Fishing Grounds of the Gulf of Maine. 1929
Grand Manan Bank. This bank is at the entrance of the Bay of Fundy, SW. ½ S. from the southwest head of Grand Manan Island from which the northern part of the bank is 15 miles distant. From Mount Desert Rock, E. by S., it is 45 miles distant. The bank is 10 miles long and 5 miles wide, extending in a NE. and SW. direction. The bottom is mostly stones and gravel, the depths running from 24 to 45 fathoms. Soundings of 18 and 21 fathoms are found on the northeast part.
Cod (especially abundant when the June school is on the ground) and pollock are the principal fish. Haddock are not usually abundant, although sometimes they are plentiful in the fall from late September to December; hake are fairly abundant on the mud between Grand Manan Bank and the Middle Ground (In The Gully). This is a good halibut bank, the fish being in 33 to 60 fathoms in June and July; the southwest soundings and the southeast soundings are most productive always. The best fishing season is from April to October, when the fish come to this hank to feed. In the spring the fish, other than halibut, are mostly on the southwest part, but later (July to October) the best fishing is had on the northern edge of the ground. The very best herring fishing for large herring (food fish) occurs on this bank in June and July. In general, this is a small-vessel ground fished by craft from Cutler, Eastport, Grand Manan, and, to a less extent, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with an occasional visit by craft from Portland and Rockland, chiefly trawlers of moderate size.
Tides run NE. in flood and SW. on the ebb and are quite strong, the flood being the heaviest. Because of these powerful currents, fishing is somewhat difficult, it being necessary to make sets at the slack of the tides, getting the gear over and traveling with the finish of the current, to take it up and come back with the tide's return.
Middle Ground.vThis ground is between Grand Manan Bank and Marblehead Bank; its length from NW. to SE. is 1 ½ miles, and it is about ½ mile wide. Depths averaging 37 fathoms are found on the southern edge on a hard, rocky bottom, increasing to over 60 fathoms over much of the ground. The remainder of the bank has a bottom of sand and gravel. There is a shoal of 28 fathoms near the center with a bottom of rocks and stones. The species and seasons of their abundance are much as on Grand Manan Bank and German Bank, but the Middle Ground is rather better as a cod ground than as a ground for other species, June, perhaps, being the best month for the fishing.
Marblehead Bank. Situated between Grand Manan and German Banks, the shoal water bearing SSE. from Moosabec Light, distant 32 miles. It is from 12 to 15 miles long and 7 or 8 miles wide, lying between 44° 00' and 44° 10' north latitude and 66° 58' and 67° 13' west longitude. There are from 35 to 70 fathoms of water over it; the bottom is mostly clay and gravel. The principal fishing is for cod, pollock, and haddock, but there are more or less hake and cusk to be had from this ground.
The best fishing season is from early spring through the early part of the summer, and this ground is of little account after July. The same type of vessels operate here as on the neighboring banks, with an occasional larger vessel. The craft are mostly hand-liners from Cutler, Jonesport, and Rockland, with a few vessels from the trawl fleets of Portland and others from the Canadian Provinces. Haddock are found in the shoal water from May to October. Cusk are on the eastern portion in from 60 to 70 fathoms virtually the year around. Many large hake are present on the western edge in 80 to 90 fathoms in the summer. The June and July cod school is the best, but this species is present in smaller numbers all the year. Halibut are found all over the bank, being especially abundant in the eastern shoal water in spring and summer (April to October). It seems necessary to leave the halibut trawls down for a longer set here than on other grounds in order to make a good catch.
German Bank. This is one of the most important banks in the Bay of Fundy. (We are here referring to the German Bank in the bay and not to the part of Seal Island ground, so marked on some charts.) It bears SE. from Bakers Island Light, Mount Desert, from which the northeast part is about 52 miles distant. Its length is about 15 miles, the width 9 or 10 miles. It lies between 43° 38' and 43° 53' north latitude and 64° 58' and 67° 15' west longitude. Depths are from 65 to 100 fathoms with soundings of 47 fathoms on the northern part. The bottom is mostly tough red clay with spots of mud, sand, gravel, and pebbles on some parts. The tides set in and out over this bank to and from the Bay of Fundy, the ebb SW. and the flood NE., but the currents are not so strong as might be expected.
Cod, hake, and cusk are the principal species taken, with pollock and haddock in lesser amounts. It is a fairly good halibut ground also, wherever a bottom of black and white gravel is found, though formerly little regarded as such. The fish (except hake) are most abundant in the spring. This ground is not much fished of late years, but was formerly considered a good place for hake fishermen in summer. Probably it is equally as good now, but the demand for hake has diminished materially in recent years, and this fishery has suffered in consequence. Mostly Maine vessels fish this bank, from Cutler, Moosabec, and Rockland, with a few from Portland and perhaps an occasional visitor from the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, fleet.
