The Maine Fishermen’s Forum has created this page to honor those fishermen who have crossed the bar.
We want to honor our heritage, our history, our friends and family members. We encourage you to submit a picture and a paragraph of your fisherman or woman so that we can share it with others.
James M. Knott, Sr
James M. Knott, Sr. passed away on August 16, 2018. Mr. Knott started the Riverdale Mills Corporation in 1979 by renovating a derelict Northbridge mill building, with an idea that would completely reinvent commercial lobster traps. Now, at 84 years old, Mr. Knott has watched his company grow to 100 employees, and his traps are now the industry standard.
He received an economics degree at Harvard University, and has received medals for his time in the United States Army Armored Division. He has appeared on both 60 Minutes and 20/20 for his dealings with the government.
You opened Riverdale Mills back in 1979, how did the company start and how has it grown since then?
“It started as me alone. I grew up as a lobster fisherman, I started when I was 12 and I still fish today. In 1957, I invented the wire lobster trap. It’s made out of welded wire mesh which is galvanized to protect it from the coating getting scraped off, and it’s plastic-coated to prevent the Atlantic Ocean from attacking the steel. I put the first one in the water in 1957, and it worked. A lot of people laughed. They said you’re never going to catch a lobster in a wire trap, because they had been using wood for hundreds of years. Of course, today all traps in New England are wire. They still make a lot of wooden traps, but those are just for coffee tables.”
Andy grew up in the Mad River Valley, Vermont, as the eldest of 6 siblings. One of his many childhood stories was that dinner was on the table at a set time, and if you weren’t there, too bad, no-one else was saving anything for you.
From that landlocked state, Andy came to Maine with the USCG, he was stationed in SWHarbor with the AIDS to Navigation team. He worked on lighthouses and buoys up and down the Maine Coast, and later as a Coast Guard civilian, maintained the Penobscot Communication Tower. After the Coast Guard, he studied at UMO under Bob Bayer for a degree in Aquaculture Science.
He dove for scallops, urchins, and lost moorings, at the Salmon Farm on Swans Island, on boat salvages and cable repairs to outer Islands. He dove to remove rope from the Swans Island Ferry, and on those mysterious “rattles” that quiet voiced lobsterman called about after dark and needed investigated before sun up the next morning.
When he was diving he was always looking around for lobster, noting the quantity of juveniles and watching the progress of the shedders. Always enthusiastic about the future stocks of lobster. He fished for Lobster reasonably successfully, and for Halibut reasonably unsuccessfully. He was a member of the Scallop Advisory Committee, and had for many years prior to the committee being formed, wanted to see scallops given more time to grow and spawn before being harvested.
He was active on the SWH Harbor Committee. He was the SWH Clam Warden ( never acknowledging if the old saying “it takes a poacher to know a poacher” was true or not).
He loved to watch the Alewives go up the Union River and to take his kids out to dig for Razor Clams and go Smelt Fishing after dark.
Andy never believed that if you weren’t at the table at a set time, that no-one should save anything for you. He carried this through his whole life especially his fishing career. He shared his lobsterboat with anyone who needed to use it, the location of his “honeyholes” with more than a few select friends, his hard earned scallops were often given away. His knowledge, curiosity and enthusiasm for Fishing and Aquaculture he shared with anyone who wanted to talk or listen, and his opinion…..well you could be sure he’d share that in a way you couldn’t miss. As I share his traps and bouys, lantern nets and spat bags out amongst the fishing community please let them be a reminder to share your knowledge even to those who are late to the table. Make friends with your adversaries (dragger scallops still taste pretty good at the end of the day) and especially share your opinion.
Even an unpopular opinion about Maine Fisheries is worthy of sharing with as many people as possible, and it might even earn you an award. All joking aside, Andy was honored have the DMR Award of Excellence named after him. And I’m sure he would have had a joke or an opinion about everyone who will receive this award in the future.
Faye C. Wells
Faye Wells (86) passed away peacefully at her home in Phippsburg, Maine on Friday, February 2, 2018 after a courageous battle against lung cancer. Faye was born on December 23, 1931 in Brookline, Massachusetts, the daughter of Sara Chilloa Ridley Collins and Wyatt “Dutch” Albertson.
Faye Wells started out early as a fisherman in Phippsburg, Maine. She worked from a very young age with her Dad and neighbors both lobstering and longlining. At 14 she joined Jerry Bartlett, a local fisherman, and spent her summers tuna fishing and tub trawling. This started her life- long love being on the ocean and catching fish. She joined the Army at the age of 17, and was trained as a cryptographer, stationed in Japan during the Korean War where she met and married Bert Wells from Montana who was in the Air Force. They were stationed all over the United States, and in Morocco, Africa. When Bert received orders to Vietnam in 1967, he and Faye returned to Maine and bought a permanent home in Sebasco to raise their 6 children, (and a few informally adopted siblings along the way). They were married for 48 years, and through it all, they both followed their love of enjoying nature, teaching their children about the importance of wildlife conservation, as well as how to hunt and fish with gusto.
