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Tillman, Murray Clayton,
Bud Tillman oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Lee Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (59 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (33 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted March 10, 2010.
Oral history interview with recreational fisherman Murray "Bud" Tillman, Jr. Tillman, a native of Fort Pierce, Florida, began fishing as a child with his grandmother, who took him to bridges on weekends. After completing his military service, Tillman returned to Fort Pierce and bought his own boat. In addition to fishing locally, he also regularly goes to the Bahamas. Before it was closed, Oculina Bank was one of Tillman's favorite fishing spots due to the size and diversity of its fish population. The increased regulations to and eventual closure of the Oculina Bank have affected his fishing. He has found other places to fish, but would still go to Oculina Bank if it were allowed. Tillman supports regulating the fishery but prefers catch limits or seasonal closures instead of shutting down an entire area, which has a negative effect on the local economy. He is very concerned about the potential environmental impact from urban or agricultural water runoff. In this interview, Tillman also describes some of his fishing techniques.
Tillman, Murray Clayton,
Fort Pierce (Fla.)
Saint Lucie County (Fla.)
Howard, Terry Lee,
Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Oculina Bank oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Terry Lee Howard: Good morning. Â My names Terry Howard and Im meetingtoday is March Â Â Â Â 10, 2010. Â Im at the St. Lucie Outboard Marine Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, and today, were with recreational, longtime fisherman Bud Tillman. Â And with that, Bud, could you tell me your full name? Â Before we get to that, first off, this is for the Gulf and South Atlantic Foundations project with Fort Pierce fisherman on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern] study. Â Please state your name and spell your name and your place of birth.
Murray Tillman: It is Murray Clayton Tillman, Jr. Â M-u-r-r-a-y C-l-a-y-t-o-n T-i-l-l-m-a-n, Junior, J-r. Â I was born in Fort Pierce, Florida, 1949.
TH: What year? Â I mean, what day?
MT: October 14.
MT: Right before a hurricane.
TH: That forty-nine  hurricane that took out bout everything around here. (laughs)
MT: Pretty close to it, from what I was told. Â (laughs)
TH: From what Ive seenI have some pictures in my book fromthis was right up here at Steve Lowes fish house.
Steve Lowe was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O06-00014.
MT: Oh, really?
TH: (inaudible) if you remember the book. Â Anyway, yeah, Ill show you that when wereokay, you were born here, so you were born in Fort Pierce. Â Are you married?
MT: Yes, Im married. Â Yep.
TH: How long have you been married?
MT: Thirty years.
TH: Okay, and you have children?
MT: Have one daughter.
TH: One daughter. Â How old is she?
MT: Twenty-three years old.
MT: Loves to fish, too.
TH: Does she?
TH: She go to school here or is she out of school?
MT: Shes out of school. Â She works here.
TH: Is she a teacher?
MT: No, shes a teachers aide for a lot of her friends that are teachers, though, but she works here with Vicky [his wife] and I.
TH: Okay, at here, then.
MT: Yeah, here in
TH: St. Lucie, Outboard
MT: Outboard. Â (laughs)
TH: Excuse me.
MT: Thats all right.
TH: How much schooling have you had?
MT: Twelve years of high school. Â Twelve years, all the way through high school. Â I had a year of junior college and got drafted in sixty-nine . Â It was in the Air Force and were in school every year for four years, and when I got out of the Air Force, I went to aircraft school for two years to get my MP license.
MT: A&P. Â Airframe and power plant.
TH: Okay, airframe and power plant. Â Okay, and what other jobs did you have before taking over this business?
MT: Starting when? Â (laughs)
TH: Well, a bio, biography; or a history of your job.
MT: At about seven or eight or ten years old, I started with my grandmother. Â She owned a tourist court here in Fort Pierce. Â They called them tourist courts. Â It was [called] Siesta Hotel, and I would help her with everything it took to keep the place going when I got out of school. Â That was: painting, wallpapering walls, putting in sinks, cutting grass. Â You know, whatever had to be done, I did with her.
TH: Was it trailers or little cabins?
MT: No, they were little cabins, little cottages, little efficiency cottages. Â They were right up on North US 1. Â Theyre right off in between US 1 and Ridgehaven Road by Euclid Street. Â Its athe county bought the whole area now.
TH: The airport.
MT: Thatsyeah, for the airport that hasnt done anything in that area, but it was a buffer for the airport.
TH: Have you worked in the fishing industrycommercial, chartereven as a kid, child?
