Growing up I spent my younger years on one end of the dock, watching and observing never thinking I would one day be on the other end! I am the oldest of four children, born in Rockland, Maine. My dad was a diver, I would watch his air bubbles and sit and wait for his safe return. Mom and my grandmother worked at sardine factories, and my grandfather worked at O’Hara in the ice house.
I graduated high school, married my first husband and we had three children before divorcing. I always worked in an office and was employed as a Town Clerk/Tax Collector in Owls Head, Maine, when I started dating my current husband, David. David was from North Haven Island and was a lobsterman. As our lives grew together, this pencil pushing woman, made the decision to resign from my position in Owls Head and become David’s sternman. There aren’t many choices for employment in North Haven, you either fish or caretake. So, at 38, with no experience in fishing at all, I put on my oil gear and learned to fish. That was 9 years ago. I love it and I hate it! We are a husband/wife fishing team. Most sternmen finish up for the day and head home, the day is done. For me, I head home with the captain and step into the wife role. I work hard, some days I am exhausted, but once I get out on the water with the sun coming up and the smell of the salt air, it’s all worth it.
My husband, David, has fished for over 50 years. He grew up in Bartlett Harbor and has fished out of it his entire life. He has a 38’ Port sided Holland; named “Molly Ryan” we fish that boat. I don’t fish my own boat yet but have my own license and tags. My boat “Have At It” is a work in progress. Together we have 7 children and 10 grandchildren. Both of David’s sons fish, his grandson and two of his granddaughters also fish. We have 2 sons-in-law that fish, one stern with David’s son and is married to my daughter. The other, captains his own boat and is married to David’s youngest daughter. We basically have a fleet in the harbor. We all fish Penobscot bay around North Haven, and we sell to Fox Islands Lobster Company.
In April, we begin readying for the season, painting buoys, cutting rope repairing traps etc. Our fishing season starts in July, any earlier, and the lobsters are few and it isn’t worth being in the water for. Our actual fishing season is July through December. If we aren’t on the water fishing we have no income. Once our gear is out of the water in December, our income stops until the following July. The one thing most people don’t realize is that the expense that goes along with this type of life is insane!
My time on the water has made me fall in love with fishing, that is until the wintry weather hits. In my 9 years of fishing, I have learned so much that is unlike anything I have heard before my days of fishing. This is the most sustainable way to fish lobster and we love what we do! Occasionally, when we catch a large select female that we could keep, we sometimes don’t. (Selects will sell for a better price). To us, it isn’t always worth the few extra cents to lose the beautiful breeder that will keep us and our children fishing for years to come. Instead, we take her, notching her tail, pat her, thank her for what she has given us and ask her to go and continue what she does, breed. Sometimes we even give her a kiss goodbye!