Women of the Working Waterfront

Jeanne Fuller of Harbor Bait

Fri, 06/17/2022 - 11:15am

    On the anniversary of the 60th year celebrating Windjammers Days and maritime history, we pay homage to our founder, Captain Marion Dash for her contribution as a female role model in our maritime community. It is her legacy that has inspired the Friends of Windjammer Days to celebrate the women who are working on the waterfront today who in turn inspire young girls and future maritime generations to come.

    Jeanne Fuller knows a lot about bait fish and fishermen appreciate that. As the CEO of Harbor Bait in Boothbay Harbor, Jeanne oversees the operation which supplies local and out-of-town fishermen with bait seven days a week.

    "I didn't know that much about the bait business when we first started, but I have learned a lot and I feel I learn new things every day on the job." she explained. Jeanne and her husband Chuck established the business, with the help of local fisherman Rob Begin, on the east side of the harbor in 2013 and the business keeps on growing. “Robbie was hugely instrumental in getting us started off on the right foot. I also rely on my employees input, as they have been with us for many years.”

    On any given day, fishermen start lining up at 4 a.m. at the Fish Pier to receive their bait. With supply chain issues and recent fishing quota cuts, Jeanne has had to get creative. She's done her research and she listens to her customers. "I've learned where to get the bait, how to transport it, and how to process it. We get some fresh, some frozen. A lot of the frozen bait comes from Norway and Iceland. My job is all about dealing with suppliers, working with our two experienced dock hands, and listening to what fishermen want."

    As Fuller explains, that can take some finessing, "Some lobstermen like to try new kinds of bait, others not so much but they let me know what works and what doesn't." The Fullers also own the F/V Prowler along with their son Sam - a purse seiner which they use to catch herring and carry menhaden (pogies) in season.

    A typical day for Jeanne involves chatting with the employees to see what the fishermen picked up for bait in the wee hours, checking inventory, and at times taking orders over the phone for pickup by boat or truck. Fuller also sits on the Atlantic States Herring Advisory Panel, staying up to date on the challenges to the industry and using her voice to advocate for the fishermen. Atlantic herring are an important species to the business being a key bait fish for lobstermen and fishermen alike.

    In addition to running Harbor Bait, Jeanne operates Fuller Marine Services with her husband Chuck. The couple started Fuller Marine around 1998. Back then, the business consisted mainly of mooring sales and repairs. Today, Fuller Marine provides a wide range of marine construction and transportation services and has a second location where their crew builds floats and runways. The additional location also allows them space for an extra cooler/freezer where they can stock additional bait fish.

    As you might imagine, Jeanne's days are pretty full. What does she do for relaxation? At least one day a week is dedicated to her two granddaughters. "I love my time with them and am fortunate that they live right here in the region." Jeanne says. She also spends a fair amount of her down time with her Missouri Foxtrotter, Grace. "A little over six years ago, I started taking horseback riding lessons. It was a sport I was always interested in and finally I said I'm not getting any younger, so might as well go for it. I mostly trail ride but also enjoy lessons and improving my riding skills."

    Along with Grace, Jeanne now shares ownership of a pony named Puddin. "Puddin is a wonderful little guy and so good with the grandchildren. It brings me such joy to share my passion for horses with them."

    When asked what she likes best about her job Jeanne replied, "I like it in the summertime when it is busy on the dock and plenty of activity with boats coming and going. There are a lot of tourists who have questions and I think it's kind of fun to show them what we do when fish come off the boats. I really do like that.”