By Lynda Clancy, Editor for Penobscot Bay Pilot
Los Angeles-based Khanlarian Entertainment has optioned Kay Stephens’ 2009 novel, The Ghost Trap, for an independent film.
Stephens’s debut novel tells the story of Jamie Eugley, a young lobsterman struggling with the grinding responsibilities of a head-injured fiancée and a mounting trap war. The book earned several honors including 2009 Finalist, Literary Fiction, National Best Books 2009 Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.
"After 10 years of the book being out, you don't have any big expectations it will go anywhere, and just work on the next one,” said Stephens, who also is a writer at PenBayPilot.com. “But, as fate would have it, one of the producers has family in Maine and happened to pick up the book at Beyond The Sea bookshop in Lincolnville, two weeks before it closed permanently. He read it on the ferry out to Islesboro and told me later, when they contacted me, that he saw the film in his mind.
”Having lived in Midcoast Maine since the early 1990s, I found myself in a quaint little harbor town eager to scratch the surface of what the Chamber of Commerce brochures were marketing,” she said. “I had just begun to get to know some lobstermen, whose livelihoods took them far beyond the pretty postcard Maine, the romantic Maine that people from away dream of retiring to. So as I always say, ‘after a beer or three,’ I got a few of them to tell me some true stories about illegal and underground wars they personally witnessed or experienced on the condition that I wouldn't use real names, dates or identifiable situations. It took me about eight years to fully research and flesh out the novel and even then, I had several lobstermen read the book before it was published to make sure I got it right.”
Author James M. Acheson, who wrote the Lobster Gangs of Maine even gave Stephens his notes on it once it was slated to be published. Stephens uses her initial on this novel to distinguish it from her nonfiction books.
After a month of working toward a deal in November, Kahnlarian Entertainment acquired the right to adapt the book into a screenplay and pitch it to film studios, said Stephens.
“I'll be helping with the screenplay,” she said. “It's pretty exciting, but we've got some work cut out for us. After that, we'll see."
Published by Leapfrog Press, The Ghost Trap is a piercingly accurate depiction of life in a small Maine lobstering community. Its publication happened to coincide with a real-life Maine trap war in 2009 that made national headlines.
Stephens will be an executive producer on the project, along with James Khanlarian and Peter A. Couture for Khanlarian Entertainment. The Ghost Trap will be produced by Khanlarian Entertainment, an independent film company lead by Khanlarian and Couture. Kaili Thorne has signed on to adapt the novel.
Stay tuned for details about developments in the project by visiting: www.theghosttrap.com
Note, I wrote this story for Penobscot Bay Pilot.
APPLETON— In most paintings of Maine islands, conspicuously absent is the debris and junk that regularly washes up onto its shorelines. A lot of it tends to be ghost gear— lobster traps that have been smashed apart by the weather and have drifted to shore in mangled pieces.
Appleton artist Abbie Read, whose family owns property on Matinicus Island, noticed the junk along the shoreline and decided to haul piece by piece back to the mainland. No, not to the dump, to her studio.
“I spend a lot of time on Matinicus and for years, I’ve been collecting these little pieces of broken, rusted traps and all of the parts,” she said.
Read said she’d haul back the unsightly debris from the island to the mainland and store them in her studio, unsure of what would become of it.
“I always had it in the back of my mind I’d make something with the pieces,” she said. “Then, last spring when Waterfall Arts held a call for artists on the theme of Intertidal Zones, I began to assemble all of the pieces into an installation. For me, all of the junk that gets washed up on Matinicus was perfect for that theme.”
After the Waterfall Arts show concluded, the community arts center allowed Read to hang the installation on the second floor wall by the stairway, where it now resides indefinitely. Only those familiar with the lobster industry will notice some of the details in the rigging. Woven throughout the pieced-together grids of the wire traps are discarded bait bags, nylon netting, a plastic escape hatch, old frayed warp. Broken and lost gear is an economic hardship lobster fishermen know only too well. These unglamorous workaday pieces of fishing gear have now transformed into a tribute to the many unknown generations of lobstermen.
