Equipment we used


Bait Sponger, ca. 1920

This bait sponger was a homemade item used by lobster fishermen consisting of a wood handle and stainless steel rod. A notch was made in the rod using a hacksaw. The lobstermen would push the rod through the eyes of filleted fish onto the bait line of each trap. The line was nailed to the bottom of the trap and tied to the top holding the fish in place and the door shut. This was in use until herring bait replaced it.

In early days lobster fishermen would hand-line sculpin or mackerel to use for bait. Later a bait man, Mr. McCabe, brought filleted redfish from Portland to our river. He had a special dump truck fitted with two tanks to hold the filleted fish, which he sold for 50 cents a bushel, cash only. Many waited for the bait man at the shore or at the Co-Op where they gambled upstairs. Mr. McCabe announced his arrival by tooting his truck’s horn. Bait was dumped into a punt a bushel at a time, rowed out to boats, put into barrels and salted. Bait was delivered once or twice a week; most men bought 4 to 6 bushels. One to three whole filleted fish were used for each trap. Baiting was accomplished by using a “sponger” to thread a bait string through the fish’s eye sockets. The sponger was a steel rod with a wooden handle and a hook at the end for the bait string. The line from the middle bumper of the trap was laid into it and then the bait would slide into the trap. The bony skull of the fish held the bait on the line while the oily redfish attracted the lobsters. Other oily fish, such as pogies, were also used.

Alewives were the fish of choice for bait when they “ran” in late May and early June, because lobsters were attracted to their oils. We would dip-net them by the thousands as they migrated up the rivers to spawn in fresh water! It was not unusual to have anywhere from three to seven fish at each dip of the net. Before the 1956 Pine Point Road overpass was built, the best place to dip-net alewives was across the street from Snow’s factory

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