Exploring West Penobscot Bay’s Working Waterfront

In the middle of December, when the sun sets far too early, the nooks and crannies, inlets and coves, of the eastern Maine coast seems as quiet as they will ever be. A diesel engine coming off the ocean rings incredibly clear through the early winter air. Seafood shops and lobster pounds rarely open for more than a few hours, as the number of lobstermen on the water dwindles rapidly. Although, to their credit, there are still many fisherman out there at this time of year, and still more who make hauling traps a year-round profession.

In Tenants Harbor, down on the shores of Long Cove, traps are piled high and wide — truly a sight to see. The traps blanket the landscape like small buildings, and all of them smell of salt water and bait. This land is a fisherman’s ground, for nothing else would fit in.

On Spruce Head Island I happened to meet a rugged old man who took his sweet time telling me stories of past fishing trips in the 1950s. He talked of blizzards on the boat, pushing 60 miles offshore, way out past Matinicus and Criehaven. He fished for a while, then drove trucks for thirty years. He is back by the water, where he has worked the docks for sixteen years. He told me to come by at sunrise, when the colors really come out.

Up the road in Owls Head, where the fishing fleet is as tidy and imposing as any in the Midcoast, men in muck boots and dirty old sweatshirts worked feverishly to stack as many traps as the daylight would allow. Up from the boat, onto the forklift, back on the dock, and up to the truck. Work, work, and more work.

That is the common theme among these small but productive harbors on the western side of Penobscot Bay. Some of the finest lobster in the world comes from ashore in harbors in this area, places like Vinahaven, Matinicus, Port Clyde, Owls Head, and Rockland.

The men and women who work the sea deserve much credit and should always be allowed to ply their trade. It really is a relentless pursuit!