Newfound. This ground is 45 miles SE. by S. from Mount Desert Rock and has depths of 90 to 100 fathoms over a gravelly bottom. It is about 12 to 15 miles long. ENE. and WSW., by 7 miles wide, lying in the track of the Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) to Boston steamers. Apparently, this title is given to some rediscovered old ground and with a new generation of fishermen displaces the old name. This is not a haddock ground, but cod, cusk, and hake (large fish) are abundant here in the spring. Perhaps this is an all-the-year fishing ground, but thus far no further information about it has been obtainable. It is about 12 to 15 miles long, ENE aned WSW, by 7 miles wide, lying in the track of the Yarmouth (Nova Scotia) to Boston steamers.
Jones Ground. This is an important cod ground though of small size. The western part bears SE, from Bakers Island Light, distant 32 miles. The ground is 10 to 12 miles long, NE. and SW. and 5 miles wide. Depths range from 50 to 100 fathoms. The bottom, which is quite broken, consists of rocks, gravel, and mud. On the northeast parts, where depths vary from 50 to 70 fathoms, the bottom is rocky and rough. This part bears SE. by E. ½ E. from Bakers Island Light, distant 35 miles. (Green Mountain, of Mount Desert, bears NW.) It is a hake ground in 110 fathoms. The center of the ground furnishes good trawl fishing from May 1 to September. The principal catch is large cod, but a smaller amount of hake, cusk, and pollock are taken also.
Bank Comfort. This is a comparatively little known fishing ground lying SE. by S. from Mount Desert Rock. distant 12 or 13 miles. It is said to be 5 miles long, SW. and NE., by 3 miles wide. Here are depths of from 75 to 80 fathoms over a hard gravelly bottom, the shoalest water being some 65 fathoms. This is an excellent ground but little fished because its small size makes it somewhat difficult to find. It is a very good cod ground in spring and summer, hand-liners catching large cod here from May to August. Hake and cusk are present here in summer also. It is scarcely fished at any other than the seasons mentioned.
Clay Bank. This bank lies SW. by W. from Mount Desert Rock, the center distant 7 miles. It is 4 miles long, WSW. and ENE., by 2 miles wide. Depths are from 50 to 80 fathoms over a bottom of hard clay. Cod are the principal catch in spring, hake in summer. There is virtually no winter fishing.
Newfound. This ground lies off of the northeast edge of Jeffreys Bank and is often considered a part of it, but there seems to lie deep water between. This is one of three grounds of the name in these waters. The present piece of bottom lies 20 miles SE. by S. from Matinicus block and S. ½ E. from Seal Island (in Penobscot Bay) and has a broken and irregular bottom with depths from 60 to 100 fathoms over blue mud and shells and considerable areas of gravelly ground. It is about 7 miles long, E. by N. and W. by S., and about 4 miles wide.
Fishing here in the summer months is mostly by hand-lining because of the presence of schools of dogfish in these waters at that season. In the spring it is a good ground for cod, and in the fall months cod, hake, and cusk are taken, all by trawling. Perhaps March is the best month for cod fishing here, the cusk being most numerous at the same season, when they are especially abundant in depths of 80 fathoms or more and are then taken by trawling. In spring and early summer halibut are often found in depths of 35 to 60 fathoms on the gravelly parts of the ground.
A small rocky eminence just off the northern edge of the ground rises sharply from the 94-fathom depths surrounding it to reach 48 fathoms. On this are taken market cod (2½ to 10 pounds weight) during the spring months and very large cod (fish reaching 50, 60, and 70 pounds or more) during June, July, and August. Its small area makes this spot somewhat difficult to find.
Jeffreys Bank. This ground lies east of Cashes Bank and, despite its considerable size, is of comparatively little importance as a fishing ground. It is about 20 miles long. SW. and NE., and 10 miles wide. The northern and southern limits are 43° 30' and 43° 15' north latitude. The eastern edge is In 68° 25', the western in 68° 45'. west longitude. The bottom is somewhat broken--mud, sand, gravel, and pebbles, with a great number of small rocky ridges, upon which good fishing is generally to be had, although these spots are quite difficult to find and accommodate but little trawl gear. There is virtually no fishing upon much of the interior parts of the bank between these spots, where the bottom is mostly of mud. Depths over the bank vary from 35 to 70 fathoms. The Outer Fall and the Inner Fall. generally called Monhegan Fall, are the only parts of Jeffreys Bank thought to be of much importance as fishing grounds. Both these formerly furnished excellent fishing but are not now as much resorted to, although vessels from Portland and Rockland often fish here and bring in fair catches.
Cod, haddock, and cusk are time most important species in the fares from this ground, with a lesser amount of pollock and a few halibut, these latter usually being taken on the small ridges above mentioned In the main, this bank is a winter ground; good also in the spring and early summer before the dogfish strike it. It is fished mostly by the smaller vessels--trawlers of from 15 to 70 tons.
