News from the Southwest Harbor & Tremont Chamber of Commerce
Thursday, April 13, 2023
John Dittmar of Acadia Fishing Tours
John Dittmar died peacefully on Feb. 25, 2023, at the age of 72 from a large brain tumor. John was born on Oct. 15, 1950, in New York. He later moved to Delaware and lived there throughout his teen years. In high school, John worked on Getty tankers during the summers. He ran cross-country, and he was a champion swimmer on the swim team.
When he was in high school, the Vietnam War started, and his older friends came back in coffins. The draft was on, and he would most likely be drafted into the Army. Due to his seagoing background on tankers, he decided to enlist in the Navy, and he ended up working on the bridge as part of the quartermaster crew. In the Navy, he learned ship handling, navigation, diving and became a rescue swimmer. During his time in the Navy, the ship would resupply in Japan, and he met the love of his life, Masako.
After the Navy, John brought her back over to the States, married her, and moved to Enfield, Maine, in 1973. From there he started working on tugboats (as captain or chief mate) on the East Coast and Great Lakes. A year later, he had his first son, Bryan, and a second son, Charlie, followed six years later.
In the ’80s, shipping became tough, and he was laid off work. He started raking blueberries, picking apples and doing odd jobs to make money. John dreamed of being self-employed and was tired of the layoffs. So, he decided to buy a small fishing boat and moved to Southwest Harbor in 1987. This was a big risk. He knew nothing about commercial fishing. But he knew a lot about deep sea fishing, and started taking people out on his little charter boat. He started to use his boat year-round, deep sea fishing during the summer, lobster fishing during the spring and fall and scallop diving during the winter. He was good at diving, due to his swimming background and Navy experience, and was known to the locals as “Dittmar of the Deep.” He upgraded boats two more times and ran the Vagabond. There were many hardships over the 35-year period, but he was lucky to have two sons who would give him a hand.
John was passionate about fishing — trout fishing, deep sea fishing, dip net for smelts, bass fishing, fishing for sharks, strippers and bluefish, or ice fishing. He even enjoyed halibut fishing and would often do it more for the pleasure and excitement (vs. making a buck). He took his passion for fishing with rod and real, and he turned it into a thriving business. He also enjoyed swimming at Echo Lake, cross-country skiing, running, working out and biking. Even in his older years he would swim across Echo Lake.
John would help anyone in need and would often take cash out of his pocket and give it away. Sometimes he stuffed cash in mailboxes to widowed fishermen’s wives. He helped support people with cancer, and he thought of himself as a philanthropist, but on a smaller scale.
John is survived by his two sons, Bryan and Charlie, his brother Donald, two sisters, Lorraine and Diane, Bryan’s wife, Martina, and his grandson Jesse. I’m glad John was able to spend time with his grandson Jesse, who made him feel like a child again every time they played. Everyone will miss you very much. Thank you for being in our lives! We will miss you forever!