MT: No, no. Â Nope.
TH: Do you currently own a boat? (laughs)
MT: Yes, I do. Â Its been sitting for a while, but I do.
TH: Oh, you do? Â You own a boat? Â What kind and length?
MT: Its a boat that I made from an old Seabird. Â Its a twenty-eight foot Seabird that had inboards, and I spent two and a half yearsI gutted the whole boat and made a great, big outboard center console out of it to fish here and in the islands with. Â Its in the building; you got to see it.
TH: Ill get a picture of it before I leave.
MT: Its a greatif it could talk, man, its caught some fish. Â What a great boat.
TH: All right. Â The Oculina Bank, are you familiar? Â How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
MT: Ive fished there a whole bunch, and now I troll there a whole bunch; but I did bottom fish it for years along with everybody else. Â Now its down to trolling. Â Its great wahoo fishing in that area.
TH: Did you anchor there?
MT: No, I always drifted. Â I never anchored in it at all. Â It was fishing days when there was no current more than anything, is what Ive always done there, but Ive never anchored in the deep water out there. Â You get around to Indiana Rocks, which is in shore mostly; but no, I never did anchor in it.
TH: Indiana Rocks are located?
MT: Indiana Rocks is up around 350 to 400 line, and the rock itself, or what I call it, is 165 feet.
TH: Now, thats the top number, 350 to 400
MT: Yeah, 350
TH: But its out to 165 feet of water?
MT: Yeah, its inside the forbidden zone and theres a whole bunch of different rocks in that area, ledges that are anywhere from, you know, 120 feet. Â Actually, 100 feet on out to the Oculina theres all kinds of good ledges. Â They run east and west and north and south in that area.
TH: Do you knowhappen to know why its called Indiana Rock?
MT: No, I dont. (laughs) Cause its on the chart. (laughs) I have no idea. Â Its been my favorite spot to troll forever just because of the wahoo I catch in that area.
TH: Theres three or four brothers, all from Indiana, bottom fished out there. Â This is in the book, in my book and Steve Lowe told me about this and its Billy BairdBairds.
Billy Baird was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00021.
MT: The local Bairds as well? Â Yeah, I know Ronnie.
TH: WhoseRonnies dead now, but theyre the ones who were fishing out there, and I guess Steve found em on it one day. Â I guess they caught a ton of red snapper and named it the Indiana Rock because these guysthey were kids, they were all boys back then, and they were all from Indiana. Â So, thats kind of how it got its name, as far as what Ive heard.
MT: (laughs) Damn. Â Thats a great area.
TH: Why, in your opinion, was the Oculina Bank designated as an area to protect?
MT: To save the coral. Â Thats what I understand; to save the Oculina coral.
TH: What do you know about the Oculina coral?
MT: Everything that weve read. Â Its good for the fish habitat, its something that is environmentally being killed from the shrimp boats, I guess, were the biggest problem with it; trawling through the area and tearing it up was probably, I think, of what Ive read, was the biggest issue, was from the trawling shrimp boats after the rock shrimp or pinks, whatever they do in that area. Â Harbor Branch got in on it, dove it, and found out with their little thing, and found out what was down there, and it went downhill from there.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University conducted scientific research referenced in the Oculina Bank closure. Â It is a non-profit oceanographic institution dedicated to marine and ocean research and education operated by Florida Atlantic University.
TH: What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing? Â Whats your opinion on that? Â Well come back to this later, but
MT: To anchoring? Â If they really think we need to save that stuff, then anchoring could be an issue. Â To bottom fishing it, to drift it, I dont believe were gonna destroy a whole bunch of it dropping lead down on it here and there. Â If youre gonna fish here, then youre gonna fish over the coral cause thats where youre gonna mark all of the fish. Â I guess I got a line. Â This may be hateful, or some people think that. Â I dont hate manatees; I dont dislike em. Â But when somebody starts wailin about em, I ask em have they ever seen a dinosaur, and they go, No. Â And I ask em, Well, what did you miss in life then? Â The coral is probably a good habitat for the fish. Â Theres a lot of it out there. Â I can see keeping big trawlers off of it, but for me to go in there and try to bottom fish and not anchor. I dont think thats a big issue, myself.
TH: Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing as recreational? Â Youre a very avid recreational fisherman.
