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A good friend of mine called me on the phone last nite. He said " you know....this is crazy...its warm,theres no wind...why aren't we fishing ?".....I really didn't know what to say? The first thing that came to mind was...because theres no fish to fish for?.......we both laughed.

But it's not really funny.

This will be the 18'th year I have filed a schedule C. I don't know if I am going to make 20....****, I don't know if I am going to make 19.

When I first did this for a living, there wasn't any quotas, no days at sea....no closed areas...at least not here. You were only limited by the weather and your ambition and your skill/luck or lack thereof.
Things were simpler, not necessarily better, but definitely simpler.
I suppose they were better, at least you knew what you would be doing tomorrow...2 weeks...a month down the road...you could make plans.
Now as soon as you start making money after a "season" opens....you are just waiting for that closure notice to arrive, these days for me, via email. You can't make plans....they can't even tell you how much was caught a week ago never mind this week, so you just get up and do your job, catch the fish, go to the market, get more ice, more fuel,
but you don't really think much about tomorrow or the next day, sure you think of "tomorrow" literally, sure, but not metaphorically, you can't....it'll make you crazy.

The crazy is when you do think of the future, realizing how uncertain things really are....knowing the rules can change unfavorably, in the stroke of a pen...in the blink of ane eye...and then what do you do?

I catch fish from a small open boat, 21'. Crazy huh? But....you'd be surprised to know that I've cleared $50,000 many years, until all the quotas and restrictions we are ALL living with these days. I work sometimes 18-24 hours straight....but I don't mind the hours or the
diminishing income so much as I mind not knowing whether or not I'll be able to keep going. Like I said, this is 18 years, 18 of my 41,
most of my adult life....I'm not sure what I'd do if I had to stop,
it's the 1 thing that is the most unimaginable for me and yes I know
it's just a job, but I've got a family, a wife and all that and I am grateful for those things, truly, but It's like not knowing if you are going to live or die sometimes, this uncertainty.

I hear folks talking out in public sometimes about fishing....often that TV show, "deadliest catch is brought up....I get a kick out of what folks think fishing really is...I tell them I fish and they say- "oh man, you must make a lot of money...how BIG a boat do you have?"
When I set them straight about me and a little about whats REALly going on....they usually don't know what to say, or sometimes they are completely incredulous, like" but how can you be a "fisherman" in that little boat?" I try to be nice about it......

I remember once at a fisheries commission meeting in Gloucester MA.,
a meeting at which the state decided to limit guys like me that fish from a small boat with hand gear, to 200# of fluke per day, while the trawlers, (who had petitioned the state for this)were going to remain at the present 300#'s....boy that really killed me...here I am just 1 guy in a skiff, no discards, no bycatch, just go and get my fluke, everyday, but I need to be limited why? Apparently, the trawlers with their big fuel bills and their discards and...felt like there were too many folks like me catching too much of "their fish" and had actually petitioned the state to reduce the hook limit to just 30 pounds a day....unbelievable!!! After the meeting was over, I was outside talking with one of the commissioners and a deputy DMF director Dan McKiernan, when our talk got to the subject of what had just taken place in there...in response to something I said, Dan said something that I will never ever forget or forgive...he said"not veryone wants to fish out of a skiff John"......I looked him in the eye and said, 'not everyone can'......

Good Morning.
 

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NOT EVERYONE CAN-THATS CATCH FISH IN A SMALL BOAT-

Back in the day, long before real time fishing reports, electronics, and high tech vessels, fishermen could go out with a skiff and make a decent living. They could raise a family, buy a home, and have a little in the bank account for the future.

I treasure the time I spend talking to people like Captain Richie Kessinger, or the times I used to talk to Billy Doll, the captain of the fishing boat Jet when we would talk in Roller Roaster during the winter, and both would explain how fishing used to be. It is interesting that these post World War II captains would talk about the amount of fish everywhere you went, and that the most high tech electronics they had on their vessels was a accurate compass and a good time piece.