But, there is one more layer to this installation; and one has to know Abbie Read’s particular style of work to catch it. Within the rigging, which is patched up like a crazy quilt from various broken traps, are subtle grids made from linen thread that Read has constructed, which mimic the gridwork of the broken traps and blends right into the exhibit. These handmade nets also lace across her multimedia collages, which often incorporate altered books, maps, found objects and natural materials such as stone.
Read isn’t done with the piece.
“I stopped working on it because I ran out of materials,” she said. “But, I still plan of adding to it, it’s just a matter of being able to haul this stuff back from the island. I call it an ongoing project because it will get bigger. It no longer fits in my studio.”
For now the piece can be seen at Waterfall Arts.
For more information visit: Abbie Read and Waterfall Arts
Anytime lobster is on the menu, people perk up and take notice, so what better way to impress your guests this Thanksgiving with recipes for a four-course lobster meal they’ll be remembering long past November?
Lobster Corn Chowder
Corn, the quintessential fall harvest, pairs beautifully with succulent Maine lobster in this hot and tasty warm-up. Get farm-fresh corn if you can, and let the cobs and lobster shells do double-duty in a flavorful stock. With bacon, Yukon gold potatoes and cream sherry, this dish sets the stage for what’s to come, leaving your guests excited for more.
Lobster and Bacon-Stuffed Jalapeno Bites
Talk about hot — this appetizer is one of the hottest (in a savory way) you can present this Thanksgiving — and so very easy to prepare. Lobster From Maine’s recipe calls for only eight ounces of lobster, which amounts to about two 1 ½ pound lobsters. With cream cheese, sizzling bacon and sour cream and chives rounding out the flavors, the hollowed-out jalapeno pepper serves as a vibrant and spicy bite.
This delectable pocket of freshly-baked, buttery puff-pastry with creamy lobster inside will make guests think you spent hours on this dish, but it’s relatively simple. Crank up the slivered garlic in clarified butter with sautéed chopped onions and sliced mushrooms, then top off the rich flavors with the sherry, egg yolks, cream, nutmeg and cayenne and you’ve got an unforgettable dish that people will try to copy next year.
After steaming a couple of 1 ½ pound lobsters, you’ll be able to turn out a rich and creamy side dish for an elegant Thanksgiving dinner. Add the lobster tail shells to the broth for additional flavor and cut back on the cayenne and cream in this recipe to let the natural risotto texture shine through.
Use any one of these star dishes (or all four!) for a memorable Thanksgiving. For more seasonal lobster dish recipes, visit our blog on the Maine Lobster Festival website.
Blog and photo republished courtesy of Maine Lobster Festival
Do you ever wonder why some lobster boat names sound so pretty such as Shannon Lee and others get comical names such as Money Pit?
According to Christine LeMieux Oragano, the author of How To Catch a Lobster in Downeast Maine, who comes from a lobstering family in Cutler, Maine, “roughly 60 percent of Downeast lobster boats have a female name. Further research, via surveys, showed that most often a lobsterman names his boat after his wife.”
That’s no surprise given that feminine names have applied to vessels for centuries. By and large, the female names almost always have a personal connection to the lobsterman and his family. In the comment section to Oragano’s original article, one poster named Beth wrote “My husband's boat is (named) Beth Said Yes - because I finally agreed it was time for a new boat!”
While the tradition of naming boats after a wife or a daughter seems to linger, one Down East magazine article claims that the trend is starting to turn.
Linguist Michael Erard consulted both the National Marine Fisheries Service and the organizer of the Maine Lobster Boat Races who is also a maritime historian and found in his unique research that of the 1,300 boats that had registered for the race since 1999, female names made up fewer than half. He discovered quite a few categories including nautical (Isle of Sky), sardonically financial (Desperate Measure), tough-guy names (Hooligan), variations on a theme (Sea Bass, Sea Dancer), native-wit (Keepah), self-deprecating jokey names (Clam Killer) and clever puns (What The Haul), among many others.