The Inner Fall lies SE. ½ S. from Monhegan Island, 21 ½ miles, west of Newfound 6 miles, and S. by W ½ W. from Matinicus Rock 17 miles. The Outer Fall lies S. ½ E. from Matinicus Rock 21 miles. These both have hard sharp bottoms, which are good cod and cusk grounds in the spring. The gravelly bottom, both on the Inner Fall and on the Outer Fall, often holds halibut in the spring and early summer (May 1 to July 15) in depths of from 35 to 60 fathoms. The fishing ground of the Inner Fall is somewhat difficult to find, the best portions lying in a narrow strip about 6 miles long by something less than 1 mile wide along the northwestern edge of the bank.
Soundings ranging from 35 to 55 fathoms over the main body of the bank drop suddenly to 85 and even 94 on the edges. The average depth is about 45 fathoms over a rocky bottom, with good cod fishing in summer and cusk on the hard bottom of the deeper water. Haddock usually are abundant on this bank in winter. Along the northern edge of Jeffreys Bank, between the Inner Fall and the Outer Fall, in an average depth of 40 fathoms, cod and halibut are taken in spring and summer. The extreme southern part of the bank is also a fairly good cod ground, while halibut occur in fair numbers in summer. Depths here are from 38 to 45 fathoms over rocks and gravel.
A small circular piece of ground rises about 2 miles W. of the bank, lying between it and Toothaker Ridge. This is about 2 miles across and has depths averaging 50 fathoms over a rocky bottom. This spot is a good summer cod ground.
Toothaker Ridge. This bank is 26 miles S. ½ E. from Monhegan and lies in an ENE. and WSW. direction. There seem to be two ridges here, the larger being about 5 or 6 miles long by about 1½ miles wide. This inner ridge has a shoal of 35 fathoms on the western end, from which it deepens eastward to about 45 fathoms, which is the general depth elsewhere on this piece of ground.
The outer ridge parallels the inner at about 1½ miles distance and there is a deep, narrow gully between. It apparently has about half the area of the other. This smaller ridge has a 45-fathom shoal of rocks on the western end, deepening the water, like the other, to the eastward to 75 and 80 fathoms over a broken rocky bottom and 90 fathoms on hard mud. This is an all-the-year cusk ground. A few cod are present all the year. but this species is most abundant here and on the other ridge in the spring and through June. Hake occur on the muddy ground in summer and fall.
On both shoals are abundant growths of "lemons" and like species of fish food, and they are good "hand-line spots" over their rocky bottoms. Fishing on both is said to be at its best in the spring and in June, the species taken being cod, cusk, pollock, and hake. As before stated, these are year-around cod and cusk ground, pollock and hake being present in summer and fall, the latter species over the muddy ground. These grounds have been thought to lie too rough for trawling. But occasional good fares are taken on them by this method.
Cashes Bank. Our older reports state that Cashes Bank was not then an important fishing ground except for a short time in the spring, although good fares were often taken there in the fall also. The writer has found it furnishing at least its quota in recent years and in apparently Increasing volume. It bears E. 1/4 S. from Cape Ann (Thacher Island Light, from which point most skippers lay their course), from which its shoaler parts are distant 78 miles, and bears SE. 1/4 S. from Portland Lightship 69 miles to the buoy upon it, where is a depth of 17 fathoms; and 74 miles SE. ½ S. from Cape Elizabeth eastern light to the buoy. The bank is about 22 miles long, from 42° 49' to 43° 11' north latitude, and about 17 miles wide, from 68° 40' to 69° 03' west longitude. There are three small shoals upon its western part, of which the southern has a depth of 7 fathoms, the middle one has 4 fathoms, and the northern one has 11 fathoms. The middle shoal lies in 42° 56' north latitude and 68° 52' west longitude.
From this the south shoal bears S. by E. and the north shoal NNE., each being 3 1/4 miles distant from it. The water breaks on these in rough weather and, though of small extent, they are dangerous to passing vessels bound from Cape Sable to Massachusetts ports, across whose course they lie directly. Except for these shoals, the water ranges from 15 to 60 fathoms. The ground is more or less broken, and the bottom is of sand, pebbles, and rocks.
The principal fishing on these grounds is for cod, haddock, hake, and cusk; the cod and cusk are present the year around, the cod being most abundant in February, March. and April in an average depth of 60 fathoms. The hake are found on the muddy edges in summer, with a lesser number present all the year. Haddock are present in considerable numbers from November to February, and sometimes a good school occurs in 20-fathom depths in April. The arrival of the dogfish usually puts a temporary ending to the fishing here in the last days of June or early in July, to be resumed again when these pests have moved inshore.