I remember in my teen age through early adult years fishing up in Buzzards Bay and Cape Cod in a skiff with a good friend who is long gone who showed me how to catch fish by using ranges, and simple rigs, and most of all PAYING ATTENTION. Filling coolers full of fish by rod and reel was something that we took for granted. Blackfish, sea bass and scup were all over the place up in Buzzards Bay, and your competition came down to the weather. That's right, it came down on whether you could withstand going out in strong winds and deal with the waves washing into your skiff, and then you spending most of the day bailing it out with a bailing device made out of a old cut up clorox bottle.

The fishermen who fished for money up in Buzzards were no different then us, except that they spoke Portugese and kept to themselves. No one would think of running anyone down, nor would anyone would even think of taking anyones tackle, bait or fish when it was left by the side of the dock at the end of the day.

As a matter of fact, the one time that I can truly remember the Portugese small boat fleet actually fishing on top of us was when we had a blitz of sea bass and scup on Outer Robinsons, and a fleet of these small boats surrounded us, and literally watched as we were whipping two at a lash, beautiful scup and sea bass into the boat.

I asked Sudsy the great commercial fishermen who brought me up there, how were we out fishing the natives. He said plain and simple, 'we're using fresh skimmers, while their fishing with their cut squid bait'..... He said 'how many times have I told you that nothing beats a fresh skimmer with the belly on for catching fish'...'see how these little things make a big difference'.

Sudsy did know the small lessons that can only be learnt by being out on the ocean, and the hardship of watching others catch fish.....or watch as they could pull your fish away from you by using skimmer, or bunker chum...or catch more and bigger fish then you would by making sure you had the belly of the skimmer clam on your hook.

It's this type of fishing where you could fill up coolers of fish on a small boat, that shows you what type of fishing we used to have here in the northeast. Fishermen could go out with NO electronics, and simple boats, using basic tackle and catch all the fish they wanted. All it took was your endurance in fishing and pulling fish from sun up along with the confined space on your boat, that usually limited the amount of fish you caught during the day.

It was the small boats that fished this way that did little to hurt the resource. Year after year, decade after decade and century after century, hook and line fishermen in small boats who made a living feeding the people in there communities.

Interestinly I spoke to Richie Kessinger who brought up a great point about how the Foreign Fleets and big boats destroyed our resources within the last 100 or so years in the Atlantic.

He said take a look at the Grand Banks, a vast area of ocean where codfish were as thick as fleas, and where fishing fleets from five countries supported their nations by catching codfish out of skiffs. This went on for nearly 500 years on till in the name of efficiency bigger boats starting dragging nets, and fishing around the clock. As more countries used these methods, the vast stocks of the Grand Banks codfish were eventually beaten down to a point, where the Canadian and the government of Iceland had to close the waters off their coasts to protect the fisheries.

Now if you want to read more about this in depth, and I will point out, that I did not look at this website on till after I started writing this article, you can go here and get the full story:

CANADIAN ATLANTIC FISHERIES COLLAPSE

If you want to read about the Cod wars, GO HERE>

"Diminishing Returns"

One line strikes at the heart of the Cod issue and the destruction of the small dory skiff fleet.....it can be used to describe the death of many of our inshore small boat fisheries:

Instead of giving the severely stressed cod and other groundfish populations a respite from fishing pressure, Ottawa began freely issuing liscenses, and subsidies were provided big companies to build bigger ships and processing plants.

I have mentioned here a few times in the past how a known charter Captain from the Cape would tell me stories about catching codfish in Vineyard Sound during the seventies on hook and line. I would say to Lester, that can't be true, but he would say, there were enough codfish around to make a days pay, and that you didn't need to go out and fish wrecks, and use the fancy electronics that we have these days.

This all comes full circle to what John 'loligo' has stated about making a living on a small boat. It could be done, and can still be done, but the Fish-Crats have to realize that instead of putting the small boat fishermen out of business by limiting what they take, they should in fact be putting the screws to the big boats and the large fishing corporations.

The Fish-Crats believe they are helping our fisheries by eliminating the small commercial fishermen. But in fact this failed ideology is what has brought about and eventually led to the onerous regulations we see these days because the Fish-Crats protect the wrong group of fishermen.....and why you may ask....well those are the people that have the money behind them, thus the influence to effect the policy changes which benefit their business.