Q106.5 decided to come up with their own list of the best lobster boat names in 2018 this past summer. Here they are, in order of popularity:
What are some lobster boats names you’ve seen that will always stick with you?
For more fun facts and lobster lore from the Maine Lobster Festival, visit www.mainelobsterfestival.com.
Blog and photo republished courtesy of Maine Lobster Festival
“Why isn’t that lobster bright red?’ So many visitors who come to Maine have asked that question when viewing live lobsters in a tank thanks to a century of postcards, children’s books and illustrations that depict Maine’s famous crustacean as bright crimson.
The fact is the natural colors of most live lobsters are a mottled greenish brown to blackish brown, which helps conceal them on the ocean floor from predators. They get their shell color from a class of red and yellow pigments called astaxanthin. Without getting too scientific, when lobsters are cooked, the proteins that astaxanthin bind to are destroyed, changing the shell colors to a red pigment. That’s why so many people think Maine lobster is naturally red.
That said, imagine how surprised a visitor to Maine might be to see a lobster that is electric blue? According to oceanographers, only an estimated one in 2 million lobsters is blue. In 2016, a Massachusetts lobsterman found one in his traps, which caught the attention of ABC News. In this case, a genetic abnormality caused the lobster to produce an excessive amount of a particular protein. Most of these rare lobsters are spared the boiling pot and sent to aquariums, but even if a blue lobster is cooked, its shell changes to red.
Rarer than that, if you can believe it, is a naturally brilliant red colored lobster -again, a genetic abnormality - which occurs in one in 10 million cases.
But hang on, the blue and red showstoppers have nothing on the yellow and calico lobsters (with mottled orange and black shells), which oceanographers estimate are one in 30 million.
Want to up the odds even more? Try finding a “split” colored lobster, that is, a lobster whose coloring is split evenly down its entire body and claws with one half orange and one half brown. The last time one of those was discovered, it was caught by a Maine lobsterman in 2006, who gave it to an oceanarium. The oceanarium said in 35 years, they’ve only seen three split lobsters. The chances of catching one is one in 50 million!
So, that’s got to be it, right? Nope, there’s one more lobster that is rarest of them all – one with no color at all. An albino lobster, of which there are one in 100 million, was just caught by another Maine lobsterman last summer. Albino lobsters are the only ones without pigment, so if it had been cooked, it would have still been white when done.
But true to the conservation methods of Maine lobstermen, this “ghost” albino lobster which was female and had a V notch in her flipper (a previous marking to signal that she’d been already caught once and was carrying eggs) had to be tossed back into the ocean. Let’s hope, because she stands out like a sore thumb to predators, that she still roams free today!
Blog and photo courtesy Maine Lobster Festival
There is a scene in The Ghost Trap where the characters talk about some of the more outlandish questions tourists have ever asked lobstermen...such as "why do all the boats point the same way?" and "What time of year do the deer turn into moose?" True stories, all of them..and that's why they made it into the book.
Well I belong to a private FB page for lobstermen and they shared this photo, along with more stories in the comments. Note: Names have been left off to protect the members' privacy.
"I was once asked if I set all my traps in the morning and then bring them all home at night."
"Lololol I was pulling a half tote of cod up the dock one time and a tourist looked in the tote and asked what kind of fish is that??? I replied codfish... her lady friend told me I was wrong... those are Trout 😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂"
"My wife overheard a conversation between two tourist that went like this. "What are the painted objects floating in the water?" "They're lobster buoys, see how some are laying down and some are standing?' "Yes" "When a lobster walks in a trap it causes the buoy to stand, that's how lobstermen know which traps to haul." True story."
"Lmao... I was eating at the weather vane once and the guy in back of us was saying he knows everything about lobsters... so I listened he told his girlfriend for starters they don’t go any deeper than 20 feet... I stopped listening 😂😂😂"
The decadent pairing of lobster and macaroni and cheese
ROCKLAND — It was Lobsterpalooza’s fifth year celebrating the venerated lobster mac and cheese dish and the chefs did not disappoint. On Sunday, September 24, more than 150 people attended the annual event held at the Rockland Elks Club featuring five professional and five amateur chefs.
