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Winter in Maine: Quiet Wharf & Shop Time

Lobster traps line the dock in the winter at Luke’s at Tenants Harbor.

By Merritt Carey, Maine Brand Ambassador and Community Relations Manager

Recently, Maine got hit with a storm that blanketed the coast with snow and brought winds up to 40 knots.  Prior to the storm, in biting temperatures, fishermen at the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op went through the usual preparations to ready for a storm: double check mooring lines, haul the ramp which connects the dock to the float; secure bait totes and crates, haul skiffs out.  This was all part of winter fishing: a constant vigilance. Not all fishermen haul their traps through the winter (“I don’t feel happy until my gear is up and my boat is sitting in my driveway,” one fisherman once told me).  And if they do fish all year, most bring some “gear” (the rope, traps, buoys) in for the winter.

In Maine, along the coast, winter is a time of repose and repair; a time to complete tasks that the busy summer and fall would never allow for, building and mending traps, painting buoys and splicing lines. A drive through any coastal town bears this out – there you will see traps stacked just about anywhere, boats sitting in yards and driveways and buoys tied up in neat bundles, waiting to be repainted.  Last fall, Tad Miller, one of the fishermen who fishes for our co-op had asked whether I wanted help bringing picnic tables in from the deck at Luke’s at Tenants Harbor, which I run in the summer.  “How chivalrous,” I had responded by text – prompting his confession – he was, he admitted, planning to use the space to store his traps as he did each winter (along with his three brothers, also fishermen, he owns the wharf the co-op operates from).  We got the tables in, and now his traps sit stacked, filling almost the entire space where in the summer our guests sit taking in the view of the harbor.

Down the road a bit from the co-op, Jason Witham’s shop sits back a bit from the road (“it’s just before the dump”).  There, he and his best friend, Josh Miller, president of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, worked on their gear throughout winter.  They both fished all winter, but with limited “weather windows”, and minimal gear out, there was plenty of time at the shop.

Jason Witham and Josh Miller from the Tenants Harbor Fishmerman’s Co-op.

Josh Miller (right), president of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op, with best friend and fellow lobsterman, Jason Witham.

Stop by on any given day and you might find them, talking about the Patriots game (both fans), Jason mending traps, Josh painting his light pink and green buoys – the colors he had used since he was a kid. “When I was just starting out lobstering, I had orange buoys,” Josh recalled.  “Then when I started setting further out in the harbor I discovered that Willy Carlson had orange buoys as well, so I put a green bottom on.  A few years later on, Dicky Carver came by with a can of pink paint and asked my Dad if I could use the paint, so I started painting them pink.”

Josh Miller, president of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op repaints his buoys to prep for the coming season.

Josh Miller touches up his signature pink buoys during the winter.

And so it goes, up and down the coast all winter long - tending gear, fishing weather windows, and catching up before the days lengthen, the sun strengthens and preparations for the busy season get underway. 

Fishermen from the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op making repairs during the coldest months of winter.

Josh, Jason, and members of the Tenants Harbor Fisherman’s Co-op working on their traps.

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