The vast majority of the members reading this will never have the benefit of fishing on a small boat and catching loads of fish without electronics. No, for many of you, few would ever leave their docks.

But if we started to bring back the small boat fishermen, fish stocks would rebuild, and these commercial fishermen would be able to make a living, a decent living again.

It really is becoming a pipe dream because few Fish-Crats realize this....it's all about the big picture for them, and protecting the most capitalized, abecause this group can insert the most influence on those who make the fishery management regulations.

To me it brings to mind the National Geographic story on the last cod dory fishermen going out to the Grand Banks. A tradition that was passed from father to son over the centuries, where dories were launched off mother ships, and these brave fishermen would row out in the middle of the Atlantic and set their baited set lines, eat a meal of usually dried cod fish, then proceed to pull their catch in. If the fog would approach, they would continue to fish, then find their way back to the mothership by accurately rowing to the sound of the fog horn of their vessel.

It must of been incredible to see the amount of codfish these men would catch, without electronics, and using tarred set lines, with big baited hooks with a herring type of bait.

If you want to read a little on the Portugese dory fishermen, GO HERE>

THE PORTUGUESE WHITE FLEET

Your right John, not everyone can catch fish out of a skiff, nor will they ever have the experience of doing so..................

EC NEWELL MAN><
 

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Super interesting, sad, angering... too many words I could use to describe this read. You guys do it best. Thanks, and I hope '08 brings some welcome surprises, loligo.
 

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Thank you Spudders and Tiderunner 70. For a few of us like myself, all I have is my memories of the great times we had in that skiff. Caught loads of fish all through Mass., from Quincy all the way down through the Cape area.

I remember we used to go to the ice house right next to the highway, get the 300lb blocks if we could not find enough of the broken discarded ice chips that were left by the other fishermen, and then we would fill the coolers. Back in the truck and then down to the ramp, get the equipment together, launch the boat, park the car and trailer, go fishing for a very full day, come in, sort, ice out, clean tackle, get ready for the next day, then go eat. Maybe fish off the commercial dock or talk to some of the commercial lobster of dragger guys till it got dark, then went to bed in the truck. Repeated the whole thing the next day.

It was fun, and like Sudsy said to me, 'once you get a taste of this fishing, going back to fishing in New York waters would be a big let down'.

That area of the Cape has always been my favorite of anywhere I could choose on the coast to fish from. Too bad many of you guys never got a little taste of what I saw and caught during this time fishing out of Woods Hole. It's one of the few things in life I wish I could go back and do again.......................



EC NEWELL MAN><
 

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HOW TRUE

Since moving to Maine I have become a pretty good friend with a commercial guy, here is part of a PM That I sent detailing what my new friend says

I found out last evening that alot of these drops have become hake and cusk drops, alot like the south shore, back 8-10 yrs ago, what used to be a Ritchie Starstreamer kingpin Cod drop turned into mega seabass spots, these spots in the GOM have turned hake and cusk (not to mention the ever present dog)I know it's not as extreme as NY but my dragger buddy ****** said that there was a time that he and his brother would take their uncles 28 BHM to _____________ with 2 auto jiggers and him and his brother jigging, and fill the xactics to the top, then haul their uncles bug pots on the way back in. he said that was a 0600 to 1500-1600 work day, so in 10 hrs they would load up on cod and haul 80 pots steaming in slowly to gil all the fish and band the lobster, he said that has gone the way of the Doe-doe bird it would take alot more that 4 rods to fill the box now, and by the time the box was full there wouldn't be enough time to tend the pots......

I have said this before....Sad.....really sad
 

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try night whitting and ling

Yea, maybe 30 years ago, when you had a 45 foot wooden dragger and could put 100 boxes on the deck fishing in the mudhole during a day trip.

I will write more about this later, but catching those fish doesn't make the returns anymore to even turn the key to start your dragger up. What do you think the return is on these fish?

EC NEWELL MAN<>
 

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fish4me wrote:
Good post EC.

I have more compassion for the small guy trying to queak out a living than the big boys that are wreaking havoc on the resource.


THE OLY PROBLEM IS THAT OUR GOV'T DOES NOT WANT THE SMALL GUY AROUND ANY MORE ..
 
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