Formerly halibut were reported as seen rarely, but of late years they have been found among the kelp in 15 to 18 fathoms on the shoal nearly the year around, the fish ranging in size from 5 to 40 pounds, rarely larger. Halibut of larger size are taken occasionally in fairly good numbers in 30 to 50 fathoms in May and June. Perhaps this species is more abundant on this and neighboring grounds than is generally realized. At all events, certain Portland vessels have recently taken good fares of halibut when fishing for them here in the season named.
Cusk are present in the deep water the year around. As is the case with most of the detached ridges in this gulf, the cusk is the most abundant of the fish present about the middle of March, continuing in good numbers through May. In herring years these fish usually occur in good numbers on this ground in late May, and a considerable number of these (food fish or large herring) are taken here by seiners at this season. Mackerel are generally abundant on these grounds In those years when these fish occur In normal quantities on this coast.
Vessels operating on Cashes Bank range in size from 15 to 50 tons, principally from Maine ports, with a fair number of them from Gloucester and Boston, especially in winter. Of late years a few gill-netters have fished here, and these craft are using these grounds in steadily increasing numbers.
A comparatively little known and apparently as yet unnamed ridge lies E. by S. 15 miles from the buoy on Cashes Ledge, which is reported to be good fishing ground, especially for cod and cusk. With both species present here the year around, the cod is said to be most abundant in April and May: and the cusk, as is the rule on these outlying ridges, appears in largest numbers in March and April. Haddock seem to be somewhat rare here.
This ridge lies in a SE. and NW. direction, extending somewhat indefinitely but for at least 10 miles by about 3 miles in width. On the ridge the bottom is broken--a hard bottom of black gravel, which usually means a good fishing spot--the depths here being from 85 to 90 fathoms. There are numerous muddy spots between these harder pieces of ground where soundings run to 100 fathoms or slightly more. The surrounding bottom is mostly of mud, and the depths average from 100 to 125 fathoms. There are a number of pieces of gravelly hard ground in the vicinity, each of which probably would furnish equally good fishing for cod and cusk at the same seasons as on the ridge.
Due E. from the buoy on Ammens Rock about 12 miles lies a ridge that rises from the 100 to 120 fathom depths about it to a depth of about 80 fathoms over a bottom of broken ground, mud, and shells. This shoaler piece is some 3 miles long. N. by E. and S. by NW., by 1 mile wide. It furnishes good fishing for cod, hake, and cusk in the spring, April being the best season.
A ridge lying NW. of Cashes Bank and nearly parallel with the main bank, only separated by a narrow deep channel, is about 7 miles long by 1½ miles wide. The species and the seasons are the same here as on Cashes Bank.
Big Ridge (near Cashes Bank). This is a broken and rocky piece of bottom running from the tip of the southeastern part of the ground, at about 10 miles S. from the buoy on Ammens Rock and about 82 miles SE. ½ S. from the lightship at Portland, to a point about 20 miles S. by E. from the buoy named. Its length is not to be stated definitely, and it is probably greater than here shown. The width averages about 1½ to 2 miles. Depths are from 65 to 80 fathoms and more, increasing gradually as it goes away from the main bank. The species and their seasons of abundance here are as on Cashes Bank. Perhaps this is more of a cod and cusk ground than is the main part of Cashes Bank, the cusk being particularly abundant during March and April. Halibut also are found here in May and June in from 50 to 60 fathoms of water. A considerable amount of the fish shown in the table of the catch from the area included in Cashes Bank may very well have come from this piece of ground.
Another big ridge, paralleling the 100-fathom curve of Georges Bank at about 20 miles N. of it, lies SE by S from the buoy on Cashes Ledge, forty miles to its center; SE by S 110 miles from Portland Lightship; ESE 92 miles from Cape Ann to its western end, and E. by S. ½ S. from the ship at Boston 100 miles. This ridge also is of somewhat indefinite area, being perhaps 20 miles long in an ESE by WNW direction by 1 ½ to three miles wide. Apparently depths are fairly uniform from 85 to 95 fathoms, the bottom of the ridge being of coarse black sand and having blue mud inthe deeper area around it. This is said to be a good cod and cusk ground the year round.
John Dyers Ridge. This lies 14 miles S. by E. from Toothakers Ridge, 40 miles S. by E. from Monhegan Island, and 7 miles NE. from Cashes Bank. It is about 5 miles long by 2 miles wide, lying in an ENE. and WSW. direction. The water is shoalest on the western edge, where are from 45 to 50 fathoms over a sharp, pebbly bottom; thence the ground slopes to the NE. into 75 and 80 fathoms over a hard, gravelly, and muddy bottom, in all other directions falling off sharply to 90 and 100 fathom soundings over a muddy bottom.
This is essentially a cod ground for the entire year, the species being most abundant from May 1 to November. It is a cusk ground all the year on the hard bottom of the deeper parts, March and April showing the largest schools. Hake also are abundant in 70 fathoms and deeper on the mud in summer and fall.