MT: I just moved out of the zone and found other places; but anytime you troll through there, it just is killer cause I got a really good bottom machine. Â Youre trolling around in there and, man, its nearits ate up with fish. Â I mean, theres some fish that live in that area. Â So, it put my catch down because its a little harder to hit the smaller rocks than it is those great, big hills out there.
TH: The closure, then, has affected your fishing?
TH: Because that was one of your main
MT: It was one of my favorite spots to fish.
TH: Okay. Â Now, this is kind of a convoluted question: If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank, if it was not prohibited, if youre allowed to fish there, you would still fish there?
MT: Yes, yeah.
TH: Okay, and how and for what? Â What was the main thing you targeted there?
MT: Snapper, grouper and those big, pink porgies. Â Thats one place that those things still live andbut there is a limit on them, too, like everything else, but
Unidentified Man: Go ahead and fire that up for about ten minutes?
TH: Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in Fort Pierce, in the Fort Pierce area?
MT: Trolling-wise, its gotten worse.
TH: Trolling for?
MT: Dolphin, especially. Â Dolphin have justI mean, you couldI always did the same thing trolling. Â You ran out, you caught three or four or five kingfish so you had something in the boat, and then you moved on off and you dolphin fished, and you caught dolphin. Â I like to target wahoo, and thats why I would go up in that area, the steeples, peaks, and all up in that Oculina area and the Indiana Rocks and everything, and troll that for the wahoo. Â Wahoo areits still good. Â Theythat fishing, to me, seems to be real good. Â The dolphin fishing has really gotdropped drastically where you would see em scattered year-round but haveMarch, April, May was always good. Â You got a run of em in May and if you dont catch that, then youre pretty much hunting the rest of the year.
TH: So, then, thats not something that hasnt come back? Â It seemed to decline
MT: Dolphin fishing declined inI think the decline started when they started harvesting the sea grass, the sargassum. Â And that, to me, is when it seemed like the dolphin fishing started to decline as well, and that was years ago. Â But you would goyou would pull up out hereI remember days that you would pull up on a hundred-foot, fifty-foot, hundred-foot diameter mats of grass and just stop the boat and you could cast a dolphin. Â The grass disappeared. Â You very seldom see sargassum around anymore, not like you did early days. Â I mean, it was a summertime thing. Â It was a springyoud find the weed lines, and when you found a weed line then, it was twenty-feet wide and miles long. Â Now you get out there, and its scattered grass with garbage in it.
TH: Interesting. Â So where are they harvesting it?
MT: I dont know. Â I didntI thought they were harvesting on the other side of the Bahamas or something like that.
TH: Thats where the Sargasso Sea is.
MT: Yeah, and they were using it for chicken feeds of something. Â Its kind of like using corn for gas.
TH: All right, has fishing changed? Okay, so you think the trolling has pretty much stabilized except for
MT: The kingfish have come back since we got rid of the longthe roller riggers. Â I worked on airplanes at the time they were roller rigging, and we worked on the spotter planes for the different guys that, you know, from in the Panhandle as well as our local boys, and I would go to the inlet and see the boatI lived on North Beach and you would see those boats coming in half sunk with mackerel and kingfish, and that was a good thing, to stop that. Â That was really taking things away, and now its recovered. Â You can go on the beach and catch kingfish. Â You can go out here on the reefs and you can catch kingfish.
TH: After the circle nets, what waswhat kind of net
MT: When they got rid of the roller rigger stuff? Â Well, the kingfish were gone, and theyve come back, but the dolphin fishing was still good at that time.
TH: I guess my question is, werent there drift nets for a while?
MT: I dont know what they did. Â My big thing was the roller riggers. Â I know they gone from one style of net to the next to deplete the source.
TH: So, actually, you think they could have wiped out the kingfish and the mackerel had they had their way?
MT: Thered be none left. Â Theres no doubt in my mind. Â Thered be none left.
TH: Your fishing history, your personal, specifically. Â Whats your earliest memory of fishing and how old were you? Â And thats probably where you started.
MT: Yeah, fishingwell, the reason I worked with my grandmother is because she was ashe came from North Carolina, and she was a real avid fisherman. Â We worked all week, and Saturday and Sunday, we would ride downwe would fish North Bridge, wed fish South Bridge, wed ride down to Stuart to Sewalls Pointand there was no houses in there, it was all dug seawalls. Â Wed catch great, big croakers and whitings and that was a Saturday and Sunday trip. Â (wind chimes ringing) We go out to Orange Avenue and youd park right alongside the road and then fish the canals right there, and could eat the fish back then, too. Â But we would
TH: Catch bass and bluegill.