In the end, the professional chef win went to Husson University’s chef Nick Andrei for his beautiful presentation of lobster mac and cheese inside a lobster tail shell.
“It was kind of smoky with bacon,” said Marilyn Quinn, one of the event volunteers. ”He also won the People’s Choice award.”
This year’s amateur chef award went to longtime Lobsterpalooza participant Maynard Stanley for his recipe that he made with a Mornay sauce.
“It really had a distinctive, subtle flavor to it and Maynard also won another plaque for having participated in the last four of the five years,” said Quinn. H”e changes things up every year with different flavors to his dishes. It’s a lot of work and we wanted to recognize that. We also gave Graffam Brothers a plaque for being part of the event all five years.”
Other dishes that Quinn found notable this year included two cold dishes.
“The only requirement for the competition is that the dish needs to contain pasta lobster and cheese and some chose to interpret that as a cold pasta salad,” she said.
In addition, a macaroni and cheese with lobster sausage was a hit, made by Twisted Iron Grill, a food truck from Wiscasset.
Then, there was the “lobster taco” which was a taco made out of pasta with lobster, feta and blueberry. “It was really unique and fresh,” said Quinn.
Quinn, the Midcoast Sales Manager for Blueberry Broadcasting LLC, one of Lobsterpalooza’s sponsors, said: “One of the things Blueberry Broadcasting does each year is run spots on the radio that gives the history of the lobster industry. This time of year, when there is a glut in the market and a lot of the tourists are gone, we want to remind tourists and locals alike the value of what lobstermen and fishermen bring to the Maine economy year round. We try to raise awareness though our station to encourage people to support the lobster industry by buying more of it and trying new recipes like these with it.”
The Historic Inns of Rockland started Lobsterpalooza five years ago to put the focus on lobstermen’s contribution to the economy when boat prices were historically low and bait and fuel were high. Since, then, the event has been a hit with locals, who come from far and away to sample mini dishes of the lobster mac and cheese.
All photos courtesy PJ Walter Photography.
This article first appeared courtesy of Penobscot Bay Pilot
This weekend is perfect road trip weather and if your destination is north, head for Bar Harbor.
I’ve been to all of these places, so here are my recommended stops:
Peekytoe Provisions (244 Main Street)
Fish tacos, seaweed salad and smoked seafood soup. Yum! It’s the tiniest little fast casual places that have the best food.
Lompoc Cafe (36 Rodick Street)
I stop here every time because they put the bar in Bar Harbor. Excellent local craft brews and an outdoor patio with an outdoor bocce court. Fabulous.
Acadia Stand Up Paddling (200 Main Street)
On a sunny day, with the mountains and the sea all around you, this feels like you’re in another world.
Penelope’s of Bar Harbor (50 West Street)
This brand new boutique just opened this summer with carefully curated home goods and gifts that are uniquely Maine. And if you stop in, you’ll see my wee dresses and books (The Ghost Trap) in a little corner with fairy lights. Sweet!
Everybody instantly goes for Cadillac Mountain, but I’m a more off-the-beaten-path kind of girl, so I recommend, while in Acadia, you stop at Beech Mountain parking lot and hike the Beech Cliffs Trail.It’s a short and sweet hike that brings you out very high over Echo Lake.
Enjoy your day! Stay in touch with us on Facebook!
TENANTS HARBOR — Normally the opening of a rustic lobster shack doesn't warrant the same kind of buzz as a shiny new Midcoast restaurant, but Luke's at Tenants Harbor, which opened for its first season this summer there, has more to it than meets the eye.
For instance, it's operated by two guys in their early 30s — and it's not just one shack. This is the 19th Luke's shack they've opened nationally.
Native Mainer Luke Holden, its chief executive officer and founder, along with his business partner and president, Ben Conniff, have transformed the empty restaurant on Miller's Wharf into a cozy lobster shack with an adjoining bar.
