it’s totally true, women do fish lobster!

Yes there are women who fish lobster! Lori catches out of the Malpeque area that is also world famous for oysters. The first one in her family to be a lobster fisher, she decided to strike out on her own, after working three years on her husband’s boat. She now captains her own boat successfully. During our visit with Lori and her husband on the island, he stated quite honestly “she does it better than me.”

Her boat’s name Southern Lady is fitting for this PEI native, who grew up on an island farm. This soft-spoken female lobster fisher works incredibly hard, but always with a smile. When not catching lobster, she is working getting ready for the next season.

Meet This Lobsterman from Chatham

Most lobster fishermen come from families of fishers, but not our lobster hero Kurt.

He decided to fish lobster at an early age and today hauls impressive amounts from a scenic mid Cape Cod location. Kurt ties up near the Chatham Municipal Fish Pier, a virtual fish lover’s haven where local and tourists alike watch day boats unload their catch of fish and lobster.

Aptly named Time Bandit, Kurt’s lobster boat helps to haul a mix of wood and metal traps (a rarity in Massachusetts). Due to the sandy bottom vs. a rockier coast outside the cape, he believes the wooden traps perform better in the more shallow waters. During the colder winter months, Kurt actually makes his own wooden traps in preparation for the busy fishing season.

 

Prince Edward Island – Lobstering through early 80’s

In her early 80’s, lobster fisher Anna repaired lobster traps and was still fishing until her passing in winter of 2015.

“I was out last year and we’ll see what happens this year”, Anna had told us with a chuckle. Fishing since the mid 1970’s, she previously fished with her late husband Buddy. Having sold her fishing gear to her son Roy, he will now carry on the long-standing family tradition.

Anna holds a special place in the island’s legal history of lobster. She can be credited with ensuring women equal rights to claim insurance (when working side by side as a married couple on the boat). She helped bring change to PEI’s legislation, which now allows the wife of a lobster boat captain to be seen as a separate working entity under the law.

Captain Anna • M/V Gypsy Rover I • Savage Harbour, Prince Edward Island

Take a drive to Beals Maine – Lobster fishing inspiration!

Beals Island is a very quaint place to visit and see lobster fishermen in action!  One such lobsterman in this small town is Sonny Beal who makes a living catching lobster.  Sonny and his family are descendants of the original Beals who settled Beals Island.  His boat is named after his mother and he has two sons. When asked if his sons will become lobster fishermen someday, Sonny is insistent they are going to college. The jury is still out.

With a total area of 48.33 square miles, Beals is like most New England towns and boasts big character. The area is part of a tradition called “lobster boat races” and Sonny is a very active participant. Lobster boat racing involves lobster fishermen racing their boats along a watered “drag strip” in town harbors.  Whether you take a ride over the bridge from Jonesport to Beals for races or sightseeing – its a beautiful place to visit.

Why we love it:  You have to drive through unspoiled Jonesport, home to one of Down East’s largest lobster fleets.  Jonesport has  gift shops, take out restaurants, and a sardine museum.

How does lobster get to your plate?

Can a lobster really be caught on a Monday and be on a plate in France on Wednesday?

It happens every week.  But it’s not an easy trip.

– A lobster fisherman (at sea) hauls his trap and bands the lobster if meets requirements.

– The lobster is brought to a central location for purchase and transported to a lobster distributor.

– After further inspection and dependent on quality conditions, the lobster is packed for the journey to Europe.

– Making the trip to the airport is next on the list.

– Fasten your seat belts, it’s time for take off!

– Upon touch down, the lobster shipment is subject to further checks and cleared for it’s final leg.

– Finally, arrival to the intended destination which is usually a French restaurant In this case.)

Honestly there are about 50 more steps from boat to plate, but you get the picture!  The amazing part is that the lobster is harvested at all – as half the lobsters which appear in a lobster fishermen’s trap have to be put back for sustainability reasons.

Learn about lobster fishermen.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s true, Women haul lobster too!

Let’s admit it, most fishermen are men.  It’s hard work out there, especially hauling lobster traps.   However, there are female lobster fishermen throughout USA and Canada.  They are very good at what they do and love every second of it.

