Download Full Text (107 KB)
This collection consists of a series of interviews conducted by David Taylor with eight fishermen about the commercial fisheries of the Penobscot River in Maine. Taylor interviewed men who fished for smelt, salmon, sturgeon, alewives, eels, and cod; also an eel wholesaler. Methods discussed include net fishing; weir fishing; and winter fishing. Towns discussed include Winterport; Frankfort; and Bangor.
NA0805 Harold Reed, interviewed by David Taylor, February 5, 1974, at Reed’s home in Frankfort, Maine. Reed discusses, in detail, his experiences as a fisherman on the Penobscot River in the 1920s, 30s, 40s, and 50s; how his father, Fred Reed, fished for smelt with bag nets at Winterport around Bald Hill Cove during the Great Depression; the men his father fished with, including Herbert Alley, Phillip Alley, Carl Clegg, and Leon Perkins; his own fishing on the Penobscot River and Marsh Stream in Frankfort during high school and after World War II; fishing with gill nets, and how to set them, how they caught fish, importance of net shape and how to rig the nets, where to get the nets, the floats and sinkers used on the nets, how to haul the net into the boat; the size of a good catch, and what kinds of fish were caught in the nets, including smelt, trout, and eel; how the fish, mostly smelt, were packed and shipped to market; and the prices paid for smelts; fishing licenses and warden Lewis Stubbs; the effects of weather on fishing and on the nets, how to care for the net, and how much money one could earn in a season; fishing with bag nets; how to fish through the ice; men who fished with bag nets, including Herbert Alley, and Charles Alley, their fishing camps.
NA0806 H. B. Calkins, interviewed by David Taylor, February 23, 1974 and March 16, 1974, at Calkins’ home in Hampden, Maine. Calkins discusses weir fishing on the Penobscot River, during the 1920s and 30s, near Winterport & Bangor, especially Gilmore Beach, Whitney Beach, and Castle Rock; weirs owned by F. E. (Floyd) Whitney; setting weirs, building weirs, weir season (summer), shape of weir, fish caught in weirs (smelts, alewives, and salmon), tending the weir, fishing rights; reasons for outlawing weirs and gill nets; Lester Stubbs, warden and fisherman, had 10 weirs on Penobscot River; gill netting, financial returns, catching smelts; sturgeon fishing, fishing methods, drift netting, marketing and size of sturgeon; salmon fishing, nets, daily activities, marketing; fish camps and their furnishings; fishing with bag nets in the winter; Winterport fishermen Sidney Johnson and Lin Perkins; eel potting at Stubbs Point, Oak Point, Rooster Rock, and Bald Hill Cove, baiting the pots, marketing, spearing eels, eel barrels; in gill nets; mentions John Rowe and Ronald Randolph.
NA0807 Avery Bowden, interviewed by David Taylor, March 5, 1974, at Bowden’s home in Orland, Maine. Bowden talks about fishing on the Penobscot River, Morse’s Cove, Orland Dam, Verona Island, Alamoosook Lake, especially weir fishing for salmon, smelts, and alewives; building weirs, goudy pole, placement of weirs, closing a weir, taking fish from the weir, killing salmon with club; working for his father, his father’s weirs; size of seasonal catches, marketing salmon and alewives, salting alewives, sold alewives to Tom Nickerson; fishing a seasonal job, father also worked in the woods in the winter. Mentions Willis Givvs, George Grindle, Frank Martin, Adison Marks, Ed Heath, Decatur Bridges, Marvin Gray, Dave Davis, Reuben Simpson, Freddie Gross, and Oscar Bridges.
NA0831 Forrest Baker, interviewed by David Taylor, March 26, 1974, at Baker’s camp on Green Lake in Dedham, Maine. Baker discusses eel fishing on the Penobscot River near South Orrington; describes eel pots (traps), building eel pots, materials; Leon Hurd and Chet Stevens, who also fished eels, and fishermen Walter Whitney and Ed Bridges; salmon weir fishing; Sammy Stubbs, warden and gill net fisherman.
NA0832 By Calvin Young, interviewed by David Taylor, April 3, 1974, at Young’s home in Winterport, Maine. Young talks about his World War I job in a shipyard; job cutting cord wood; father was a mason; brother-in-law ran ferry in Winterport; winter fishing on the Penobscot River below Winterport, at Mill Creek, Haggett Stream, Kempton’s Cove, Hurd’s Brook, Marsh Rock, and Old Women’s Stream; fish camps, perils of ice-fishing, marketing and price of fish, equipment, clothing, nets; George Page; building a scow with Sid Johnson; fishing with Ashley Young, Chet Nealey from Hampden, Milton Baker, Raymond Down, and Phil Alley; Waldo Perkins hauled the fish to market. Young also plays the hammered dulcimer.
NA1993 Avery Bowden, interviewed by David Taylor, March 12, 1974, at Bowden’s home in Orland, Maine. Bowden discusses weir fishing on the Penobscot River for cod and alewives; process of building or sticking a weir; winter storage of the weir; smoking cod; tarring and maintenance of nets; names other fishermen on the river near Orland and Verona; and fishing with his father, E. Darling Bowden.
NA1997 Gerald Crommett, interviewed by David Taylor, October 9, 1973, at Crommett’s home in Passadumkeag, Maine. Crommett discusses his years as an eel fisherman; buying his own weir as a young man; current business as an eel wholesaler; buying saltwater and freshwater eels; eel fishermen along the east coast from the Maritime Provinces to Georgia; national and international marketing of eels; details of equipment and catches from different ways of catching eels including eel pots or traps, fight nets, and weirs; and silver eels.
NA1998 Sid Johnson, interviewed by David Taylor, January 15, 1974, at Johnson’s home in Winterport, Maine. Johnson talks about his experiences as a commercial smelt fisherman on the Penobscot River; influence of weather and the tide on smelt fishing; hauling the nets; Phil Alley from Frankfort first to use an engine to haul his nets; placement of nets in the water; capacity, durability, and mending of nets; marketing smelt; pollution and marketing smelt; noncommercial gill netting for smelt; and cooking smelt.
Fishing industry, Bottom fishing, Fisheries gear selectivity
Folklore | Oral History
Size of Collection
Dates of Collection
Special Collections, Raymond H. Fogler Library, University of Maine, "MF049 Penobscot River Commercial Fisheries Project / David Taylor" (2020). Northeast Archives of Folklore and Oral History Finding Aids. Number 22.