Marc Folco: Finding a dark gem of lobstering in New Bedford

October 30, 2016 - Finding Carter

I had designed to write this story about my knowledge with recreational lobstering, where we learn a rather formidable regulations, obtain and supply a required gear, afterwards get a assent that allows we to run adult to 10 lobster pots, or traps. You bucket a pots in a boat, supplement bait, dump them over a side over expected looking bottom structure afterwards lapse to check them any other day or so. It was really rewarding being on Buzzards Bay, pulling pots and anticipating “bugs” (lobsters) inside.

Lobstering became so many fun as a expectation mounted with any pot removing a few feet closer to a aspect with any lift on a line, we wondered, “why didn’t we do this 40 years ago?” It’s tough work, yet good work, that creates one conclude all that blurb lobstermen continue year-round to put glorious cuisine on a tables. Like many any fishing, it’s cheaper to buy lobsters in a store, yet afterwards we skip out on all a fun.

This summer when we took a plunge, we was perplexing to keep my investment to a smallest and had bought 10 used traps that indispensable some work — more work than we figured — so off to Ketcham Traps in New Bedford we went. After shopping parts, regulating and paraphernalia a pots, and reckoning a many hours and days we spent operative on them, we should’ve bought new ones.

This is where a strange story thought takes a spin as we detected what a value of a climax valuables Ketcham Traps is. There isn’t another business like it from here to Downeast Maine. The company’s owners and founder, Bob Ketcham of Dartmouth, was one of a initial to start creation handle lobster traps, that revolutionized lobstering, eventually creation archaic a normal wooden traps. 

In further to building lobster traps and other vinyl-coated handle filigree products, Ketcham’s bonds a finish line of lobstering equipment.

A blurb lobsterman on Cuttyhunk Island and fishing normal wooden pots, Bob started a business of building his handle traps in 1975. “I started building my possess paraphernalia with a vinyl coated handle — it weighed reduction than half of wooden traps and wasn’t receptive to wood-boring worms and other parasites,” Bob said. “The traps were fishing good so we took a play and bought a counter for $500 during a blurb fishermen’s expo in Boston. People favourite my things and we got a garland of orders. we came home and put a ‘for sale’ pointer on a boat. Besides, we had finished offshore lobstering where you’re during sea for days during a time – and we favourite a thought of sleeping in my possess bed any night.”

After building traps during his home for a few years, he altered a craving to New Bedford in 1980, where he rented a second building of an aged indent between Clark and Penniman Streets. Two years later, he bought a building, afterwards in 1998 he bought a aged Carter St. School from a city, that concluded to pause a travel between a dual buildings, that is where traps now are built and stored before to delivery. Later, Bob also bought another building adjacent to a skill to supplement to a large, fenced-in compound.

“Being in New Bedford has worked good for us — it’s an glorious coastal plcae with good lobstering and we were means to adjust a business to a existent structures,” he said.

The company, that began with a fisherman’s innovative idea, now ships sell internationally and employs about 25 industrious people. One of them is Myron Horzesky who also has worked as a blurb lobsterman. He says a plcae of a business always has been a tough area and admits to carrying been rather of a uneasy girl himself who grew adult nearby a trap association and was ‘class clown’ during a Carter St. School.

“When we was 13, Bob put adult a basketball hoop for a area kids and we used to play. The subsequent year, when we was 14, we was operative for him after propagandize and I’ve been operative for him in one ability or another ever since.”

While we were articulate in one territory of a Ketcham Trap office, that once was a classroom in a Carter St. School, Myron pronounced that when he was a child during a school, he couldn’t keep his mouth close and they told him that if he didn’t close it, he was never going to leave.

“They were right,” he said. “It was some-more than 30 years ago and I’m still here.”

Myron worked his approach adult from a tough area child building traps after propagandize to arch operations officer, or manager. Ketcham Traps subscribes to a employing speculation of “you compensate peanuts, we get monkeys.”

“Bob got something good going,” he said. “We offer peculiarity high-paying jobs and they put out peculiarity work.”

In a commencement as lobstermen detected a advantages of a handle pots, some companies were bringing them in from abroad and they were a lot cheaper than Ketcham traps, Bob explained. “But they didn’t last,” he said. “They were done of inexpensive handle dipped in cosmetic and customarily lasted a integrate of years.”

Bob pronounced that he uses hot-dipped marine-grade galvanized handle that is coated with vinyl and an glue is used to bond a vinyl to a wire, and a glue prevents salt H2O from seeping in by a cut ends of a handle and branch a trap into rust.

“A trap has to be well-built of top-quality components if we wish it to last,” he said. “It’s sitting in salt H2O all day for months during a time.”

Wooden traps had an normal life of 3 years and lobstermen regulating them customarily had to have a organisation on seaside repair and nailing traps, compared to Ketcham’s handle traps, that are probably upkeep giveaway and can final 10 years.

Wire traps are built on a same simple pattern and use a same components as a wooden trap, that was invented in a early 1800s. A customary trap has dual categorical compartments – a kitchen and parlor. The lobster is captivated to a attract that’s hung inside a kitchen area of a trap and it crawls in by one of dual turn entrances, or “doors”. Once inside it grabs some of a attract and being formidable to get behind adult by a entrance, a lobster follows a trail of slightest insurgency and travels adult a flue done net, called a “head”, afterwards falls down into a “parlor” where incomparable lobsters turn trapped.

