From the wheelhouse of Herman Coombs, Maine Lobsterman
F/V Jocelyne K
Orr's Island, Maine
Catching lobster and fish is only one part of the job of fishing. People don't always get to see everything that it takes to be a fisherman. It's a lot of hard work, planning, fixing, maintaining, and reacting to unpredictable weather and circumstances. Below are just some of the things that I do or think about so that I can go fishing.
Getting ready to go fishing.
Before I can even go fishing I have to make sure I have bait, fuel, my crew is all set, check the oil and fuel filters, and the weather. (And then sometimes not sleep the night before I leave because I am double-checking things in my head.)
I have four weather apps on my phone. I'm always trying to figure out the best way to predict the weather and know what I'm getting into.
I have to find bait. Sometimes I can get it very easily and other times I have to look around a bit and go pick it up by truck, with a trailer, or even by boat.
It's important to have lots of snacks and food on the boat, especially for long trips so I have to go get groceries for the boat.
These days going to meetings is also an important part of any fishing business. We have to keep up with lots of changing regulations and new rules. If we don't participate in the meetings we don't get a say and we won't always know what's going on.
Taking care of the boat.
Sometimes when it is going to be very windy I have to run an anchor line. This means that in addition to my mooring I run an anchor to support the strain of my boat. This is a safety precaution so that if something happens to the mooring like something pulls on the block or let's go, I have a better chance of the boat not going anywhere.
I worry about my boat all the time. It's just like how people make sure their houses are secure before a storm; I'm constantly thinking about and doing things to make sure that my boat is secure. For some fishermen, this may even include moving it to a more protected area before a storm.
Safety training, ensuring safety devices like the EPIRB and liferaft are up-to-date, and batteries and zippers are working properly on immersion suits, is also important to regularly check and maintain. An EPIRB is an emergency positioning indicating radio beacon. An EPIRB and liferaft are kept on top of the boat. If something happens and the boat capsizes or sinks, the liferaft is deployed and the EPIRB will signal my location to the Coast Guard.
When I'm at sea.
Fishermen need to be engineers and mechanics because if we are at sea, we have to rely on our own skills and knowledge to make sure we can get home safely.
They call it fishing, not catching. I'm always second-guessing myself and trying to figure out where I should be putting my gear.
I always have to be paying attention to the wind, waves, and currents. If the weatherman says it's going to be a nice day out and you're at home, it's not a big deal if he's wrong. When the weatherman is wrong and you're at sea, it can be a really big deal.
I try to spend as much time with my family as I can when I'm home. Sometimes fishermen have to go when the weather is good, and that means we miss soccer games, birthday parties, and some holidays.
Everyone who knows a fisherman knows, we can't make plans because "it depends on the weather."
When people buy seafood from Maine fishermen, they should know that the price is for far more than just the lobster or hake or scallops or cod. It is for the time it takes to go fishing and all of the work involved that happens before we can even set out to sea and all of the work that happens when we get home. Being a fisherman is more than a job, it's a part of who I am and my identity and I can't imagine doing anything else.
Thank you for buying Maine seafood!