A floating workroom

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In a foggy, fall drizzle, men clear the day’s debris from a motorized scow used to tend an oyster grant. The scow is tied up at the work shanties Oyster River in West Chatham, October 1976.

Crossing Chatham bar

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At the entrance to Chatham Harbor, Chatham Bar has bedeviled fishermen for generations. The Atlantic tides and storms scour tons of sand down the backside of the Cape, piling up an ever-shifting maze of bars at the harbor entrance. Here, lobsterman Tom Marshall ducks as the 40-foot Judi-Lin pounds her way through a rough chop on Chatham Bar on a spring morning in 1979.

Sea clamming off Wellfleet

Wellfleet sea clamming

The skipper stays warm driving the boat while the young crewman does the heavy lifting as Bivalve drags for sea clams on the flats south of Provincetown off Wellfleet on a grey March day in 1980.

Landing flounder

Harwichport fish landing

Other active ports on Cape Cod included Sandwich and Dennis’s Sesuit Harbor, on the bay side, and Falmouth, Hyannis, and Harwich’s Saquatucket and Wychmere harbors. Here, Cliff Smith mans the line while crewman Tim Welsh swings the basket to a man dockside as the fishing boat Myrna Loy offloads its catch of flounder at Saquatucket Harbor in 1979.

Blue shark on a handline

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While jigging for cod off Nantucket, Chatham fisherman Mike Gilpatric spotted and eight-foot-blue shark circling under the boat. A cod liver on a shark hook, with chain for a leader, hooked the shark, which yielded more than 60 pounds of steaks.

Winter’s grip

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In the hard, deep winter of 1979, fishermen watch as the Coast Guard cutter Towline breaks the ice trapping their boats in Stage Harbor.

Cold comfort

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In the heart of the town, the Little Mill Pond held the most sheltered shellfishing beds in Chatham. A town tradition kept it closed to all shellfishing until the dead of winter, when it could provide a meal, if not a day’s pay, to residents. Here, Billy Gilpatric uses a bullrake to rake through the ice on a January morning, with discouraging results

Tending the traps


Chatham boat owner John Miller steers the 40-foot Judi-Lin from trap to trap, and Tom Marshall hauls each trap, clears it of whatever life it has attracted, baits it and returns it to the bottom. Lobstermen often keep the prime haddock or cod that wander into a pot, but the toothy and aggressive wolffish is too troublesome to have onboard.