...to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free....

05 March, 2011

on widgery wharf

There were signs of life on Widgery Wharf yesterday as I was exploring.

...Although mostly there were towering stacks of waiting traps everywhere.

Many of which were delightfully occupied. 

(Here's where I needed that long lens I don't have.)

*~      **      ~*

I was charmed by the fish houses that line the wharf. 
These houses are where lobster folk mend their traps, get out of the weather,
play cribbage and tell tales.

Each one has its own personality:

This one sported that smiley face and the sign attached:

...so true!

I wanted to move right into this one.
(See those ugly condos behind that took over a neighboring wharf
in the 90's real estate boom?  None of that for me.....)

~*      ~ ~       *~

Meet Nick.

He and two buddies were jawing about this and that
when I came by.
They gave me some information that I thought was interesting,
but only Nick wanted his photo took for some dern blog.

(Does he fit your stereotype??)

Nick's anonymous friend pointed out some things
about lobster traps for the "people from away" in my audience.
(At least, some of you are "from away", as they say here.)

Remember the old, all-wooden lobster traps that are an icon for Downeast?

They don't use them much anymore, except to sell to said people "from away"
to use as lawn ornaments or (somewhat stinky) coffee tables.

Most traps these days are made of heavy wire mesh,
such as most of the ones above which are stacked to the heavens.
They are lighter weight, make it easier to install new lobster-friendly devices, 
are more colorful,
but they can take a beating on a rocky bottom in a rough sea sometimes.

Lately, some folks are building a new kind of "wooden" trap
like this one here.
 I think the wooden framing makes them a bit more sturdy.

Notice the white spherical thing inside, hanging from a thin white rope?


This particular fisherman rigged this to fight the fleas, 
which live on the bottom
and can eat your bait faster than
my dog on a dropped salami sandwich. 

He drapes his bait bag above the ball.
(I guess for fleas, jumping in water is difficult.)

Here is the basic plan of a trap.

The two kind of elliptical rings on the left of the trap
are actually circular rings, tilted a bit toward
the bottom--one on each side.  

The yellow thing suspended from the white rope 
is the bait bag. 

The inside of the trap is called the "parlor"
as in "come into my parlor, said the herring to the lobster..."

Once the lobster enters that ring, it is flummoxed 
in the cone shaped netting, which it probably doesn't 
notice until the bait is gone.

See the brick?  That is for ballast.
Lobstermen used to use huge, wonderful smooth stones instead.

As lobsters mostly travel backwards when they are moving quickly,
they have a chance of exiting the way they entered,
but many remain stuck.

Which is why modern laws have required other escape mechanisms.
As my lobsterman said,
"these days they make you put more things on the trap 
for the lobsters to escape than to trap them
in the first place."

Here is one of those things.

The black plate covers a rectangular hole that is 
big enough for handy exit, 
if you are a lobster.

If the trap's line becomes parted from the buoy 
which floats on the surface of the water,
the line sinks to the bottom, and the trap is likely lost.  
The wire rings on the corners
of this plate rust in time on the ocean floor
and then everybody gets to go home.

 But if all goes as (humanly) planned, the traps get pulled
on the next fishing day.
All those lobsters smaller than a certain length, and all females with eggs,
get thrown back overboard.
The rest come to shore, get sold to a distributor,
and a yummy dinner awaits the lucky person.

Even by way of UPS to people "from away"!


  1. Mike, great post. I didn't know there was that much involved in Lobster fishing!
    Now I know! Thanks!
    Being, "from away" your photos and story are very educational!

  2. I'm glad you explained what those rows of colorful boxes were. Wow! A true science involved in "building a better mousetrap" er lobster trap...

  3. Great post Mike. And texwisgirl might actually be surprised to know that the smaller traps are actually referred to as "mousetraps"! ~Lili

  4. loved the fish houses. tells a story about each owner. great facts about the lobster traps.

  5. I'm so glad you went to the wharf! Loved the photos and the information.