We caught up with Lori this past summer, in the small town of Malpeque on Prince Edward Island.   Made famous for their oysters, this village is the harvest site of some delicious seafood – including lobster of course.

After several years of fishing with her husband on his boat, Lori decided to captain her own vessel (named Southern Lady.)  To say fishing is a family affair, is an understatement for this island couple.

Lobster = Love.

 

 

 

How much moola does a lobster fisherman make?

Do you dream of being a lobster fisherman?  Out on a boat all day, catching lobster?

YES, there are some wonderful reasons why lobster fishermen have a good gig, but do they really bring home the “bacon?”

Let’s take a look at a sample scenario lobster business:

If you catch 56,000 pounds of lobster per year, then your sample gross revenues are $179,000.  (Don’t forget lobster prices fluctuate so they never know what will be paid.)

Ok so the gross numbers sound great.  BUT wait.  Then you have to consider:

Bait:  $25,000 (yes really)

Crew: $26,000 (to haul all those traps you need help.)

Fuel:  $9,200 (most likely higher)

This leaves you with $118,800 but with other misc expenses for an average of ($25,600) and then cost of capital like your boat ($25,700) –  you are down to an estimated net of $67,500.

{Estimates provided by Maine Lobstermen’s Association, and are samples only.  Numbers may vary and are samples only.}

A very cool lobster couple in Annandale, PEI

Meet Captains Colin and Dawn!

Fishing lobster on Prince Edward Island, married couple, Colin and Dawn – give new meaning to the word teamwork.  Annandale, is where they call home, an island village boasting classic rows of weathered fishing shacks and green wide fields for livestock.

With a family history of lobster fishing, this duo both had parents that fished – including Dawn’s own mother.  The first woman in Annandale to operate a lobster fleet, she hauled her own traps alongside her husband (who also had his own boat.)  Colin also recalls his grandfather as a lobster fisherman.  It’s in his blood, and he just “loves it”, he said.  Adding “I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

It’s not hard to understand why, in their quiet seaside location, which is filled with partially built wood framed traps.  The family builds them in the off-season and hundreds are piled up in big stacks.  No loud machinery, no computers, just the sound of hands working.  Whether on land or at sea, peace, is a word (well used), to describe this area of the world.

Meet a Wedgeport, NS lobster fisherman

Meet Capt Lucien!

Home to some 3,800 coastal islands, the province of Nova Scotia hosts the fishing grounds of our hero, Lucien.  Living and working in the scenic town of Wedgeport, Lucien proudly points out the boat building facilities located there – producing many of the boats used by Canadian fishermen.

His boat in particular features large holding facilities for the catch, for several days at sea.  Unlike many lobster fishermen who go out for a hard day of catching lobster, Lucien often fishes in 600 foot waters, and has to stay out on his fishing trips, for several overnights at a time.

As a young man, with a long life of lobstering ahead of him, Lucien wants to help ensure there are plentiful lobsters for generations to come.   He adheres to the laws designed to protect lobster fishermen and the industry as a whole.  As part of strict conservancy efforts, all lobster traps must be equipped with special escape vents.  These vents allow undersized lobsters to escape and also utilize a biodegradable panel, that is designed to release lobsters from traps, if the traps are lost while fishing.

Meet Captain Todd – A Plymouth Lobster Fisherman

A 3 a.m. Wake Up Call

With a 3 a.m. wake up call, Todd moors in Plymouth Harbor.  He arrives at the boat by 4 a.m. and then steams 2 hours out to sea, to reach his traps.  For anyone via land or sea, it’s a very long commute.

Todd is used to hard work, and gained his first boat for $20 bucks.  He found the boat  buried in the snow after the Blizzard of 1978.  Much has changed since then, but Todd has always loved the sea.  Quoting his father, “Some people hear the mermaid, and some people don’t.”  Todd is one of those people, and claims that catching lobster on a snowy day is one of the most beautiful and peaceful times to fish.

Today, Todd has a large boat and that means big overhead.  His vessel burns 80 gallons a day in gas and the cost of maintaining his boat and gear continues to rise.  Despite economic conditions, Todd continues to fish lobster for a living and can’t imagine doing anything else.