For over one hundred and seven years folks have been fishing from the Dog Bar Breakwater at the entrance of Gloucester Harbor. Last Sunday evening I wandered along the 2,250 stone edifice, slowly picking my way out to the navigation light at the western end chatting along the way with the dozens of people fishing from the stones.
It soon became apparent that there exists here a whole community of folks who have been coming here for years. Like the Pinto family from Lowell.
"I started fishing on the breakwater in 1979," said Abel Pinto. "I used to drive down here from Lowell in my 1973 Chevy Impala. When I got married, my wife and i used to bring our kids down here every Sunday. I worked two jobs and raced pigeons. The only day we had free was Sunday, so we would bring a picnic, the kids would play at the tiny beach at the lighthouse, and I would catch a few fish."
Now, 33 years later we still drive down here occasionally as a family to get away and enjoy the peace and quiet. Look," he said, pointing down the breakwater. "There is my wife, my daughter, my son and my nephew. They are all in their thirties and we are still coming."
As we were talking, his son pulled in a small pollock from the ocean side of the barrier. He dropped it in the bucket with several others, baited up with a piece of clam and chucked the line back into the ocean.
Just down the capstones from the Pintos, Omar Rico from Revere and Christy Scalon from Brazil had lines in the water.
"How's the fishing?" I asked.
"Not that good," came the reply from Christy. "But the Market Basket sandwich is great!"
"We have been coming here almost every Sunday during the summer for about five years. We usually catch flounder, pollock and some stripers but the fishing has been slow this spring," said Omar. "It is just so peaceful. I don't care if we catch anything or not. We just drive up from Revere in the afternoon and fish late into the evening. The sunsets here are spectacular."
Juan Gonzales and Jose cruz have been driving to Gloucester from Lowell for the last ten years. They already had a few small pollock in their white bucket.
"Forty-three inches," was the reply when asked what was the longest fish they had ever caught. "The striper fought like crazy and it took us forever to get him to the rocks."
Sok Hong had driven up from Boston. He started fishing here as a child with his father twenty seven years ago. Unlike the other bottom fishermen, he had a small Rapala behind a Sabiki-looking rig. It flashed and moved as he worked it through the water.
"The biggest striper I ever took here was 31 Inches long," said Sok. "So far this year I have caught a few flounder an some pollock. The stripers just don't seem to be hanging around the breakwater yet."
I kept walking toward the end of the breakwater. The laughing voices of members of the Eastern Point Yacht Club drifted across the water. One woman had a high-pitched voice that I am sure folks in Magnolia could hear. At the end of the stones a middle-aged couple were just setting and enjoying the scenery.
"We drive up from Peabody occasionally and enjoy a meal at one of the local restaurants. We then walk out here and enjoy the sunset," the man commented. "We love Gloucester, but it is hard to find a job out here."
Just as the sun set over Hammond Castle I walked back toward the lighthouse, picking my way over the twelve-ton, ten-foot long blocks that form the capstones to this breakwater. It took eleven years from 1894-1905 for the Army Corps of Engineers to cover a dangerous reef called the Dog Bar with these granite stones carved out of the quarries in Rockport by the Cheves company. Twenty-nine vessels were either wrecked or damaged on the shoals and foundation during the course of its construction. It cost $398,000 at the time for the whole project.
I hopped over the stones at the entrance and proceeded to the East side of the lighthouse. There I found a sign posted by the Audubon Society.
"Please access Mass Audubon's Sanctuary Property along this path," it read.
Easing myself in and out around the massive boulders that line the shore, I worked my way out toward the ledge that defines the point. It was empty of people but crowded with groups of gulls and cormorants that reluctantly parted at my arrival.
I sat there a while, regretting that I had not brought along my fishing rod. How many stripers were lurking just underneath the surface of the pounding surf?
Off in the distance the lonely groaner offered up its periodic moan and the lights of the distant Boston skyline started to twinkle in the descending darkness. The light house, where just a few moments before it had been bathed in sunlight, soon stood as a white sentinel against a gray and then black sky. First built in 1831, it has been rebuilt twice. In 1897 they installed the only two-ton steam operated fog horn in the world. The light was put in in 1932, but it was automated in 1986.
So many people from so many different backgrounds come to this lovely point to enjoy this wonderful slice of the North Shore. Let's hope the haves do not shut out the have nots from where the restless ocean meets the unforgiving shore.