Fifty-five Fathom Bunch. West of Cashes Bank is a rocky ridge extending ENE. and WSW. about 4 miles and having a width of about 1 mile. This is mainly a cod ground, the seasons for the species being as on Cashes Bank.
Fippenies Bank. This consists of two shoals averaging 80 fathoms in depth with a channel of 90 fathoms between them. These run NE. and SW., the eastern shoal about 8 miles long by 1 mile wide, the western about half as large. Fippenies bears E. 1/4 S. from Thacher Island, distant 61 miles; from Portland Lightship, SE. by S. ½ S, 57 miles to the western point of the northern shoal in 35 fathoms. The bank is nearly 10 miles long NE. and SW. and averages 4 ½ miles wide. The bottom is of gravel, pebbles, and clay, having depths over much of the shoal of about 30 fathoms but also from 36 to 60 fathoms. It is fished by the shore fleet in the spring and early summer. The fish and seasons are as on Cashes Bank. Formerly twice as many haddock were taken here as on Cashes or on Platts Bank, but this has changed in recent years. Halibut are taken here in fair numbers in 45 to 55 fathom depths in June, July, and August on the "black gravel" of the southern and western edge. The "white gravel" on the north shoal is of little account as a fishing ground, since it is composed mostly of the shells of dead scallops.
The Ridge (on the southern part of Fippenies). This is SSE. from the light-ship at Portland 75 miles and has a bottom of yellow mud and pebbles and depths of 75 to 95 fathoms. Cod are present here in December and January; cusk the year around, but most numerous in February and March; haddock in December and January; hake in September and October. The length of this bank is from 4 to 5 miles and the width somewhat less than 2 miles. It lies in an ENE. and WSW. direction.
Maurice Lubee's Ground. This lies outside of New Ledge (Platts Bank) 47 miles SSE. from the lightship at Portland. Extending in an ENE. and WSW. direction, its boundaries are somewhat indefinite. It is perhaps 8 miles long by 3 miles wide and has depths from 95 to 110 fathoms over a bottom consisting mostly of mud.
Cusk are plentiful here in the spring, with a few in the fall. Cod are taken all the year around, the Spring school being the largest. Hake are most numerous In the spring and fall months, and haddock are not common but are most numerous in winter.
Apparently the abundance of cod on this ground is due to the great quantity of shrimps and soft-shelled crabs found on the muddy bottom and on the rocks that compose this ground. There seem to be many of these deep-water grounds between and about the shoaler grounds, as near Cashes, Fippenies, and Jeffreys, which apparently serve as fairways over which the schools of hake, cod, and cusk, move from Georges Bank into the Gulf of Maine in the spring of the year.
Harvey Blacks Ridge. This is SE. ½ S. from the lightship off Portland, distant 42 miles, and SE. from New Ledge, distant 8 miles. From Glovers Rock, off Small Point, Me. this ridge lies SE. by S. ½ S. 41 miles. It extends in an ENE. and WSW. direction about 4 miles long by I mile wide. Depths average 70 to 100 fathoms over a bottom of yellow clay and gravel. Cod are taken here all the year. Haddock are found in the deep water in the spring: cusk all the year in deep water, together with hake in summer, also on the muddy bottom in deep water. Pollock and other surface-schooling fish are found here in their proper season.
The Cod Ridge (formerly Outer Harris Ground). This lies NE. from the Northeast Peak of New Ledge, distant 7 miles. It extends in an ENE. and WSW. direction, the ground narrowing and the water deepening to the eastward, the shoal ground having 45 fathoms on a bottom of small pebbles and fine black gravel and sand, depths increasing in all other directions to 100 fathoms on the mud and sloping off somewhat steeply, especially on the southeast side, where the drop is very sharp. The length of the ground is about 5 miles, the width 1 mile.
This is an all-the-year cod ground, the season of greatest abundance being from May 1 to November. The haddock are usually In their greatest numbers here from January 1 to April. Apparently no large number of cusk or hake are taken here on the ridge, perhaps because the water is not deep enough for the former, except for the small fish, which are of little value to the fishermen; and the ground is not muddy enough for the latter species.
Both species, however, are found about the edges in the deep water, the cusk on the sharpest, hardest part of the bottom (perhaps most common in February and March), the hake, as usual, on the muddy parts about it.
Three-Dory Ridge. Outside of New Ledge and about midway between it and Harvey Blacks Ridge is a small ridge about 3 miles long, running NE. and SW., and about ½ mile wide. This lies SE. by S. from the Portland Lightship. 38 miles to the shoal of 55 fathoms, which is near its center. From this the ground slopes away on all sides to 63 and 65 fathom depths over which area the bottom is made up of sand, gravel, mud, and rocks. At these lower depths are found "pipes" (clay cylinders), where the fishing ends abruptly. All about the ridge are depths of 80 to 100 fathoms on a bottom of mud. This is almost entirely a cod ground, good from May to August.
