AMITY — One doesn’t have to travel to the East Coast any more to get a fresh taste of lobster. For the lobster lover, Brett Fletcher, owner of the Lobstah Shack in Amity, has brought the fresh, succulent, mouthwatering taste of shellfish to Knox County.
As a child, Fletcher would always visit his grandmother in Georgetown, Maine. When he graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in natural resources, he knew he wanted to return to the paradise of his youth and become a fisherman.
“This is actually my first real lobster run with the tanks up and running,” he said, although Fletcher has been in the business for 19 years and has his license in lobster fishing.
It wasn’t an easy venture to get started, and Fletcher faced many obstacles in pursuing his dream.
But when he arrived in Amity at 1 a.m. Friday, after a 17-hour drive from Maine, all of the lobsters were alive and well.
“I was nervous,” said Fletcher. “I got stuck in a traffic jam for three hours just north of Albany, NY., I thought I was going to lose them all.”
Packed in ice packs and fresh seaweed, 300 pounds of lobsters were stored in 10 coolers, then transported over 2,000 miles to reach his business here.
“They don’t mind the ride as along as they are cool and moist,” said Fletcher.
With Fletcher, it is a direct sale, cutting out the middle man. He catches the lobsters himself, and transports them without the extra expense of third-party vendor fees.
“I caught all of these in three days,” he said. “August is our best month for fishing, but I’m not fishing as many as I normally fish. If I had all of my traps in, I normally catch around 400 to 500 pounds of lobster a week, but since I only have 150 traps, and I’m fishing in the best spots, I have around 200 to 300 pounds.”
After Fletcher captures the lobsters, he stores them in a plastic crate — for no more than a week — that floats on top of the water, keeping them fresh until he is ready to move them.
When he reached the home of his mother, Shirley Fletcher, in Knox County, the duties continued as the lobsters had to be purged before they could be placed into two holding tanks. This is a process that allows the lobsters to excrete before entering the clean water.
“We had two big tubs of salt water, which was ice cold, and we had to put them in there, then take the lobsters out after they [urinate] and then put them in the tank,” said Shirley. “And that took two hours.”
“It was a lot of work to get this whole project up and running,” said Brett Fletcher. “The water in the tanks should be anywhere between 45 to 50 degrees so that the lobsters are not too active. And the water is 400 gallons of regular well water [mixed] with artificial sea salt.”
Fletcher explained that the tank water has to go through a nitrification process that builds up a bacteria to eat away the bad toxins. Also involved in the process of keeping the water purified is a filter system in which the water runs through layers of active carbon, coarse shell, dolomite or crushed shell, and a filter pad.
Each tank is stored in a small building that looks like a seaside lobster shack one could find anywhere along the East Coast.
“My wife, [Mary] is from Connecticut and we always get lobster when we are up there. This is a rare opportunity,” said Rick Schlegel, who was the first customer of the day.
Fletcher hopes to have more customers, and has already received many phone calls from people in the community.
“We are going to sell them until we run out,” he said. “But we will be bringing in more as the need arises.”
He is still working out the quirks, just like any new business.
“We sell on a first come, first serve basis and would rather not take orders,” said Fletcher, adding that it’s due to the uncertainty of the business. “But we plan to try to have lobsters in the tanks all the time.”
For more information call Fletcher at (207) 751-9151.