Rockland, Maine / Lobster

Fishing in the 1980s was a lot different than it is today, and not just because of less advanced technology. Forty years ago, fishermen had various and numerous opportunities to go fishing. If lobstering wasn’t going well, you could go groundfishing. And if that wasn’t working out, you could hop on another boat and hunt for crabs or squid or bluefish or striped bass or weakfish, which today is rarely found in New England waters.

Tom Santaguida

Tom Santaguida

Tom Santaguida, 58, fondly remembers time spent Downeast in the 1980s, when he gained experience fishing abundant fish stocks teeming with a variety of species. Santaguida describes Rockland, Maine, a bustling fishing port at the time, as a place where there were no stores, but there were 50 draggers. And places like the Wayfarer, a hotel and boarding house — since replaced by condominiums — would be home to 100 fishermen waiting for their next trip out to sea.

While opportunities to participate in a variety of fisheries have diminished, Santaguida continues to find ways to diversify and spice things up. When he is not lobstering, he spends his time surfing and painting, and he is a proficient cook who learned to prepare food with his Italian grandmother when he was a boy. Later in life, when he started fishing, he took every opportunity to share fish with his grandmother and learn new recipes.

“My grandmother loved that I was a fisherman, and she made me feel proud to be one,” said Santaguida. “I get a great sense of pride being a fisherman and a producer of seafood. And I get great happiness from cooking for people.”

Santaguida has even dabbled in some private investigating work, but these days prefers to spend his time doing more joyous activities and making others happy. He is exploring new opportunities in the kitchen and sharing his recipes and meals with others in a new venture, Cucina del Pescatore, or Fisherman’s Kitchen.

“I think where I am at today is just a natural progression of the early impressions my family, especially my grandmother, made on me when I was younger.”

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Monique Coombs is the Seafood and Marine Resources coordinator for the Maine Coast Fishermen's Association. She has worked in the fishing industry for a decade, is married to a lobsterman and lives on Orrs Island, Maine.

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