Platt's Bank or New Ledge. This bears E. by N. ½ N. from Thacher Island, from which the shoal portion of the ledge is distant 53 miles. From Portland Lightship it is 30 miles SSE. to the center of the ground. The bank is about 12 miles long, NE. and SW. and about 8 miles wide. The western shoal, which is of small extent and rocky and which has a considerable amount of dead shells upon it, is situated near the center, its depth being 29 fathoms. From this shoal to the Southwest Peak is about 11 miles SW. by S. Another shoal lies E. 3 miles, having about 30 fathoms over sand and gravel, which is a good fall ground for haddock. East-northeast from the western shoal 3 miles brings us to a rocky ridge, with spots of hard mud and pebbles between, in 65-fathom depth, which is a fine winter cusk ground, these fish remaining here until April.
Over much of the bank the depths range from 30 to 35 fathoms with a bottom of rocks and gravel. From the edge of the shoaler area the bottom slopes gradually to 50 or 60 fathoms, beyond which it drops suddenly to 80 or 90 fathoms over a muddy bottom.
This was considered one of the very best fishing grounds for cod and haddock in the Gulf of Maine, but the haddock catch here has fallen off recently. Hake also are very abundant during the summer months and often during October on the muddy bottom near the edge. Inside 100 fathoms, on a "punkin" bottom of rocks and gravel, near the mud, haddock are found from December to March. Cod, pollock, and cusk occur from May to October, the former on the rocky and gravelly portions, the latter on the deep soundings, with the Northeast Peak the best summer ground. This is also an especially good fall and winter ground for haddock. Halibut are often found in 35 fathoms (small fish) from September through November; also In spring and early summer. This ground is fished by vessels from Cape Cod, Mass., to Cutler, Me., mainly by trawling, some hand-lining, but no gill netting of importance as yet.
Jeffreys Ledge. Jeffreys Ledge may be considered one of the best fishing grounds in the Gulf of Maine, although of comparatively small size. It appears to be an extension of the shoal ground that makes off in an easterly direction from Cape Ann, it is about 20 miles long in a NE. and SW. direction and about 4 miles wide. Its southern limits is 42° 54' and its northern limit 43° north latitude; its eastern and western boundaries may be placed at 69° 58' and 70° 18' west longitude. The bottom is rocky on the shoaler parts, with gravel and pebbles on the edges. Depths on the bank are from 27 to 35 fathoms, falling off to 40 or 50 on the edges. The shoalest water lies from 4 to 5 miles N. by E. from the buoy, where there is 22 fathoms. Ordinarily there is little or no tide, with an occasional current SW. There are, however, strong westerly currents with the heavy easterly winds, and often after a period of mild weather with no strong tides there will suddenly develop a heavy SW. flow, indicating the approach of a strong northwester. This seems a general rule in the Gulf of Maine and is, perhaps, prevalent over much of our North Atlantic coast.
Jeffreys Ledge bears S. ½ W. from the lightship off Portland, 19 miles to the northern edge and 22 miles S. from the buoy on the Hue and Cry to the edge of the shoal. A small cove makes for a short distance into the western side of Jeffreys Ledge at about 20 miles from Boon Island in a SE. by S. ½ S. direction. The bottom in the cove is broken and muddy, with depths of about 60 fathoms. Thence, the ground slopes away to the mouth, where the edges about the entrance are rocky and have 70 and 75 fathom depths. These rocky areas are cusk grounds in January, February, and March, during which months the cove itself usually furnishes good haddock fishing. Outside these depths the water deepens westward over a muddy bottom, where are from 80 to 90 and even 100 fathoms of water. Fishing here is mainly by trawl and gill nets. Lying about SE. by S. ½ 5. from the Isle of Shoals 20 miles, 13 miles S. by W. from the whistling buoy on Jeffreys, and 43 miles S. by W. from Cape Elizabeth is a broken piece of bottom having from 75 to 85 fathoms of water over it, which is a haddock ground from January to April and a cusk and hake ground all the year. A small shoal in the western part of the Cove of Jeffreys, having 50 fathoms over a bottom of blue clay and rocks and rising from the 60 and 70 fathom soundings about it, is about 1 ½ miles long by about 3/4 mile wide. This shoal is SSE. from Boon Island 15 miles. It is a winter ground for cod and haddock.
Clay Ridge. At various points about the edges of Jeffreys Ledge are small detached ridges, which in their season are good fishing grounds. The present piece of ground lies 26 miles S. by W. from the lightship at Portland, which course and distance bring us to the northern edge. There is a 50-fathom shoal of small size upon it, but elsewhere soundings average from 65 to 70 fathoms over a bottom of hard clay. The length of the ground is about 4 miles NNE. and SSW., and the breadth about 1 mile. This furnishes good haddocking in January, February. and March. the latter month showing the best fishing.