MT: Catch bass, catch bluegills, catch specks, the whole works, in those ditches alongside Orange Avenue, and youd just sit there all day and not have an issue.
TH: Why was the water cleaner back then?
MT: I dont think they used so many chemicals as whats being used [now], and there wasnt that many groves back then, either. Â The groves really sprouted up. Â And so, it was more woods, there wasyou know, everything had a good place to run off, instead of just into a ditch.
TH: Great. Â Okay, and what did you fish for? Â Lets start. Â You fished for
MT: Were bridge fishing most of the time.
TH: Lets go back to thelets start with freshwater. Â Do you usewhat do you use for bait?
MT: Oh, worms, (laughs) little wigglers and minnows. Â Catching bass and specks and bluegills; it was just about everything in those canals. Â There was cane pole fishing is what we were doing; it wasnt spinning rods or conventional stuff. Â This was cane pole fishing off the bank.
TH: Thats how I started in Indiana, on the farms and lakes in Indiana.
TH: Okay, that was cane pole fishing. Â Now, lets go to the bridge. Â You startNorth Bridge was not the North Bridge that we have now, it was a wooden
MT: The old wooden bridge that swung open and it was what, ten feet off the water, twelve feet off the water? Â Wed hang the lights off at night and catch pogies with the dip net, and then walk the bridge and catch your snook, and youd still
TH: Same with the South Bridge
MT: Same as South Bridge, but it was concrete.
TH: And it had athey both had turnstiles in the center.
MT: Yeah, and at the east end of the South Bridge was thatit was a head boat tied up there, was a big tackle store and a big bends
TH: Parkers Fish Camp?
MT: Yeah, something like that. Â You can still hear the cars going over the bridge.
TH: Here, mostly, you fish for what on the bridges?
MT: Well, shoot, you caught snapper, grouper, jewfish, whitings, trout. Â I mean, you fished off the bridge, you caught everything. Â Snook fishing was a specialty at night, but during the day, youcatching, you know, everything. Â Sheepshead, the whole nine yards.
TH: Usually with cut shrimp or live shrimp?
MT: Youwe would push a net in the river down (inaudible)Uncle Rays and push a net and catch your shrimp, catch little fish and stuff like that.
Known as Uncle Ray, Ray Patricks house is on Indian River Drive and is the oldest house in St. Lucie County.
TH: You say, Push a net. Â Its like a screen, its square?
MT: Right. Â Its square with a pole, and it was screen, and just push it through the grass and catch all the shrimp you wanted. Â Catch small pinfish and anything, and use that. Â Natural was better, and then it was cheaper, too.
TH: (laughs) All right, where did you begin? Â Whered you go to fish? Â When you began fishing? Can you show me on this map? Â How bout in the ocean; when did you start fishing in the ocean or the river? I guess out on a boat in the river and the ocean?
MT: ProbablyIm gonna think [at age] twelve when Dad got a boat big enough to go out in the ocean with, cause we always had a smaller boat to fish in the river with, but probably twelve. Â The problem I had then, if we got too far out in the ocean, I would get seasick. Â So, we would just come back and then we would troll bait from the sea buoy to the turning base and then catch big kingfish.
TH: Even in the river?
MT: Wed troll the inlet and catch kingfish.
TH: Tommy McHale used to do that.
MT: Yeah. Â I dont know who has the pictures but we caught five that were, Im sure, thirty-five to forty-five pound kings; we have them hanging from a tall seahorseer, sawhorse, or whatever, and somewhere theres a great picture.
TH: If you have that, Id like to get a copy.
MT: I dont know if my sister has it, or brother, or who has those pictures now.
TH: Whod you fish with? Â Your father?
MT: My dad, yeah.
TH: Do you have brothers and sisters?
MT: I have an older sister and then two younger brothers.
TH: Okay, and they allyall fish together when you can?
MT: I was the bigger fisherman, and the rest of them really didnt. Â My sister damn sure didnt; she didnt want nothing to do with that. Â And David, he would go, and Freddy was just way too young. Â Davids a big-time river fisherman now. Â Hes probably one the best around there. Â He makes his own flies and he fly fishes and he does mostly dead bait stuff. Â Real good at it.
TH: The questionnext question is: What did you fish with? Â Your family, I guess, and friends? Â I guess you had friends as fishing partners?
MT: Yeah, my buddies, yeah.
