The coast of Maine beckons with her own sweet siren song in summer. For at least two months, Route 1 is bumper to bumper from Red's famous lobster roll take-out in Wiscasset all the way to Acadia National Park 120 miles to the north. It's a different scene in February when the edges of the road are encased in ice and the pavement is streaked with so much salt you can barely make out the painted lines. But it's still beautiful to me.
On Thursday, Feb. 27, my two-hour drive up the coast landed me at the Samoset Resort for the Maine Fishermen's Forum in Rockport. The wind was whipping flags atop 40-foot poles that seemed to huddle together at the edge of the parking lot, signaling a brutal but thankfully short walk to the hotel. As I entered the double doors, my spine relaxed and I cracked a smile, excited to see so many familiar and friendly faces.
I spent the weekend walking the exhibit halls and attending conference sessions, enjoying some one-on-one time with New England and Canadian fishing folks. I even bumped into Eileen Sobeck, the new NMFS director. I happened to be carrying the April issue of NF, in which Sobeck's first column appears (p. 5).
She may be new to this job, but Sobeck is not new to NOAA or the fishing industry. Find out more in my video interview with the new director in an upcoming episode of NF Live.
Among many familiar faces at the forum was 2012 Highliner Dewey Hemilright from Kitty Hawk, N.C., who queried Sobeck and other NMFS staff on the intricacies of the new shark-fin ban that has serious side effects on fishermen who land sharks legally.
I also had the pleasure of sitting down with a couple of Alaskans — Jennifer Lincoln, director of the NIOSH Alaska Field Safety Station, and Keith Colburn, captain of the Wizard. Even in a seemingly isolated, small Maine town as far from the tourist season as you can get, you'll find that fishing folks are drawn not by the siren song of perfect summer weather, but the ever-present lure of folks who love to talk about fish. And that we did.
Photo: Jessica Hathaway, Capt. Keith Colburn and Melissa Wood in the National Fisherman booth at Maine Fishermen's Forum; Jessica Hathaway