Faye’s true passion was the wooden lobster boat “Sara C” built by Bruce Cunningham, owned by her father, and then Faye. She greatly enjoyed tunafishing and lobstering from her wooden boat, “Sara C” until the fall of 2017. She never passed up a chance to be on the water, whether on a lobster boat or dragger, and she always loved a day at sea.
Whether sitting in a bear stand, trekking through the Maine woods hunting deer or leading her extended family on an Antelope/ Elk hunt in Montana, Faye truly enjoyed the great outdoors. She had received two moose permits and been a subpermittee on several others. At the age of 83, Faye shot her moose at 290 yards, free standing, with one shot.
She was a tax professional for the past 49 years, but she would tell you in a heartbeat, she was always a fisherman first and foremost.
Patten "Pat" White
Pat White’s abilities to work with people advanced him into many aspects of fisheries management. The director of MLA, Pat became known as a man of his word. What made him so effective was the integrity and authenticity with which he approached people. He spoke his mind, honest and clear, gaining him both respect and credibility. He become a speaker on the Pew Oceans Commission, a delegate in the ASMFC, President of GOMLF, and was awarded the Capt. David D. Hart Award.
Pat never allowed notoriety to overshadow his powerful love of family. He taught his children to be strong and independent, and that with a bit of sweat and elbow grease, “there is nothing you can’t do.”
BAILEY ISLAND – Brian T. Sullivan, 73, of Bailey Island, formerly of Waterford, Conn., passed away peacefully at his home surrounded by family on Dec. 27, 2017. Brian was born in Hartford, Conn. on Dec. 26, 1944, the son of John and Teresa Sullivan. After graduating high school in 1962, Brian attended Maine Maritime Academy in Castine. In 1969, Brian started a career in the marine insurance industry that lasted almost 40 years.
If asked, Brian would claim his real job was as a fisherman, though. Brian’s life as a fisherman began when he was 12 years old and continued through retirement. Lobstering, clamming, gill netting, fish trapping, and purse seining; anything that got him out on the water! He also loved underwater adventures and enjoyed exploring numerous tropical destinations with his family.
After years of weekend getaways to Maine, Brian and Syl returned permanently in 2009 for retirement. Brian, of course, carried on his passion for fishing after relocating to Bailey Island. People were drawn to his boisterous and kind personality. He lived life his way, and his generous nature was infectious.
Brian was a frequent attendee of the Maine Fishermen’s Forum with friends, Steve Leeman and George Coffin.
Richard "Dickie" Lemont
Dickie started shellfish harvesting as a youngster and continued digging through his life. He had a great love for the industry. He saw the many challenges the industry faces with pollution, red tide and the regulations on the clamming industry. He became very involved in trying to keep this way of life open for clam diggers.
He served as the chairman of the Phippsburg Shellfish committee for 20 years. During this time and beyond, he conducted water tests on the Kennebec. Dick served on the Maine Shellfish Advisory council, and he also spoke at the Maine Fishermen’s Forum on several occasions.
Dick spent many hours working with DMR, the Boothbay lab and speaking at the Legislature working to keep the regulations on the industry fair to the harvesters and to ensure safe shellfish for consumers.
He loved the Kennebec River which is where he lost his life. In April 2010 his boat was found circling. He had gone to dislodge a log under a dock and on his way back, he was lost in the river. Always there to help a friend, family member or a stranger – that is what Dick was doing when he lost his life.
He is greatly missed by his wife and family and by many friends, native and from away. He indeed led the life he wanted on the river he loved so much.
Philip "Philly" Ruhle, Sr.
TRIBUTE TO CAPTAIN PHIL RUHLE
BY HON. PATRICK J. KENNEDY OF RHODE ISLAND
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Friday, August 1, 2008
Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my sympathies to a wonderful Rhode Island family who has lost a devoted loved one: Captain Phil Ruhle of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Captain Ruhle was a life-long professional fisherman and the captain of the Sea Breeze that capsized off the coast of New Jersey last Wednesday night.
He was the center of 5 generations of fishermen, including his grandfather, his father, his brother, his son, and grandson. In recent years, Captain Ruhle took an active role in work to improve industry conditions for fishermen. He was even awarded NOAA’s Environmental Hero Award in 2003 for his ‘‘tireless efforts to preserve and protect our Nation’s environment.’’ Captain Ruhle was instrumental in developing the innovative ‘‘Eliminator’’ net, which will benefit fishermen and our environment for generations. Captain Ruhle was valued as an intelligent and passionate advocate and adviser for fishermen across the country. His presence, especially his familiar voice, will be missed by his fellow fishermen, by Federal fishing regulators and by all who cared about the future of the fishing industry.
