Harpswell Historical Society

Incorporated 1979

929 Harpswell Neck Road
Harpswell, Maine  04079

The Harpswell Historical Society is dedicated to the discovery, identification, collection, preservation, interpretation, and dissemination of materials relating to the history of Harpswell and its people.

Table of Contents

Historic Park 
and Museum

Links to 
related sites


Life in Harpswell Maine in the Early to Mid 1900's
Allen's Seafood

By the Third, Fourth and Fifth Graders at
Harpswell Islands &
West Harpswell Schools

A 1997-98 Harpswell History Project

Gladys Abby Allen
Allen's Seafood
Henry Barnes
Alice Catlin
Donald Coffin
Daniel Darling
The Dead Ship of Harpswell
Clem Dunning
Judith Howard
Harpswell Hotels
Bernard Johnson
Roy Knight & Cliff Moody
Arnold LeMay
Arnold LeMay
Becky Longley
Currier McEwen
Rob Miller
Barbara Munsey
Don Rogers
Alice Swallow
Dick Westcott
Malcolm Whidden
Ken & Marge Wille
Mary Wilson
Mary & Eleanor Wilson
The Witch Of Harpswell
Gerry York

Allen's Seafood

We interviewed Dain Allen to learn about the kinds of fishing that he's done and the business that he and his brother, Scott Roberts, own.

Dain was born in Portland, Maine and grew up in the white house on the corner of Lookout Point Road where he lives now. Dain's father was Henry Allen who started Allen's Seafood. Besides owning the business, Henry went clamming and smelting.

Dain has always gone fishing. He was only five when he got his first skiff. The first type of fishing that he did was clamming.

Allen's Seafood was started with a stand that was on the main road across from Dain Allen's home. The Allens didn't have a wharf at that time, so the lobsters were kept in a lobster car out in the water. The Allens caught most of their own products back then. The wharf was built in the 60's. Now Dain and his brother, Scott Roberts, own the business. They buy from 21 boats and conduct most of the business on their wharf. Besides men that sell to them, they have 3 other men working on the wharf.

Through the years Dain has gone lobstering, scalloping, smelting, musseling, oystering, shrimping, sea mossing, sea urchining and tub trawling. He has tried most of the fishing that's done in the area.

Mr. Allen explained the different ways to get scallops and shrimp. He said to get shrimp you use a trawl that is shaped like a big funnel with two heavy doors on the side that spread out. It's towed on the bottom of the ocean. With scallops, you use a big steel dredge that is also towed on the bottom. The dredge will pick up scallops, rocks and a lot of other things. The scallops are then picked out and the rest is thrown back. The scallop season starts the first of September and goes until April 15. Shrimp season starts after the first of the year and ends at different times, depending on how good the catch is. Sometimes it can end as late as June.

Dain usually uses a bigger boat for scalloping and shrimping than he does for lobstering. He uses a 44 ft. boat for lobstering. He said you don't have to carry as much equipment to go lobstering as you do for scalloping and shrimping, and a smaller boat will go faster.

Smelting used to be a big business in this area, but because of regulations, it's no longer a Harpswell industry. Dain and his father used to go with a net called a sweep seine. They went at nighttime. Later Dain rigged up a trawl with a net that had smaller mesh. It caught a lot more fish.

People get mussels by dragging with a steel dredge. They get clams by using a hoe and having to turn the mud over and pick the clams out.

Divers get sea urchins. You can also use a dredge and drag them. Sea urchins are sold to a foreign market, mostly Japan. Japanese people eat a lot of sea urchins. There are about two dozen dealers on the coast that buy sea urchins and ship them to Japan.

Pogies are menhaden. They are used for fishmeal and bait. They are used for bait in this area. You get them mostly with a purse seine, but you can use a gill net or a sweep seine.

People that go tub trawling use a long rope with a lot of hooks. The ropes go to the bottom of the ocean. When the rope is hauled, fish are on the hooks.

Sea moss was a big industry in Harpswell in the fifties and sixties. Moss was gathered in the spring. It made a good income for fishermen who were getting gear ready for lobstering. They weren't making as much money at that time of year. Teenagers also earned money from mossing. Moss was gathered by using a rake similar to a garden rake. The rake had a basket on top of it. As moss was raked from ledges it went into baskets and was taken to Dain's wharf where it was weighed and sold. When sea urchins came alone, moss became scarce because urchins eat sea moss. There are still one or two places buying moss in this area. It's processed at Five Islands. Sea moss is used for such things as chocolate milk, jello, puddings, and ice cream. It keeps ingredients from separating. Kraft Foods used to buy a lot of moss.

A lot of people in Harpswell have gone tuna fishing. They catch them by hook or harpoon. Dain uses a harpoon. The largest tuna he has ever caught weighed 840 pounds. Sometimes tuna has brought in a lot of money. Sometimes it has been forty or fifty dollars per pound. If the tuna wasn't of good quality they wouldn't get as much money. If tuna is caught, fishermen call their local buyers. They come and inspect the fish and then offer a price. If the fishermen don't like the price, they send it to Japan where they usually get a better price.

There are many more people fishing now than there used to be. In the bay near Mr. Allen there used to be ten fishing boats. Now there are hundreds. There are more rules and regulations. Mr. Allen said, “Sometimes we don't understand the new rules, but usually there's a reason for them and they do help us.”

When we asked Dain why he became a fisherman he said, “It was what my father did and I never wanted to do anything else. Sometimes it’s hard to accept new rules. When I've worked at something all my life and someone comes along that's never stepped aboard a boat and tells me I've got to do it another way that's hard to take.” Dain's favorite type of fishing is smelting. Dain Allen also said, “I would never try to talk someone else into being a fisherman, but I'd never talk them out of it either.