The locals, let's just say, are very happy. Since Cod End closed there, the building has been sitting empty for two years. Now, there is an easygoing place to gather, where the seafood is affordable and excellently prepared (likely caught by their friends and neighbors). The small bar serves Maine-made microbrews, such as a Lobsterman's Choice Ale made by Shipyard Brewing Co., as well as local wines and good cocktails with Maine distilled liquors, such as Bimini gin.
It all started when Holden, who grew up lobstering with his father in Cape Elizabeth, decided to take a different path in his 20s and set out to be an investment banker in New York City. One hot summer day, he was feeling homesick for a good old-fashioned Maine lobster roll, but couldn't find one. Everything he saw cost at least $30, and either was slathered with too much mayonnaise and celery or else made too precious by chef's artistic interpretation.
"It wasn't fresh, it wasn't authentic and because I couldn't find that there, that became a business plan to get a lobster shack off the ground," he said.
Capitalizing on his investment banking background, he paired up with Conniff, a food writer, opening their first Luke's Lobster in 2009 in NYC's East Village.
Their primary operation is based in Brooklyn with shacks in New York, Washington D.C., Boston, Philadelphia, Las Vegas, Maryland, Chicago and New Jersey. Over the last seven years, they've grown to include a staff of 350 on the restaurant side and another 125 in their seafood processing plant.
The national press has taken notice. Luke's Lobster has been named "Best Lobster Roll" in multiple publications and food lists and has been covered by Good Morning America, Today, Eater, Forbes Magazine, NY Daily News and Wall Street Journal, to name a few.
But this Tenants Harbor shack, just opened in June, is near and dear to Holden.
"Anywhere in Maine I consider home," he said. "This is the most exceptional view we have from all of our shacks."
"You didn't have to convince me to leave the subways of New York and come up here for a few days," added Conniff.
Luke's Lobster has four core values: Taste, traceability, sustainability and community. And they've been ahead of the curve on these values since day one when it comes to preserving the Maine fisheries and supporting Maine fisherman.
"We've really been proud of being able to bring this sustainable product to New York City and tell people the real story of where their lobster comes from," said Conniff.
More than any of their shacks, this Tenants Harbor shack is unique in its business model. Holden sits on the board of the brand new Tenants Harbor Fisherman's Co-op with more than 15 members who supply all of their catch to his company. In return, he ensures that 50 percent of the restaurant's profits go back to that Co-op.
In addition to running all of the shacks, Holden and his partners, including his brother, Bryan, opened a processing plant in Saco in 2013 called Cape Seafood to ensure none of the catch would be wasted, thus employing lobstermen well beyond the tourist season.
"Staying local is important. It is the heart of what we're doing here," said Holden.
No matter how well a food business is run, its success always comes down to the ingredients and how they are prepared. You won't find a lobster roll smothered in mayonnaise here.
Holden and Conniff make it the way Mainers have been preparing lobster rolls for generations: on a New England split-top bun grilled with a light swipe of mayo, a drizzle of lemon butter, and a dash of Luke's secret seasoning, so that the freshness can come through on its own.
"People are always told to ask where your food comes from," said Conniff. “The way we see it is you shouldn't have to ask; it should be right up front."
To that end, they have a sign outside the main seating area near the ordering window that displays where everything they make is from, from lobster rolls to blueberries, even the butter and herbs comes from a Maine farm or fisherman.
While Holden and Conniff have to go back to their respective offices in Saco and Brooklyn the rest of the summer, they've left the locals with a lobster shack to be proud of.
Luke's at Tenants Harbor is open Memorial Day to Labor Day. They have a happy hour from 3-5 p.m. To learn more visit their Facebook page.
Kay Stephens can be reached at email@example.com
TENANTS HARBOR—When Scotland beachcomber Martin Gray went walking along one of his favorite beaches, Billiacru last week, about two miles from Stromness, the little fishing port where he grew up, he spied an orange plastic tag with the name C. Morris and the number #167 on it. An avid beachcomber since he was a teenager, he knew immediately what it was.
