EASTPORT, Maine — The fishermen start arriving at “misinformation corner” of the Eastport Pier as early as 5 a.m. They bring coffee, a gift of gab and their fishing rods.
The mackerel are just beginning to run, but to these guys, fishing is secondary. The days they spend on the pier are about conversation, time with old friends, and plenty of teasing and laughing, with a bit of fishing thrown in.
This is sort of the “good ol’ boys club” of the pier. Most are military veterans, all are retired, all older than 60, and fishing off the pier is an excuse to be together.
As the fishing port comes alive, the friends fall into a decades-old rhythm. Getting them to talk about themselves is something of a challenge, but there’s no shortage of fishing commentary.
First to arrive is Mike Cummings of Eastport, who claims the coveted corner spot. He’s a one-man chamber of commerce for Eastport, pointing out landmarks and sending tourists to the best restaurants and shops.
Cummings carries an extra fishing pole and jigs so tourists can give mackerel fishing a try, and he often stops around town in the afternoon, passing out his day’s catch.
“On a day like today, you might be able to catch 30 fish,” he says. “When the mackerel are really running, you can get 70 — four every time you throw in your jig.”
Then there is Hank Young, also of Eastport, who is not having a good-luck day. “I went to Florida for two weeks and I forgot how to fish,” he complains. “I’ve been here for two hours and haven’t caught a thing. The guys are offering to rent me a fish to put on my hooks as incentive.”
Young says he spends time fishing every day. “Actually, today I’m fishing so I don’t have to mow the lawn,” he admits.
Standing between them is Ken Hoban of Whiting. He’s allowed to fish with the natives because he married an Eastport girl.
“I asked my wife to marry me on this pier,” he says.
He was asked: Were you fishing and did you get down on one knee?
“Gosh no, it was November,” he says.
Fishing nearby is Allan Waterbury of Orford, N.H., who has been camping and fishing in Eastport for years. “I come every summer,” he says. “It’s one of the nicest towns I have ever been in. We actually come down here to BS for four hours and fish for one.”
“I love it,” he continues. “The atmosphere is self-explanatory.”
Looking out, the fishermen can see Cobscook Bay, Campobello Island, the Old Sow whirlpool, lobster boats and often whales, porpoises and tuna jumping out of the water.
“This is all about good, down-to-earth company,” Waterbury said. “We have a blast. It’s just a good bunch.”
Nearby, Joshua, Jeff and Sheriden Smith of Houlton catch a starfish, prompting plenty of laughter.
“We escaped here,” Jeff Smith says. “Isn’t this beautiful?”
Farther down the pier, Lewis Quimby and Linda Wilcox are visiting from Caribou. By noon, Quimby catches only a crab and Wilcox nabs her lawn chair.
“We are having fun,” Quimby declares. “As far as luck, though, we need all we can get.”
Doug Moore of Pleasant Point also could use some luck. His bucket is empty and he is hoping to catch mackerel for the Passamaquoddy Indian Days traditional meal.
“We feed the elders,” he said.
As the morning rolls on, Hoban makes a coffee run, Young finally catches a couple of mackerel, and the sun keeps on shining.
When asked, Young says mackerel can be caught as early as May and as late as October.
But friends like this, he says, are the rarest catch.