MILBRIDGE – For those that pass through Milbridge you have had to see the signs for Chipman’s Wharf. If you love seafood and have not yet stopped, you should. We all want fresh seafood, whether we eat in or take out, and they have a great selection on hand. This all started as a piece of property they could put a wharf on for easy access to the shore for lobstering. This has continued to grow over the years to be a great compliment to their fishing.
Jason Chipman explained, “We brought the property, my brother (Chris) and I, in 2002. We built the wharf first because we wanted to have our own piece of waterfront and do our own thing, in 2003. In 2007, we built a building, which is now the kitchen, for a small tank. We wanted our own tank, it only held 60 crates. We worked with that for a while and I said, “For the hell of it, let’s see if we can sell any lobsters retail.” We put a retail sign up and people kept coming and that is kind of what happened.”
A Mrs. Tibbetts sold fish and clams on the Pigeon Hill Road in Steuben, but did not sell lobsters. When she retired some of her customers came looking for another outlet for their seafood. “All the people that was coming to get lobsters wanted fish,’ said Jason. “Can I get clams? So, it kind of multiplied. In 2020 we started construction on the next building. We were into it a ways, probably about a month, when Covid came. So, what do we do? We kept going. We got the building up that summer, got it running, I think in September of ’20. That following winter and spring we took out the tank and put in a kitchen, walk-in cooler, walk-in freezer, bathrooms and we connected the two buildings with what is now the retail shop. We also did an upstairs, where we can seat about 25 people. We finished that the following year, the spring of ’22. Then this year we are doing the deck. That is almost done, that is pretty much ready to go.”
They also put in a new tank, which holds 225 crates. They need that capacity as they have 20 other fishermen selling to them.
Business was steady through the Covid years, with a lot of online shipping. Jason thought that was due to the fact people were trapped in their homes. He added, “It is funny, last year when Covid kind of got over, we saw more foot traffic and the shipping dropped off. That drop off is partly because fuel prices got so high and shipping is so expensive and a lot of people won’t pay for the shipping. We are definitely steady. The year before (2021) we had the kitchen done, but it was late, it was like August by the time we got licenses and stuff we didn’t do much food but then last year we pretty much had it online the whole year. We did the lobster rolls and dinners from May until October and that was steady.”
Jason’s wife, Amity, and his sister-in-law Monica run the restaurant and store. They are now just waiting for some sunshine as that will bring many out to eat on the deck overlooking the entrance to Milbridge’s harbor.
Chris and Jason are the sixth generation of lobstermen in their family. Jason said, “My grandfather (Harold) always fished, he just had an old wooden boat he used, it was like a 32-foot wooden boat. He later had a 25′ T. Jason. My father finished it off for him and he used that about the last 10 or 15 years of his life. My father (John) currently has a 39 BHM (CATHERINE E.) that we lengthened out to a 43 about 15 years ago. That is what he is using, still today. He built that in 1985. He is still fishing full-time at 72. He just got all of his traps off last week and he goes scalloping in the winter. He will fish from now until Thanksgiving and take them up and go scalloping for a few months.”
Jason said that he has been fishing since he was 5 or 6. He explained, “I went with my father some and then by the time I was 10 I went with my grandfather a lot. He actually went with me when I had my first boat in 1998. I had a 28-foot T. Jason that my father and I finished out with a diesel. My grandfather sold his T. Jason because that had a gas motor and he went with me the last 5 years he went fishing.”
In 2007 Jason built his first MISS AMITY, an Osmond 40, lengthened to 43, powered with a 500-hp Volvo. Twelve years later he finished off his next MISS AMITY, a Mussel Ridge 46 powered with a 900-hp Scania.
Chris started fishing with his father in the early 1980s. He started in a skiff with an outboard. His senior year he finished off an Osmond 35 with his father.
Both Chris and Jason also scallop and this year they both purchased a MGOM license, which had them in Gloucester all of April scalloping. Jason added, “I also have a state license that I have never really used much, but probably will be next winter. It seems like the last few winters the offshore lobstering in the winter hasn’t been as good.”
So if you are running through Milbridge looking for some seafood and whether you want to eat in or take home and cook, make the turn onto Wyman Road and look for their sign. It is one of those places I try to stop at every time I am Downeast and if you do not believe me look at all the positive comments they have online.