June 9, 2017

Fisherman Friday: Four Generations of Steele’s, a Father’s Day Edition

Greenhead Lobster is known for beautiful Maine lobsters, in part from our positioning in the Gulf of Maine, and in part from good handling. Handling starts out on the water, where we are proud to have the fishermen and women who choose to sell their live Maine lobsters to us. Deer Isle has nearly 3000 year-round residents, with an estimated 400 commercial captains, who employ another ~600 crew. That math shows how integral commercial fishing is for Deer Isle & Stonington. While driving down Route 15, dooryards are speckled with gear: traps, ropes, buoys, boats of all sorts. Fishing is a part of this community.

Fishing is also part of the family, and it’s very generational by nature. While certainly some captains are the first in their family line, many more are from a long lineage of fishermen. This Fisherman Friday, we are excited to highlight the Steele family. Four generations of Steele’s sell live lobster to Greenhead Lobster. And for this Father’s Day Edition, we thought it appropriate to start with our oldest fisherman, Sterling Steele.

Sterling “Dave” Steele, also known as ‘Pa,’ to the family, turns 91 this July, and the name of his boat says it all, F/V: Still Going. After Dave served in the Philippines in WWII, he returned to Stonington, and became a commercial fisherman, making this roughly his 70th year of fishing. Dave has had F/V: ‘Still Going’, a 25’ Flye Point built in Brooklin, Maine, since 1995. When asked about his very first boat, he reflected “it was nothing but a little pumpkin seed” and that he probably went fishing either alone for the first time, or with his brother, out through Webb’s Cove, the same cove where he keeps his boat to this day.

The nickname ‘Dave’ comes from his great grandfather. And when asked why, he responded with “Oh, nothing good.” As a youngster, Dave says he was a hell-raiser, and fishing was a good way to stay out of trouble. Over the years, Dave has fished for just about everything—clams, scallops, mussels, sea moss, seaweed, halibut, cod, you name it, he’s fished for it. These days, he keeps to lobstering in the East Bay with his sternman, Norman Eaton. When asked what is the craziest thing he’s ever seen out on the water, Dave replied with, “just trying to keep from going ashore, I guess” and claimed that he’d only needed a tow off a ledge just once, to which Gary, his son, let out a chuckle. Dave then admitted, “I’ve hit a few rocks, but I’ve always gotten right over them.”

Dave loves to eat lobster—steamed served with butter of course, but also in soup, stew, or casseroles. He and wife, Geraldine, take the time to pick meat to freeze for winter, as Dave doesn’t fish year-round. A family favorite is lobster stew for Christmas supper.

In the spirit of Father’s Day, the passion for fishing doesn’t stop with Dave, it continues to his son, Gary Steele. Gary has memories of going fishing with Dave when he was just five or six, but at around 12 years old, he started going on his own in a Swampscott Dory with an 18hp Evinrude outboard. At this point in time, Gary was hauling half-round wooden traps, a lot has changed since then! Beyond lobstering, Gary has gone clamming, long-lining, gill-netting, dragging for mussels and scallops, like his father, if it’s fishable, Gary’s gone fishing for it.

Gary and Dave put the finishing touches on Gary’s boat, F/V: Last Chance, back in 1982, ringing in at 31’ 9”. Gary loves being his own boss, and couldn’t imagine it any other way. He knew early on that he would work outside, on the water. This season marks the third year with Bobbie Jo Blake on the stern, and when it’s summer break, Dillan, Gary’s grandson joins the crew as well! Often many summer days can blend together with regard to commercial fishing, going day after day, but when asked about any memorable moments, Gary grinned and responded with, “How about seeing a naked water skier, ha!?” You really never know what to expect on the other side of an island…

Dave’s passion for working on the water transferred to Gary, and it didn’t end there! Gary’s son, Garrett Steele has held his fishing license since he was just four years old. Some of Garrett’s oldest memories are out on the boat with either Gary or Dave, and he knew early on that fishing was for him. After fishing on a family outboard for a number years, at age seven Garrett bought his first boat, a 16’ flat bottomed wooden skiff that he named “Gettin’ Ready.” Like many on Deer Isle, Garrett feels at home on the water, he loves what he does and loves being his own boss.

These days, Garrett can be seen on F/V: Stormi Gayle, a 42’ H&H that he’s had since 2013, named after his wife. Garrett enjoys seeing the weather change, and is happy to have his crew, Josh Coleman, Stormi’s brother, and Brandon Grey onboard. This marks Josh’s fifth year going with Garrett, and Brandon’s third. They work well together, listening mostly to Octane on Sirius Radio, out in the East Bay. Garrett holds a commercial license for scallop dragging and halibut fishing, but likes to fish for lobster year-round.

As if three generations weren’t enough, when he’s not busy working on the stern of F/V: Last Chance, Dillan Steele, Dave’s great grandson, Gary’s grandson (and Garrett’s nephew), also fishes and sells live lobster to Greenhead Lobster! At just 13 years old, Dillan marks one of the youngest fishermen selling to Greenhead! When he’s not working on his grandfather’s boat, Dillan hauls his own gear on F/V: Slow Goin’ a 19’ Pembroke. He’s had his license since age 10, and manages to balance life as a teen with being a sternman and a captain.

From Still Going to Slow Goin’, from Dave to Dillan, from wooden skiffs and half-round wooden traps to the industry we know today, the Steele’s ring in Greenhead Lobster’s oldest and youngest captains, something truly impressive! We are so happy to wish them, and all of our other captains and crews, a Happy Father’s Day! Thank you so much to Geraldine, Jenni and Stormi for helping compile this history and the photos to go alongside—and for so much more. All Steele’s interviewed said that their wives have been critical in their development as fishermen over the years. A hearty and happy Father’s Day from Greenhead Lobster!