Jerry Yorks Ridge. This lies just inside and paralleling Jeffreys Ledge WNW. from its shoal water and about 5 miles distant from the ledge and about 18 miles SE. by S. ½ S. from Cape Porpoise. This ground has from 45 to 48 fathoms of water on a rocky broken bottom. It is about 5 miles long, NNE. and SSW., and averages 1 ½ miles wide. This is a good cod and haddock ground In the fall and up to January, these fish returning here in the spring months.
Howard Nunans Ridge. Of similar nature to the last, this rises 4 miles inside of and parallel to it, lying 14 miles from Cape Porpoise on the same bearings (SE. by S. ½ S.). This appears to be made up of two shoals, the northern rising to 50 fathoms of water over a rocky, broken bottom about 3 miles long by 1 mile wide, deepening southwesterly to a narrow, muddy gully, where are 80 fathoms, and rising again to 60 fathoms over rocks and broken ground. The whole ground is about 8 miles long with average widths of from 1 to 1½ miles. This ground furnishes good cod fishing and haddocking in the fall and early winter and again in the spring months.
Southeast Jeffreys. Off the southeast edge of Jeffreys, about 24 miles SE. from Boon Island, lies a piece of fishing ground having a hard bottom of sand, gravel, and rocks, where depths slope away gradually from the 50-fathom soundings near the main body of the bank to the 90-fathom mark farther out. This area is a good ground for cod and haddock in the winter and spring and a hake ground in March. This fishing spot is about 3 or 4 miles square and is bounded on all but the western side by muddy bottom, which is of little value as a fishing ground. Usually there is good haddocking in March on the outside of Jeffreys, on its southeastern edge and in the cove between it and Tillies in 60 and 70 fathom depths on a broken and muddy bottom. This pot lies SE ½ from the Isle of Shoals, 27 miles to the center.
Eastern Shoal Water of Cape Ann. This is generally considered a part of Jeffreys and is often spoken of as West Jeffreys by the fishermen. It extends In an ENE. direction from Cape Ann for a distance of from 15 to 18 miles. It is, in fact, a southwest continuation of Jeffreys Ledge, the two forming a nearly continuous ridge running NE. from Cape Ann a distance of about 42 miles. Depths on the so-called Eastern Shoal Water vary from 20 to 45 fathoms, the bottom being of rocks, pebbles, and coarse gravel over most of its extent. Sand and mud occur on the edges. The eastern part of the ground is resorted to by the haddock fleet during the fall and early winter, and other parts are visited more or less during the entire year for cod, haddock, and pollock by vessels and boats from Cape Ann and by craft of various types from Boston and Portland-line trawlers, gill-netters, and a few of the new type of small otter trawlers, this latter fleet of craft constantly growing in number.
On the ledge cod, haddock, and cusk are taken in the full winter and spring, winter, perhaps, furnishing the best fishing. There are also more or less pollock, and hake constitute an important part of the catch. In those seasons when herring make their appearance in these waters the seiners make good catches here, mostly of food fish, as the large herring are termed by the trade. The mackerel, also, appear on these grounds and on the smaller grounds nearer to shore to northward and westward in good-sized schools, usually from July 1 through September. For many years the haddock catch from this bank has been of considerable importance, and this statement remains true for recent years as well.
Formerly this fishery was almost entirely carried on by trawlers and hand-liners, but the gill-net fishery on these grounds is of great and steadily growing importance. Of late the larger part of the haddock catch has been taken by the "otter-trawl" method, this gear being operated by steamers of considerable size and upon the more distant grounds, such as Georges Bank, the South Channel, and the Western Bank. The same change to fishing grounds farther offshore has to a great extent taken place in the fleet of larger sailing vessels, thus leaving Jeffreys and other inshore banks to the smaller craft; except that, with the high prices of haddock and cod in the winter months, it is often profitable for these larger vessels to run off to near-by banks for one set and return to port the same day.
On the inner parts of this ground, particularly, the gill-net fleet operates extensively, mainly in the full and spring, on northwest Jeffreys 8 to 12 miles E. and SE. from Thacher Island, where the bottom is sand and rocks. Other gill-netting grounds are 8 to 15 miles NE. by E. from Thacher Island in 22 fathoms on a hard bottom of mud and mixed material of sand and gravel. The Cove of Jeffreys, NE. by E. 12 to 15 miles from Thacher Island, is a favorite haddock ground in the spring (April 20 to May 15) in 45 to 70 or even 80 fathoms, although gill nets are not often fished in more than 50 fathoms because of the, weight of the nets in the deeper water. In the spring (in April and May), the haddock come in on Scantum, 10 miles NNE. from Thacher Island between Jeffreys Ledge and the Isle of Shoals, on a broken bottom of rocks and blue clay in 55 to 70 fathoms.