I share in the sorrow at the loss of Captain Ruhle with his wife Donna, his mother Gloria, his children Phil, Jr., Roger and Alicia, all his grandchildren and his many friends and colleagues. While this is a sad time for all of us, we take solace in knowing that Captain Ruhle lived his life to the fullest and left behind him a world which, because of his life, was kinder, more passionate and more generous.
John "Ted" Bear, Jr.
Long time friend and MLA board member, John “Ted” E Bear Jr, passed away early in the morning on May 29, 2009 at his home after battling cancer. Ted received the MLA’s “Golden V-notch Award” in March during the Maine Fishermen’s Forum. MLA is grateful to have had the chance to honor Ted’s contributions and achievements to the lobster industry.
Ted is a lifelong fisherman and lobsterman who spent his early days working on draggers and swordfishing boats, fishing as far afield as the Flemish Cap. He began lobstering thirty years ago as a sternman while he fished his own traps out of a 15 foot skiff. He built up to nearly 700 traps working out of his skiff before he bought a real lobster boat.
Ted came onto the lobster management scene during the development of the zone councils, and he was instrumental in shepherding this new idea and getting the zones off the ground. He served on the first Zone F council and represented his harbor for several terms.
It was during this time when the MLA took notice of his passion and dedication to the industry. He has been on the Board of MLA since 1998. He has served the MLA tirelessly and has rarely missed a meeting. Ted was a true gentleman, and a true advocate for our industry, our resource and our way of life. He was known for his kindness and generosity.
Ted was born in Brunswick on April 17, 1943, a son of John Edwin and Ruth Eleanor Leeman Bear Sr. He attended schools in Tampa, Fla., and was a graduate of Florida State University. He loved and was devoted to his late wife, Faith (Pingree) Bear, who died in September 2007. They enjoyed gardening together. He also enjoyed playing poker.
Surviving are his son, Johnathan W. Bear and his wife, Rachel, of Orr’s Island; a daughter, Stacy Morin and her husband, John, of Auburn; a stepson, Dirk Caire of Freeport; a brother, Tim Bear of Union; and five grandchildren, Alec Caire of Portland, Ben and Jack Morin of Auburn, and Kayla Merrill and Kristopher Merrill, both of Durham.
A celebration of his life was held on June 7th, 2009 at the head of Mackerel Cove in Orr’s Island.
Wyatt "Dutch" Albertson
Born on August 13, 1907 at the Boston Lying-In Hospital, Dutch was one of our “Greatest Generation.” In 1930, Dutch met and married Sara Collins, granddaughter of Frank Ridley who owned and ran Ridley’s Store and Wharf in Sebasco Estates, Phippsburg, Maine. They had three children over the next 8 years. During World War II, he was head of the flight test engineering department at Ford’s Willow Run plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan. One memorable afternoon, one of pilots needed an engineer on board for a test flight, and Dutch was available – that was when he flew with young Charles Lindbergh!
When the incredible demands of that war effort were over, he brought his family back to Sebasco, bought his first lobster boat named the “Loa Lee” from Everett Wallace and went lobstering – a long postponed dream come true. He fished the Loa Lee for the next 25 years. After looking for a replacement boat for a couple of years, Dutch contacted Royal Lowell with some ideas. Mr. Lowell and Dutch went over the Loa Lee and discussed the good and not-so-good about her hull. Royal laid up the plans for Dutch’s new boat, and Dutch had her built by Bruce Cunningham of Padebco Boat in Round Pond. The new boat was christened “Sara C” and launched in 1975. Some said that it was a shame that he had to wait until he was 68 to have his new boat…Dutch said that it took him that long to know what the boat should be! When Royal wrote his book “Building a Maine Lobster Boat,” he used the Sara C drawings extensively.
Dutch had many friends on the water, and truly loved lobstering. Over time, his five Wells grandsons all worked with him as stern men, and three of them are still fishing. Henry Gilliam went stern man with him in later years, until Dutch was 85 and his family finally got him off the water. He enjoyed the lobster boat races, and attended several of them. The Sara C did well in the wood boat category of that day. On a Sunday in June at the Boothbay Harbor races, he joined Glen Holland’s father, Corliss (who was in his late 70’s) on the Red Baron for the races. The Baron entered 5 races and the two old timers took every one of them!
Dutch passed away on the following Thursday, June 18, 1997, while working on the dock with his grandson.