Roy Knight &
Clifford Moody was twelve or
thirteen when he started lobstering and he had about
twenty‑five traps. When Roy Knight was twelve his
father built a skiff for him and forty traps.
Clifford did some carpentry during
his life. Roy went sword fishing and scalloping.
Both of them went lobstering by themselves when they
Clifford's father lobstered and
sardined. Roy's father did part time lobstering and
worked at Bath Iron Works
Roy said when he was a kid he used
to see guys like Cliff and wanted to get on those
boats and be out on the water. Clifford wanted to
work on the water and be his own boss.
They both started lobstering with a
skiff Cliff later got an 18 ft. powerboat, prior to
the one that he has now. Roy also got much bigger
boats as he grew older.
Now a person is supposed to serve
two years apprenticeship on someone else's lobster
boat before he or she starts lobstering on their
own. Then they can get a license.
Clifford used one of his traps and
demonstrated how a lobsterman puts bait in a bag,
pushes the bag into the trap and then shuts the
trap. He showed inhere a lobster crawls into the
trap to get the food, how it is caught and why it
can't get out. He also showed us the place where
small lobsters can escape. Then they can be free to
grow and a lobsterman doesn't have as many small
lobsters to throw back.
A buoy is used to mark each
lobsterman's trap. It is tied on the end of the rope
that is attached to the traps. Each lobsterman has
his or her own color for buoys. Buoys also have to
be displayed on the lobsterman's boat. Cliff's buoys
are red and white; Roy's are yellow and blue. Buoys
are now made of Styrofoam. Buoys used to be made out
of wood. They were made of cedar because that kind
of wood is lighter than other wood. Buoys still got
heavy when soaked through with water and were harder
When we visited Roy and Cliff they
demonstrated how a lobsterman hauls traps. Cliff's
boat was on shore. He started the engine and Roy
acted as Cliff's sternman. They showed how traps are
hauled onto the boat, and then the lobsterman slides
the trap to the helper. The helper takes the
lobsters out. If the lobsters are noticeably small
they are thrown back without measuring them. The
other lobsters have to be measured from the eye
socket to the beginning of the tail. If they are too
small they are called “short lobsters”. Maine also
has a double gauge law so lobstermen can't keep
lobsters that are too big. Small lobsters will grow
into bigger lobsters if they are thrown back and
bigger ones will help produce more baby lobsters.
Female lobsters with eggs are thrown back, but the
lobsterman will put a v notch in the tail before
throwing the female overboard.
After Cliff and Roy showed how the
first trap is hauled and the lobsters taken out,
they showed how the sternman measures arid bands the
lobsters, how he baits the traps, and then sets it
aside. Meanwhile the next trap is being hauled. The
same procedure is followed until all the traps on
the string are hauled. Then the lobsterman pushes
the first trap overboard. As the boat goes along,
each of the other traps slides into the water. Most
lobstermen have from five to ten to fifteen traps on
a. string or trawl because it's faster that way.
However, some lobstermen have a single trap on a
Most of the lobster bait used now is
herring. People sometimes use pogies and they used
to use red fish.
The number of lobsters found in a
trap varies from none to eight or ten. A trap may
have as many as twenty short lobsters. A trap may
have other things in it besides lobsters such as
crabs, conchs, snails, etc. Sometimes seals will
even stick their heads in a trap to get food.
Lobsters sometimes fight or they get
a claw caught and torn off in a trap. A lobster's
claws and legs will always grow back no matter how
many times they lose them.
Traps are usually set in about the
same area from year to year. Cliff does his
lobstering from Pott's Point in South Harpswell to
Whaleboat Island. Traps are shifted around during
the year. Lobsters are in warmer shore water when
they are shedding. Lobsters shed their shells once
or twice a year. The shell splits open when they are
full of meat. That's when lobsters shed their shells
and are growing new ones. The new shell is soft but
will gradually get harder. Lobsters are more
plentiful in the summer. They are out in deeper
water later in the season. Lobstermen try to keep
their traps away from other fishermen's traps, but
it's difficult to do because of so many traps in the
Harpswell fishermen usually have
anywhere from one hundred to twelve hundred trap.
Some lobstermen used to have more.
Cliff used to go lobstering ail
year, but he doesn't do that now. Ray has his boat
in the water all year except for when he's painting
or repairing it.
Every lobsterman doesn't have a
helper on his boat, but having a sternman makes the
work go quicker. However, it can be done alone. Same
women go lobstering or work as helpers too.
In Maine the law has been passed
that a lobsterman can have only 1200 traps. If
someone already has more than that, he has seven
years to reduce his traps to 1200. This is being
done so that the water became over fished. Cliff
feels that there are a lot more lobsters now than
there used to be. He also thinks that the increase
in traps has provided more food for lobsters and
that it has helped them to multiply. Ray mentioned
that in the past traps that were in muddy areas
would have only crabs in them. Now those traps have
lobsters. There are a lot mare traps than when
Clifford was younger, but lobstermen are making a
better living now than in the past,
Both Roy and Clifford have doubts
about whether the new laws will really help
lobstermen, Clifford said, “When the government gets
into things, it usually messes things up.”
Roy said, “They don’t always know
what they're doing and they won't take the advice of
people in the industry.”
Every year lobstermen have to repair
their boats and gear. They have to do painting,
repair work, check traps, and paint buoys. Sometimes
they have to work on the engine of their boat.
A lobstermen co-op is like a small
business. Several lobstermen get together to work as
a group. They sell lobsters and buy fuel and
supplies at a reduced rate. Cliff and Roy are in the
same co-op. Cliff was one of the founders of the
organization. There are presently fourteen
lobstermen in this co-op.
Ray and Cliff both like being their
own boss. Ray said, “If you're your own boss, you
can work as hard as you want and when you want.”
Then he laughed and said, “Which is usually all the
time.” Both men agree that they like the way that
lobstermen hello each other, Ray said, “You've got a
small group of guys that are all different and all
are independent, but they have one thing in common.
When someone needs help, they all join together and
help each other out. I don't think you can find that
in any other business.”