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Maine's Historic Harbors: Pine Point, Scarborough

Pine Point, a small harbor where the Scarborough, Nonesuch and Libby Rivers converge in Scarborough, has always been an important local fishing harbor. For centuries fishermen from the area mostly kept to their coastal waters, though some might ship out as crew on larger vessels headed for the Grand Banks. To this day, however, Pine Point is a quiet harbor, surrounded by the ever-increasing pressures of residential and business development. The local Abnaki tribe, known as the Sokoki, called Scarborough Owascoag, “land of much grass” because of the area’s extensive salt marshes. Those salt marshes provided native people with a wide variety of food throughout three seasons of the year. Eventually, however, European fishermen began pursuing cod along the coast. Fish stages were erected annually on shore to dry the abundant harvests before shipping back to England and other European countries. The first permanent settler in the area was John Stratton who, prior to 1631, had established a year-round fish stage and trading post on islands about three miles offshore. The islands and the mainland were then known collectively as Stratton’s Plantation. What made Scarborough distinctive were its salt marshes. In earlier days, salt hay was the primary fodder for cattle. The marshes were a reliable source of both feed and cash money for owners of the land. Unfortunately, the land also was considered valuable for other reasons. To gain dry land for farm and other uses, five separate dike companies were created in the late 1800s. The dikes and related development of roads and railway lines helped destroy large sections of the marshes, reducing salt hay yield dramatically.

Fishermen in the Pine Point area traditionally pursued several different fisheries during the course of a year. The shoreline provided an abundance of clams for digging and the rocky ledges offered good grounds for lobsters. Beginning in the late 1800s, as more tourists came to the area, some fishermen began to offer boat trips to the summer folk, taking them out to catch mackerel, pollock and cod. In the winter fishermen would head back to sea rigged to drag for scallops or shrimp. Bayley’s Lobster Pound was the dealer for most Pine Point and Ferry Beach lobster fishermen. Bayley’s shipped lobsters to the Fulton Fish Market in New York City and provided lobster meat to Old Orchard Beach, Saco and Scarborough restaurants and take-out stands. Other Pine Point lobster dealers were Googin’s Lobster Pound, Fogg’s Lobster Pound, Thurlow’s Shellfish, Pine Point Seafood Distributors and the Pine Point Fishermen’s Co-operative. By 2010 the only remaining Pine Point lobster dealers were Bayley’s Lobster Pound and the Fishermen’s Co-Operative. In 2019 Bayley’s Lobster Pound purchased the Co-op. A new Pine Point Municipal Pier replaced the old pier in 2011. The old pier was built by the town of Scarborough in 1971, when only 15 commercial fishermen worked from Pine Point. Because the old pier couldn’t handle trucks, fishermen had to load their gear onto the floats from the shore at low tide. As the tide rose, the gear could be hauled from the floats to boats. But if the tide didn’t go out low enough or if there was a strong wind, gear couldn’t be loaded at all.

Today more than 50 fishermen use the new pier, whose construction was supported by the Working Waterfront Access Program of the Land for Maine’s Future program. The new pier provides access for dozens of lobster boats and clam skiffs, keeping this generation of Pine Point fishermen connected to the sea as their forefathers were before them.

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