“We find lobstering gear from all along the eastern seaboard of North America, from Labrador to Rhode Island,” he said. “Maine gear is probably the largest single cohort (followed by Newfoundland/Labrador and Massachusetts) and includes escape vents, trap tags, TopMe tags, buoys, Plante sticks and pot heads.”
The little piece of plastic, was in fact, a dislodged trap tag owned by Corey Morris, 35, a lobsterman from Tenants Harbor. It had traveled roughly 3,000 miles through the Gulf Stream/North Atlantic Drift that spins gear out across the Atlantic to Europe.
Excited to locate the owner of his find, Gray posted a photo of the tag on his Facebook page Orkney Beachcombing.
“In many ways, Facebook is an almighty pain in the backside full of bland truisms, peoples’ dinners and soppy kittens,” Gray said. “But, for finding connections, it is unsurpassed. I posted a photo on my Facebook page of a Massachusetts float found here yesterday. I had the owners name in seven minutes. I find that absolutely staggering!”
As for Morris, he was just working in his garage, repainting all of his buoys and getting his gear readied for the season when his Facebook notifications went crazy. Maine followers of Gray’s Facebook page notified Morris that Gray wanted to get in touch with him so he did.
What makes this find special is that this tag “C. Morris #167” was also his grandfather’s initials and original license number. Charles "Charlie" Morris was the 167th person in the state of Maine to be issued a lobster license. The year before Charlie passed away, he transferred his license number to his then-six-year-old grandson, Corey. If he hadn't done that, the license would have been considered a lost or retired license.
”I was already in an outboard with my dad at that age,” said Morris. “I couldn't even haul the trap then I was so little. I can remember going home in the evenings and hauling 10 traps with my dad. He's now held his lobster license for 29 years. Current regulations don't allow lobster fishermen to transfer tags to family members any more, so #167 will retire with Morris. "If I wanted to give my daughter mine, I couldn't,” he explained. “She'd have to go into the lottery and get a five or six digit number."
"I noticed in Martin's picture that the holes of the tag are intact, so it didn't look like the hog ring ripped off," said Morris. He declined to say how it could have come off but every lobsterman who has had his gear molested, and tags ripped out to keep the trap (which runs around $100 per trap) knows it's a distinct possibility that the tag was deliberately cut out and discarded into the ocean.
Asked about his grandfather would have handled that, Morris said, "They didn't have tags when he was fishing. Back in the ‘40s and ‘50s, they would've shot somebody if someone stole a trap. They took care of it themselves. They didn't need Marine Patrol and you wouldn't have the wording on the tag about imprisonment (for molesting gear.)"
Things have really changed since his grandfather’s day, he said. "Everything was built from scratch, wooden round traps, knit heads. They were happy to catch a crate a day and today, we have to catch several hundred pounds a day just to earn our living, but you know the money was different back in those days too.”Gray has seen more trash float in on his beaches from the U.S. than he cares to, but when it comes to fishing gear, that’s different.
“The finds from Maine fishermen are special because I know that what reaches us from there isn't really litter,” he said. “Almost all of it was lost against the wishes of the fisherman, with very little casually thrown away. The escape vents float free but that is a conservation measure to render lost ghost pots nonlethal to marine life. A brilliant plan! We have nothing like it here. There's no such thing as ‘good litter,’ but escape vents come very close! I make clear distinctions between plastic in the sea that has been willfully dumped, lost by neglect or mismanagement and lost by accident. Maine pot gear is almost all lost by accident.”
Gray has been working the last five years to display the best of his beach finds into finds over the last few years into a museum.
“Finding Corey’s tag has been the highlight of my beachcombing winter,” Gray said. “It has a very special tale behind it and I can see it being a star exhibit one day.”
-Story and photos by Kay Stephens
Related story: Maine’s treasures (and trash) wash up on Ireland’s shores
Columns and news about the subculture of Maine lobstering.