Fisheries

Atlantic Mackerel

The Atlantic mackerel is a schooling (pelagic) fish once caught for fertilizer. It does not keep well but can be canned. Fresh, it was popular in the Boston market with fast mackerel schooners bringing fish in from waters near Cape Cod. Today mackerel is primarily caught for bait and aquaculture food.

Drawings provided courtesy of the Maine Department of Marine Resources Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Atlantic Herring

The Atlantic herring is perhaps the Atlantic's most important food fish.

Drawings provided courtesy of the Maine Department of Marine Resources Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Sardine Cans

Sardine fishing and canning was a major Maine waterfront industry from the 1870s to the 1970s. It began in Eastport in Washington County and spread down the coast. There were factories in Eastport that made sardine cans and labels. Eating sardines has gone out of fashion in the American market and supply has become limited. Now, there is only one operating sardine canning plant in the state. A hundred years ago, there were at least thirty different canneries up and down the coast.

Atlantic Halibut

Atlantic halibut. These fish could weigh hundreds of pounds.

Drawing provided courtesy of the Maine Department of Marine Resources Recreational Fisheries program and the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.

Fish Catch, Schooner Pioneer

Capt. J.W. Lunt of the schooner Pioneer of Tremont kept a log while fishing during the year 1861. The log was used to support a bounty claim from the federal government. This part of the log shows what each fisherman caught each day in September and provided the basis for their federal subsidy. These logs have helped to reconstruct the historic cod catch before good statistics. At this time the schooner was probably hand-lining with the fishermen lining the rail, each with a pair of baited lines.

Fish Flakes, Friendship

Fish flakes in Friendship, Maine. After processing, cod were salted and dried on fish flakes or drying racks. These racks were a common feature in Maine fishing towns. Once dry, the fish was packaged for shipment. Dried salted cod could keep for well over a year.

These flakes are near the water's edge. There is a lobster car (float with compartments to hold live lobsters) pulled up on shore next to it as well as a small boat pulled up on a ramp. Like most coastal towns in the late 19th century most of the tree cover had long since been cut down.

Cod Fishing Station, 1698

Drawn on the side of a map of America, this is the only existing image of a Newfoundland cod fishing station. From the days of Cabot and perhaps before, fleets of European fishermen sailed to the banks, and they soon discovered that they could stay longer and bring back more fish if they set up shore stations to split, salt and dry the catch. Some of these men may have overwintered. This would have been an early source for Americans to have gotten trade goods from the Europeans.

Fish Flakes

Drying racks for fish are called fish flakes. Salted split fish, usually cod, are laid out on them to be dried in the sun. The fish needed to be covered from rain. Once dry, the fish was packaged for shipment. Dried salted cod could keep for well over a year.

These fish flakes are located in conjunction with a fish processing plant which might well be the Lane-Libby Company in Vinalhaven. But fish flakes could be anywhere. Small amounts of cod could be dried for home consumption or for resale to larger buyers and processors.

Box for Salt Cod

"Boneless Georges Codfish," Lord Bros., Co., Portland, Maine. This is how salt cod was packaged and sold.

The Codfish

Illustration of the Atlantic Cod from G. Brown Goode's The Fisheries and Fishery Industries of the United States, 1887, Section I, Plates volume, plate 58A.

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