Fishing poles stripe the ceiling. Shotguns line the walls. When a sleigh bell attached to the front door sounds, Brian Stan heads to the counter.
The owner of Poseidon Firearms (they specialize in fishing tackle, too) is always ready for the perennial question: “How do you fish for mackerel?” Stan asks. He sucks in air before giving a quick lesson.
“It happens every season,” he says. “You get tourists coming, and they see someone catching a little mackerel on the dock.”
Stan positions his arms and grasps an invisible pole and starts reeling in the blue-green fluorescent fish ranging from 6 to 18 inches in size.
“They think by coming in here,” the sportsman says, his voice strained by exertion as he tows in his imaginary catch, “They’re going to become Ernest Hemingway.
Poseidon Firearms caters to hunters and fishermen and women of all skill levels. Stan carries the tackle needed for catching fresh and saltwater species including Atlantic mackerel. He also is happy to instruct greenhorns seeking to try their hand at the popular Maine pastime.
Atlantic mackerel are slender, fast-moving migratory fish that swim in tight schools. They’re seen as far south as Cape Hatteras and as far north as Newfoundland.
In coastal Maine, the prime time to catch mackerel is July and August.
“What I do first is pull out one of these tourist’s maps so I can show them where they can fish,” he relates, grabbing one beside the register.
Sargeant Drive, overlooking Somes Sound in Northeast Harbor, is his favorite spot. That is when he can escape the shop.
“I only can get out four or five times a year,” he says as customers filter in. “Hunting, fishing and shooting are huge here.”
His index finger wanders to Hadley Point in Bar Harbor, Lamoine State Park and other places where fishing is permitted off the docks.
What do you need to gear up? Some folks often have a fishing rod. Otherwise, Stan can fix them up. He weaves through rows of lures and pliers to a display of assorted hooks.
“Typically, what you’ll use is called a mackerel tree,” he gestures towards the string of three teasers. “You put a jig on the end, cast it out and reel it in.”
The school of fish, Stan explains, swims near the surface and are attracted to the shiny metal. No bait is required. It may take several dozen tries before a school passes by.
“But once it does, you’ll catch two, three, four fish at a time on a tree.”
Stan spies a multi-hook fishing rig called sabikis. “These actually work better than a traditional mackerel rig,” he adds.
The best time to fish for mackerel is at high tide. Most people fish from the shore and wait for schools of fish to arrive. Those who have boats trawl until they hit a thick cluster and then start casting.
Once you’ve caught a mess of mackerel — enough for supper —stow the fish in an ice-filled cooler. To clean, cut off the fish heads and cut out the paunches.
“There is a black vein that follows the spine — that’s blood,” Stan says. “You want to clean that out as best you can.”
Stan recommends barbecuing the fish. Just brush the fish with olive oil, season and toss on the grill.
Stan’s gaze drops to a black lab — named Neptune after the Roman god of the sea — sauntering towards him.”
“You stink,” Stan says, patting the dog’s head. “We have a lake by our house. He can’t stay out of the water.”
And when Poseidon Firearms offers a lull in the trade of running a business, neither can Stan.
Mackerel fishing is a sport for anyone interested — not just the Ernest Hemingways.
Under Maine law, recreational fishermen or women are required to register at a cost of $1 per person with the Maine Saltwater Recreational Fishing Registry at www.maine.gov/saltwater, or pay $2 at any town office. Exemptions include people who can show they are registered or hold valid freshwater or saltwater licenses in another state. Youngsters under the age of 16 also are exempted. For more info, contact the Maine Department of Marine Resources at 633-9505.