Parking Lots & Plotters: 800 Needles in a Haystack

As someone who never can find her car in the grocery store parking lot, I’ve often wondered how, with 800 traps, fishermen keep track of them all. I’ve seen the plotters, a device similar to a GPS which allows you to put marks in, but these just  look like colorful etch-a-sketches to me.  I know fishermen rely on them to locate their traps, but plotters are a relatively new phenomenon, and even with them, it seems like looking for 800 needles in a haystack.

Peter Miller has been fishing for more than 40 years, well before there were plotters, and the day I went hauling with him I was determined to learn not only how plotters worked, but how fishermen found their traps before them. There must have been tricks of the trade, honed over years of practice.  Earlier in the season, when Peter had helped my kids set their traps in Tenants Harbor for the first time, he asked if I knew where they all were. One look at my face and he didn’t need to wait for my answer. “Madeleine’s got four up in the eel grass in the inner harbor; three on the southern side by the Shipyard; three down by your dock; Liam has five up in the inner harbor; four over on the northern side up high; five down by Witham’s, six over by your dock and five on the southern side of Mouse Island.” I had known the general locations, but definitely not how many traps in each spot. “Geez,” I said, “how did you remember all that?” With a wry smile, he replied “It’s what I do, how I make my living.”