The parlor is versed with an shun opening permitting smaller undersize lobsters to exit a trap. The opening also doubles as an shun induce and a fasteners are designed to decay divided in time, exposing a incomparable open area in a side of a trap permitting bigger lobsters to shun in a eventuality a trap is lost. This prevents a trap from “ghost fishing” and trapping lobsters yet ever being recovered. The tip of a trap has a hinged door, customarily cumulative with bungee cords, permitting a lobsterman to open a trap, strech in and mislay a lobsters. A line is tied to a trap’s “bridle” and a buoy, embellished with a lobsterman’s identifying colors, is tied on a finish and floats on a surface, imprinting a plcae of a trap.

Wire traps can be done in opposite colors including green, black, yellow, blue and red and combinations of those colors.

“Every lobsterman has his possess buoy colors and some guys also like their possess trap colors so they can brand their gear,” says Myron. “Like anything else, 99 percent of a lobstermen are good, honest, industrious people yet you’re going to get a bad apple or dual and if a paraphernalia is stolen, it can be identified customarily by a tone scheme. Some guys also consider certain colors fish softened than others, even yet lobsters feed mostly after dim when they come out from underneath rocks and rest mostly on their antennae rather than sight. Lobstermen spend a lot of time meditative about what a lobster is meditative about.”

While lobsters now are deliberate a delicacy, they were once a “trash fish” and Bob pronounced they were so abundant in a 1600s that a Pilgrims used to go out during low waves and lift them out from underneath rocks with a hook. According to ancestral accounts of Colonial days gathered by The University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, a lobster was a pauper’s food and mostly detested celebration due to a bug-like appearance, imitative a scorpion. Serving them to prisoners on a unchanging basement was deliberate vicious and surprising punishment. Lobster shells about a residence also was a pointer of poverty, according to ancestral accounts.

By a mid-1800s, canning became popular, permitting uninformed lobster beef to be recorded and shipped opposite a country. In addition, a tyrannise brought visitors from landlocked states to New England, who had never listened of lobster yet fell in adore during initial bite. Thus a theatre was set and lobstering solemnly underwent many changes, apropos a abounding fishery with a largest sum U.S. locate occurring in 2010 that was valued during scarcely $400 million.

“Like any fishery, a peaks are good yet we also have to float out a valleys, continue some storms and continue many changes,” pronounced Bob. “When we started building handle traps, guys in a wooden pot business laughed during my work – yet they went out. They didn’t change with a times. We altered and we’ve continued to develop in an ever-changing market.”

At Ketcham Traps, they also make several variations of a handle trap, any designed privately for throwing such class as conch (whelk), immature crabs, blue crabs, eels and sea bass. They also make squirrel-proof bird feeders and suet feeders. “Before they (suet feeders) started entrance in from overseas, we done hundreds of thousands of them,” pronounced Bob. “They’re starting to collect adult again too, generally with a mom and cocktail stores that wish a “Made in USA” tag on their merchandise. We’re Americans operative for Americans.”

Bob also builds a “yot pot” that is a scaled-down chronicle of a blurb lobster pot, designed for recreational lobstering. It’s built customarily as stout yet it’s smaller and lighter with reduction counterbalance weight, permitting a chairman to gaunt over a side and lift it into a vessel by hand, rather than carrying to use a motorized pot puller required to transport complicated blurb pots from a sea floor.

That ever-changing marketplace now includes a flourishing aquaculture industry, Bob said. “We started with lobster traps, that is still a mainstay, yet it’s developed into so many more,” he continued. “Today, a lot of a business is oyster and clam cages. People asked me, ‘can we build oyster gear?’ we said, ‘why not?’ It’s a expansion industry, a business continues to develop and we’re always improving on a oyster enclosure designs. Oyster farms are large now and a lot of today’s seafood comes from producing instead of wild-harvesting. Aquaculture is a approach of a destiny where all is going ‘green’.”

Bob explained that oyster tillage used to be a long-term investment since it took 3 years for an oyster to grow to marketplace distance and be saleable. Now with softened scholarship and resourceful tact it customarily takes customarily 18 months for an oyster to grow from a seed a distance of a pellet of pronounced to marketplace distance of 3 inches. Cultured oysters are also uniform in figure and size, compared to furious oysters. They’re both grown in a ocean, solely one grew adult in a cage. In addition, any oyster filters 50 gallons of H2O a day, so not customarily are aquacultures producing product instead of furious harvesting it, they’re contributing to cleaner H2O in a bays they’re in.

“These oyster farms have millions of oysters,” Bob added. “And many of a farms are family businesses. A lot of blurb fishermen wanted their kids to go to college and they did, yet some still don’t wish to be stranded in a apartment for a rest of their lives so they’re flourishing seafood. It’s not your standard 9 – 5 job.”

Some coastal towns also advantage from their possess oyster-rearing projects for recreational shellfishermen. Myron explains, “the towns deposit in cages to lift their possess oysters, that purify adult a water, afterwards they recover them and open a area to recreational shellfishing. The combined captivate of harvestable oysters afterwards increases shellfish permit sales. It goes full circle. With all going green, we (Ketcham Traps) are cleaning a sourroundings and putting people to work.”

Bob remarkable that operative with fishermen is like operative with farmers. “This is a handshake business,” he said. “Fishermen don’t have time for lots of paperwork. They call us and contend we need 250 traps — we make ‘em.”

At Ketcham Traps, we won’t find Bob behind a desk. He’s customarily during his workbench regulating things and progressing a machinery. His wife, Mona, and his daughter, Heather, also work with him. Myron’s wife, Michelle, works in a office, “and she’s smashing with customers,” Bob says. “Also, being a family business like ours allows us to conflict fast in a market. We make a possess decisions — not like large corporations, that take forever.”

In further to tough work, determination, affability and a support of family and a dedicated staff, a name Ketcham and a trap business were unfailing to be a success. How could they go wrong?

Marc Folco is a outside author for The Standard-Times. Contact him during

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