Sights Unseen: Down-East Sportscraft in Lewiston

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Fritz Peterson would be proud.

His son, grandson and great-grandson have kept the family business he opened in 1923 running strong. 

Peterson manufactured metal fishing rod holders on Russell Street in Lewiston up until his death at 100. 

He came to work right up until he passed, said Peterson’s grandson Steve Peterson. “He worked more than I would.”

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Fritz Peterson worked on cars, built parts for submarines during World War II and started building rod holders in 1946. 

The recipe has not changed since. 

The first white-metal die-casting machine in the state of Maine is still used today at Down-East Sportscraft Inc. 

The machine melts white metal ingots at 800 degrees and turns out two models of rod holders: the “Down-Easter” for the little fisherman and “The Salty” for the big fisherman.

The Salty is popular with muskellunge fisherman in the Great Lakes area, said Steve, who is the company vice president. Musky are known to exceed five feet in length and require heavy-duty equipment to haul in.

Both models are sold by fishing retailers L.L. Bean, Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. Steve has at times made hand deliveries to L.L. Bean in Freeport. 

“Not a lot of people know we are here,” said Steve, who works alongside his father, Fred, and 18-year-old son George, when the youngest Peterson is home from college. 

A 1989 graduate of Lewiston High School, Steve majored in mechanical engineering at the University of Maine at Orono so that he could keep the family business going. 

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