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Lamoine 150! - Great Sardine Catch

Lamoine’s Proud Fishing Past

(How the sea helped make Lamoine the community it is today.)

To see more about Lamoine's Sardine History - click here

(See the invitation to participate)


If you walked down to the Lamoine shore in 1850, you would have found wharves, smoking sheds, and salting and drying racks for curing cod netted by Lamoine fishermen.  You would have seen two- and three-masted schooners tied up or on moorings.  In those days, Lamoine was one of the biggest fishing ports in Maine for cod and herring!


Ten or so schooners from Lamoine headed to sea every June, returning in August or September.  Their crews of 8-10 men were mostly from Lamoine.  They fished the Grand Banks for cod and the Magdalen Islands in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River for herring. Cod was dried and salted for export.  Sardines were dried and smoked and, later, canned.  Sardines are a type of small herring that were a major product of Lamoine in the late 1800s. 


In 1870, 67 of the roughly 250 men living in Lamoine were listed in the census as fishermen, mariners, Master Mariners, ships carpenters, or ship builders. 


Note to our Readers:

If you have stories or information about Lamoiners who fished – or are fishing now – please send us (at [email protected]) a short description with your name and email.  We’d love to share more on this site.                             

 Lamoine 150! Committee



Alewife, Bluefin, Atlantic Herring, Shad

Hickory Shad

Atlantic Shad

White Shad, Grayback, Pogy, Sperling, Brit


Black belly

Fat Back, Menhaden, Mossbunker, Kyack

Fall Herring

Glut Herring

Poor Man's Tarpon, Summer Herring, Round Herring

Branch Herring

White Herring

Labrador Herring, Gaspereau,      Sardine

Thread Herring

Shad Herring



Those of you who came to last February’s program “Lamoine in Poetry, Song, and Story” may remember, and even have joined in, the spirited rendition of the Gulf of Maine Herring Chant.  It was created by musician and conductor Anna Dembska, who used the common names for the fish in the herring family to create a delightful and decidedly local composition.


The roots of the word “herring” are lost in depths of time, but it dates back at least to Old English.  People have conjectured that it’s derived from the German “heer,” which means army or troops, since the fish usually swim in huge schools. 


Sardine is most Lamoiners’ choice for the name of the fish.  The probable origin of “sardine,” which first appears in English in the early 15th Century, goes back to the word “Sardo,” the Greek name for Sardinia, with its abundant fishery.


Whatever you may call them, Lamoiners caught a lot of them over the years!


   Arthur W. Reynolds was born in Lamoine and spent his boyhood here in the 1880s when herring and cod fishing were still going fairly strong.  He wrote detailed notes about the houses and marine activities of the town.   These were later assembled into The Lamoine House Book by Susan Reynolds Hodgkins and others. (Lamoine Historical Society) 

   Here is how Mr. Reynolds described the activities along the Jordan River wharves in the 1880s when schooners returned from the Grand Banks or the Magdalen Islands. 


More and larger buildings…were built, some on the wharves and more up in the fields near the bank. These were used for piling up, “haking up” as they called it, the cod. As soon as the fish were pitched up out of the holds of the vessels, they were carefully washed in sea-water in large wooden box-like containers called washers, ten or twelve feet long, I should say, and four or five feet wide. A goodly number of men could work at the same time, each with a scrubbing brush.

The fish were then wheeled into one of the buildings on the wharf - a fish-house or one of the smoke-houses in which a floor had been laid - and piled up into big piles. Soon they were spread on the flakes to dry, at night piled up and covered with canvas or wooden covers. When dry they were haked up in the fish-houses, ready to ship. (AWR, p. 148)


 Supporting these busy workplaces, as well, were men and women hired on as cooks and maintenance workers.  Their products – mostly salt cod – were shipped south to Boston and other ports, often by Lamoine sailing vessels known as “coasters” because they carried merchandize up and down the coast.