It wasn’t the prettiest part of town. An old, wooden warehouse, in need of repairs and fresh paint, stretched the length of the wharf. Piles of bright yellow lobster traps and colorful buoys, plastic buckets and trash barrels littered the docks. It smelled fishy. “People often come here expecting a cleaned-up, Disney-like setting, and they’re a little disappointed,” Pat Bagg, our guide, said. “Yes, sometimes it can be gritty and dirty, but it’s real.”
We were walking along Portland’s historic waterfront, on our way to the Harbor Fish Market. “This place is a real treasure,” Bagg said as we entered the market. “You’ll never see such high quality and low prices anywhere else.” Inside a wall of saltwater tanks was filled with live lobsters, and more than 50 feet of counters heaped with fresh-caught fish and seafood. Red snapper, flounder, scallops, shrimp, sardines, crabs, perch, calamari, bluefish, scup, haddock, striped bass, and something labeled cold Atlantic, fresh, whole “weak fish” rested on beds of ice.