Article Source: Landings
By Shelley Wigglesworth
Fourteen-year-old Charlie Spinney of Kennebunk, a freshman at Kennebunk High School, started lobstering out of Kennebunkport this past May. Spinney’s paternal great-great-grandfather and his great-great-uncles were all lobstermen in Kittery Point many years ago and, although the fishing gene skipped a few generations, it has resurfaced yet again in young Charlie.
“My dad’s grandmother’s family, her dad and brothers were all fishermen. They owned lobster businesses and built boats down in Kittery Point. I never got the chance to meet any of them, except for my Nana. She died about four years ago, but she always told stories of the fishermen who would sell her the lobsters that she would market. That always stuck with me. My parents tell me that Nana and the rest of the Witham crew are channeling through me,” he said.
Spinney showed a keen interest in all kinds of fishing even as a toddler. “I’ve always loved fishing,” he said. “I started crabbing at Colony Beach in Kennebunkport when I was four. I always wanted to fish off the jetty there too and couldn’t wait until I was old enough to do it.”
In addition to his deep-rooted interest in fishing, Spinney also showed an entrepreneurial side from a very young age. “I’ve always loved to earn money,” he said matter-of-factly. “First it was lemonade stands, then lawn mowing and snow shoveling, which turned into more ideas and opportunities.” Spinney got interested in sand worms, read up on the creatures and then applied for a license a few years ago. “Now I sell my worms to different stores in the area and charter boats too. After that, I spoke with my parents about fishing for lobsters, which led to me scanning for boats,” he said. Last winter he bought a 16-foot skiff.
“Charlie is the oldest of three and has always been driven and has always wanted to run his own show,” explained Tara Spinney, Charlie’s mother. “His father Byron and I have always tried to support his endeavors and allow him to experience life. Charlie came hard-wired with determination and a work ethic that is amazing.”
To get started in lobstering, Spinney researched the fishery and made some phone calls on his own. “I started calling people to find out what I had to do I found out through the Department of Marine Resources that in order to get my license I needed sponsors and 1000 hours. Th en I called people in the business who were able to help me,” he said. Kennebunkport lobstermen Lauren Brooks and Pete Hutchins helped Spinney learn the ropes, taking him out on their boats and sharing with him some of their knowledge. “They really helped out a lot,” Spinney explained.
While still in 8th grade, Spinney approached Dwight Raymond, owner of Performance Marine, to see if Raymond had any place on the Kennebunk River where he could tie up his skiff . “He and I talked back and forth until we came up with a payment plan. He has been really good to me and is a mentor to me in business,” Spinney said. Mike Perkins, another lobsterman who also does deep sea charter fishing in the summer, helped Spinney figure out how to operate and troubleshoot his boat. “Because we don’t know much about the fishing industry, we allow Charlie to find people who do, and talk with them, learn from them. You should hear him on the telephone. It is amazing to see the young businessman in him. He has no fear of rejection and no fear of being straightforward with people,” said Byron Spinney.
Though the support and encouragement from local fishermen and businesspeople has gone well, it has not been all easy for the young lobsterman. “I started out with 50 traps and at the end of the season I was down to about 30 traps, because I made some errors that all have to do with learning. For instance, some traps I sunk over their heads and others got stuck in the rocks, and becauseI haul by hand, that made it really hard to get them out of the rocks. Hand-hauling was a great experience because I learned that mechanical items are great things to have,” he laughed.
Spinney sold all his lobsters this year to nearby Port Lobster Company. “Next year I’d like to try and distribute them to a few restaurants
too,” he said. By the end of his first summer, Spinney was able to buy a 21-foot center console T-top, using his earnings and help from his parents and the boat’s former owner, Sherman Thompson from Cape Porpoise.
“He and my parents and I sat down together to figure out what I could afford to pay each month and came up with a number that would work for all of us. To help me pay for this I’ll be working on the weekends this winter on the Niewkerk family’s lobster boats. They have been really helpful too, and I have learned so much from them,” Spinney said.
Byron and Tara Spinney said Charlie has taken “every safety class we can think of for boat and marine safety.” Last April, he took a Mariners safety course in Portland and learned how to survive in cold water, repair an engine on the fl y, plug a leak and radio for help. His parents also insist that their son wear his life jacket at all times out on the ocean and they require the same of anyone on his boat with him. While working weekends lobstering during the 2016-2017 school year, the ninth grader has plans to also play high school basketball, and join the Future Business Leaders of America club.
“After high school, depending on how lobstering works out for me, I will either continue fishing or go to a college or a trade school for business or boat building. What I do know for sure is that I will be involved in the Maine fishing industry,” he said.