Justin Papkee

Like many Maine fishermen, Justin’s introduction to fishing came at a young age. He did not grow up in a fishing family, but his Maine roots reach back generations. “I was born in Medford, MA, but when I was 10, we moved to Long Island, in Casco Bay, where we had a cottage. My father had wanted to try living on the island ‘for just a year,’ but I’m still on the island, so you know how that went.”

That first year on the island, Justin and his friend, both age 10, went lobstering with his friend’s father, who was a commercial fisherman. “I just loved it,” Justin recalls, “I couldn’t get enough of it.” And so began Justin’s commercial fishing career. “The next summer, my friend and I got 5 traps and set them out and hauled them from a rowboat. We pretended we knew what we were doing. Over the course of the next few summers, we upgraded — a small motor, a slightly bigger boat and so on.”

His buoy color? “Cottage Red” — “because that was the color of our family cottage, and I ‘borrowed’ the paint for my buoys; and blue, because that was the color of my friend’s front porch — he borrowed some paint, too.”

After high school, Justin went on to Fordham University in the Bronx. “It was a great place to go to school, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” His major? Physics. He took the fall of his senior year off from school to go fishing and ended up graduating in 3 and a half years. “I did an internship and realized I really didn’t want to work in a cubical, or even an office, and so back to the water I went.”

I asked Justin what his most favorite thing about being a commercial fisherman was. He paused and then replied, “That’s a hard question — I like it all!”

Scariest moment on the water? “When my sternman went overboard, in March, 15 miles offshore in 50 fathoms of water. He went off with the 4th trap, got tangled up in it. I looked back to see him going off the stern. I got him back aboard quickly, but it was scary.”

Name of boat? Pull ‘n Pray. “It’s a Wayne Beal 40’. I’ve had that name on my last 2 boats. Before that, it was Scottish Heritage, and before that, it was Misfit — that boat was a lobster boat that really shouldn’t have been a lobster boat!”

Downtime activities? “Mostly I go boating, fishing — even though I’m not that good at rod and reel — and I like sailing. In the winter, I do a lot of jigsaw puzzles, though my girlfriend keeps telling me I should take up skiing. I probably should.”

Favorite way to eat lobster? “For a small group, I just like it steamed with butter. If it’s a crowd, I do lobster mac and cheese, but somehow I always end up with a bunch of leftover elbows where the lobster has been picked out!”