Life as a Lobsterman
Straight talk and tips from Bruce Fernald, a sixth-generation lobsterman from a coastal village in Maine
“I named my boat Barbara Ann, after my wife, and I put it in the water March through December. A lot of guys go all year round, but I’ve been fishing for 44 years and I don’t have to and I don’t want to.
“About 65 to 70 people live in our town on Little Cranberry Island, and about 24 of them have lobster boats. Two of them are my brothers, and my father was one of the founding members of the lobster co-op we all belong to. It’s a pretty tight-knit community: There’s one restaurant, and it’s open June through October when tourism brings the number of people in town up to about 300. There was a store in town, but it didn’t survive.
“There’s a state law that says you can’t have more than 800 lobster traps. So I have 800 traps. My grandfather and father used to use wooden buoys and traps. Once full with lobsters, you had to haul them into the boats by hand. Now we use hydraulic motors. They whisk the trap out of the water in unbelievable time. All the traps are wire now, with two lobster entrance points instead of one. I miss the smell of the wooden ones, but other than that, not much has really changed.
“When the water warms up to around 40 to 42 degrees on the ocean floor, the lobsters begin moving closer to shore. The sweetest, tenderest ones come in between July and October. When I cook them, I like to steam them in a pot with 2 to 3 inches of water. Add butter, a salad, some bread, and champagne, and I’m happy.”