Off Newburyport and N. and SW. of the Isle of Shoals are gill-netting grounds that are much used. Trawling and netting are carried on, beginning in 40 fathoms in February and March and working off to 70 fathoms off Salisbury Bench in May. Cod are on this ground about two weeks in October and in February and March are found in abundance off Boars Head. Hake are present here all the fall and are found all along the southeast side of these grounds in depths of 45 to 60 fathoms. A certain amount of halibut may be taken in most years at various points on a bottom of hard gravel in spring and early summer in 35 to 65 fathoms. In most years a large amount of mackerel is taken on Jeffreys, notably so in 1925. Herring, also, are usually abundant here in "herring years".
The Shoal Ground, stretching easterly from Thacher Island, has depths from 20 to 30 fathoms over a bottom of sand and gravel. This area is about 15 miles long by 5 miles wide and is an important pollock ground in their spawning time as well as a good fall cod-fishing ground. It is about 12 miles E. by N. from Thacher Island to its center and 21 miles SE. by S. from the Isle of Shoals. Flounder draggers also operate here on the shoal ground and all around Thacher Island but mostly to eastward & southeastward.
Tillies Bank.(13) This bears E & S from Eastern Point Light just dropping Thacher Island Light, then 3 miles farther for best fishing: and E. by S. ½ S. from Thacher Island, Cape Ann, from which the shoal on the center of the ground is distant 18 miles. This is a small rocky spot with depths of from 25 to 28 fathoms, outside of which the water deepens to 40 fathoms over a considerable area. The length of the entire ground is about 10 miles in an E. and W. direction and the width about 5 miles. At the edge it falls off rapidly to depths of 50 to 60 fathoms before reaching the mud at still greater depths but an area of shoal water connects this ground with West Jeffreys. The bottom is rocky and rough over the greater part of the bank. Tillies was formerly regarded as one of the best fishing grounds off Cape Ann and is still resorted to for cod and haddock in the spring and fall; for hake in the spring, summer, and fall, and for pollock in the spring and fall. The fishing is mainly by trawling, with the gillnetters operating on the shoal grounds in less than 50 fathoms.
Footnote 13. There has been some speculation as to the origin of the somewhat unusual name of this bank. The writer would note that there was an Edward Tillie in the Company of Captain John Smith when he explored this region in 1614 and a Tilly (perhaps the same person) who operated a fishing station at Cape Ann during the years 1624 and 1625.
Stellwagen Bank also called Middle Bank. This separates Massachusetts Bay from the open water of the Gulf of Maine and extends from near Cape Ann nearly to Cape Cod. The center of this ground bears S by E ½ E from Thacher Island and N by W ½ W from Highland Light, Cape Cod. The Southern Part of the Bank is distant 5 ½ miles from Race Point Cape Cod, and its northwest prong reaches to within 12 or 15 miles of Eastern Point Cape Cod. The shoaler portion, with depths from 9 ½ to 19 fathoms, is 17 ½ miles long in a N by W and S by E direction and has a width of 4 miles. This part is sandy but the eastern slope, in depths of from 25 to 55 fathoms, consists of coarse sand gravel and pebbles. On this gravelly slope cod and haddock have been taken plentifully over a long term of years, the cod in the fall and spring and the haddock in the winter months. On the southern end of the bank and between this and Race point cod about in fall and winter. The whole bank is also a mackerel ground when the fish are in these waters, the best in the season averaging to befrom July 15 through September.
This bank is now mainly an Italian boat ground and is used by small craft from Boston and Gloucester. Gill-netting here is especially extensive in November and December, mostly for pollock. Netters operate about 22 miles SSE. from Eastern Point in 22 to 25 fathoms on a hard bottom. Good pollock catches are made in 25 to 40 fathoms on the eastern and southeastern slopes in the latter part of November and early December. Haddock are here from November 1 to March 1 and from April 20 to May 15. Cod are present all the year, the largest school occurring during August, September and October. It is a cusk ground from November to March in the deeper water. What seems a somewhat unusual occurrence in these later years was the appearance of a considerable school of halibut on the northern slope of Stellwagen during the last half of April 1926, several small craft getting from 2,000 to 3,000 pounds in their fares.
Wild Cat Ridge. Very heavy tides sweep over this ground, making it difficult to haul gear in fishing upon it, whence, it is said, comes the name. It lies NNE from Highland Light, Cape Cod, 18 miles to its southern edge; SE ½ S from Thacher Island 31 miles; and is about 7 ½ miles long in a north and south direction by about 3 ½ miles wide. The bottom is hard, of broken shells and sand, and depths are from 45 to 60 fathoms. There are 100 fathom depths inside of the ground and from 100 to 110 fathoms outside of it. Apparently, this is an all the year ground for cod, cusk, and haddock, although but little fished at any time other than the winter seasons.