Thoughts from the trap pile

By Pat Perry

Ellsworth American Photo by Letitia Baldwin

If you’re a fisherman, at some point you spend time going over your gear, ensuring it is ready to fish when needed. If you are a seasonal fisherman, as I am, that time is often during the first few sunny, warm days of spring.

This past spring was challenging for a lot of reasons and if you are from eastern Maine, you know the weather was less than ideal with rain and cold lasting well into June. Regardless, hope springs eternal and this year hope for better weather accompanied the hope for a successful lobster season.

Repairing traps is a repetitive business. Each trap is treated the same: replace the hog rings on the escape vent, check the runners, check the heads, check the rope, install a new trap tag, tie on a buoy and load it on the trailer. After a while, the sequence becomes routine and your mind, my mind, wanders.

One buoy I tied on had some black bleed through the fresh white paint. It was a buoy that once was fished by my dad, his colors being black and red, which to this day I still don’t understand how he ever saw them on the ocean.

Many a spring, Dad and I spent time in the very same spot, swatting flies, painting buoys, checking gear and talking. We talked fishing, what we would expect from the weather we had had, different ideas on what traps fished best in what spots and an endless debate on the effectiveness of larger traps vs. smaller ones. He went to his grave believing smaller traps were just as effective as larger ones.

If it was an especially warm and sunny day, invariably, another fisherman, tired from working on gear, would stop by, often with a cold beer to offer which meant that I could go ride my bike or play ball or whatever else a young boy does in the short warm weather season in Maine.

As I cursed the flies and watched the dirt on my arms turn to mud from sweat on a humid day, I thought what I would give to debate with Dad what this season might be like. I’d love to tell him how many guys are swearing by their 5-foot traps. I’d like to ask him how he would fish the bay during a wetter than normal spring. I’d love to know what he’d think of $56 a bushel of bait and the potential of having to fish triples in the middle of the bay to prevent whale entanglement.

I’d love to see an old, patched up fishing truck pull up with cold beer, only now instead of enjoying the break, I’d enjoy the beer.

Fishing is a tradition in Maine that is its own religion. Most of us learned what we know from someone who had already tried what it is we wondered about. The tradition will continue regardless of impending meddling by others who know best.

Today I would love to sit in a room of fishermen who are long gone and ask them what will happen when we are forced to comply with rules that make no sense. I think it would take more than one beer to sort that one out.


Pat Perry is a seasonal lobsterman who fishes from Joy Bay in Gouldsboro. His father, Richard L. Perry, died on Oct. 8, 2014.

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