Jul. 22—Editor's note: Today we profile the captains of Stonington's fishing fleet, whose occupation, arguably one of the most dangerous, is steeped in tradition. Some of their families have been fishing for generations, and some of their ancestors' names are listed on the Town Dock memorial of those lost at sea. Some augment their income with other jobs. All of them have a calling, and a love for the open water.
Stonington — When Matt Maderia was 8, he could be found under a bait tent at the Town Dock, stringing together skate for his father's lobster pots.
He wanted to go out on the boat, but his mother wouldn't let him until he was 11. After graduating from Stonington High School, he headed off to college in Florida.
"When I went to Florida, I was working at a marina and I wanted to go fishing," he said.
Click here for more stories in our series about the southeastern Connecticut fishing fleet.
A year later, he was back home lobstering.
"I knew from a very young age what I wanted to be," the now 36-year-old Maderia said last week as he stood on the dock next to his boat, the Lobster Kingz.
Maderia's great-grandfather, grandfather, father and three brothers have all lobstered over the past 60 years. Like many lobstermen, he has another job.
He works full time as a crane operator at Electric Boat and three days a week, he lobsters. That means he's at the dock at 5 a.m. to head out to check about 200 traps southeast of Fishers Island and he's home by noon. He's at EB by 3:30 p.m. and clocks out at 11:30 p.m. That's an 18 1/2 -hour work day.
Asked about the attraction of lobstering, he said, "It's just you and your guys, the salt air, and the tunes are on."
With restrictions on lobstermen that include closing their fishing grounds for three months a year, Maderia said it is difficult to do the job full time and be profitable. He said lobstermen today have to be wholesaler, dealer and retailer to make enough money and pay their crew. He markets his business on Facebook, Instagram and his website and sells to local markets as well as a group of private customers.
"You're not going to make a million dollars a year doing this. You do it because you love it," he said.
Maderia also has a message for southeastern Connecticut residents who plan to buy seafood at large supermarket chains. Instead, he asks them to buy fish and lobster caught by the local fleet and sold in area markets, as doing so generates money for the local economy and helps preserve the fleet.
Accompanying Maderia on his trips the past 11 years has been Joshua Murray, 34, a native of Maine who started lobstering as a kid with his late father. They are among the younger members of the fleet, along with veteran lobsterman Mike Grimshaw's 25-year-old son Roderick and a few others.
Murray met Maderia through Maderia's cousin, who also works on the boat.
"After my dad's passing, this is what saved me. This is what kept me going," he said about lobstering with Maderia, with whom he said he formed an instant bond.
"It's a great vibe we have out there. It's not really work for me. I'm out there with my best friend and his cousin," Murray said. "What better job could I have? There's nothing better than this life."