Seine Fishing for Herring One Morning in Maine

June 5th, 2010

Yesterday, as it has been all spring, the bay was quite and empty. But this morning, seemingly out of nowhere, dories are positioned all across the bay with nets spread between them. Gulls are everywhere and they clearly know what's about to happen!

Seine (/seɪn/ sayn) fishing (or seine-haul fishing) is a method of fishing that employs a seine or dragnet. A seine is a fishing net that hangs vertically in the water with its bottom edge held down by weights and its top edge buoyed by floats. Seine nets can be deployed from the shore as a beach seine, or from a boat. Boats deploying seine nets are known as seiners. - Wikipedia

Atlantic herring are known to form giant schools as they migrate along the New England coast. Scientists estimate that these schools can comprise hundreds of thousands of individual fish. So it’s no wonder that Native Americans who lived along Maine’s coast and the settlers that followed them quickly learned how to capture the silvery fish for use as food and fertilizer. - Gulf of Maine Research Institute

The herring came into the bay the night before and now their escape route is being cut off. It is the job of the "bug boat" to pull the float line closed.

Much of the work is done by hand
This is not for the weak or for the easliy distracted.

The Ruth & Pat is an off shore seiner, but today it will take the herring that Kimberley and Jasmine have caught and bring it into Portland or Rockland to be sold as lobster bait.

The "bug boat" at work
A local lobster watches and waits.

As the net is lowered through the powerblock, it is stacked on deck in preparation for the next set. This process slowly pulls the portion of the seine net still in the water shipward, forming a concentrated pocket of herring.

The power block
The Ruth & Pat lowers a submersible pump into the pocket, pumping the herring to a dewatering box then to holds below the deck.

The excitement has not just attracted the gulls, it has also brought in some of the local lobstermen, looking to buy bait "wholesale" and fresh.

In addition to a steady rain, the bay is now covered with a thin glittery layer of fish scales.

A big thank you to the crews of both Kimberley & Jasmine and the Ruth & Pat for letting me photograph their work back in early June 2010. Without their efforts, the lobster fleet would be without bait and we'd all be without the lobster we so enjoy.

Jim Newton & Friends
Created By
Jim Newton

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