TH: During what months of the year did you fish for what? Â Now, thats
MT: Oh, Lord. (laughs) We fished for anything all year round. Â We werentat that time of my life, we were just fishing.
TH: Okay, and did you ever hear the term that Fort Pierce was considered the fishing capital of the world?
MT: I have a license tag that says, Fort Pierce, Florida: Worlds Best Fishing, and I also have an emblem that saysits at the house and it says, Fort Pierce, Florida: Fishing Capital or something like that.
TH: Of the world.
TH: Id like to get a picture of that, too.
MT: I may haveI have that at the house. Â The license tag may be here. Â It was in perfect shape until I took my truck to get worked on one time, because I had it on the front of my truck and the mechanic working on the truck, every time he would come out, he would grab that license tag and pull himself out and I could never get the grease out of it; but I still have it. Â (TH laughs) Â But this other isthe other one, a buddy of mine, his dad passed away two years ago, I took him in the ocean last year and spread his ashes, and Ted [Brunnon] sent that. Â He found it, his dads stuff, and sent it to me.
TH: Cool. Â That was a friend that you grew up with here?
MT: Yeah, yeah. Â Grew up, yeah.
TH: He was [with you in the ocean] after his father passed away. Â Okay.
MT: They live in Georgia now.
TH: How long did a fishing trip last? Â This is a(laughs)
MT: Which one? Â These are gonna be the current ones.
TH: Lets go current. Â So, now, you usuallyyou fish in the ocean?
MT: Yeah, I spend most of my time in the ocean.
TH: And mostly trolling, looking fortargeting wahoo?
MT: Wahoo and dolphin is what I really like to target and troll, mostly.
TH: What do you use for troll?
MT: Split-tail mullet and deboned mullet. Â You cant beat it for wahoo bait and big dolphin, really, and then ballyhoo.
TH: Thats where you take the bone out of the mullet?
MT: Yeah, the split-tailyou
TH: Split the tail.
MT: You go right down the top of the bone, then split the tail and roll it over and do the same thing and break the bone out of it. Â So, you got two flapping halves.
TH: And you put the hook in the head?
MT: You put the hook in the head, but Ill double hook em because wahoo hit short, so I use
TH: Do you tie anything?
MT: You have to put adepending on how deep you want to runone ounce or two ounce lead sinker, and you run your wire through your number seven, through the hook and/or cable, whichever youre doing there, and then stuff the lead up under the chin. Â And then you take wax string and wrap it tight around the gills so the water doesnt flush through it, and it makes it swim straighter.
TH: Any pictures of that? Â Id like to see a picture of that.
MT: Yeah, Vicky has it, cause we just did a rigging seminar at the [Fort Pierce] Sportfishing Club.
TH: Oh, yeah?
MT: And we hadI think Devon [Silas] rigged the mullet and then Geoff [Quatraro] was rigging the ballyhoo, and then another boy washe was doing the new circle hook sailfish rig and then Kadri [Benton] was doing ribbon fish with the treble hooks that (inaudible) fished.
TH: Id like to come to that.
MT: Well do it again. Â Itsthese guysthis time of year we do it because all the tourists are here, and we got a lot of tourist club members. Â They got no clue. Â They buy rigged ballyhoo and away they go; and to learn to rig em and to make it swim, youll catch more fish.
TH: It makes a difference. Â You gotta swim right. Â Fascinating.
MT: We got pictures. Â I think he has a picture of that split-tail mullet rig, because we just ranbefore we did the seminar, wed have a once-a-month
MT: (inaudible). Yeah.
TH: Id like to have seen that.
MT: We do different rigs in there, so people get it emailed or get it by paper, you know, and we put recipes in it and stuff like that.
TH: Cool. So, how many years did you haveyou fished for whatever, so you fished in the ocean for how many years, lets say?
MT: At least since I was twelve. Â When I came back out of the service is when I really have spent more time doing it. Â I did it before then, but thats when I actually got my own boat and was able to jump out there on my own and I was out there out of sight of land with a seventeen-foot boat with a 140 Chrysler and a CB radio and a roundy-round flasher and a compass. Â I dont know what the CB radio was gonna do, but(laughs). Â Id go twenty miles offshore.
TH: You could have called me, because I was the onlyI had the only other CB radio in the fleet for the first ten years that I fished.
MT: I thought I was something, boy, but gawdog, could I catch fish out of that little old boat! Â I spend a lot of time fishing in the Bahamas, now.
MT: Bottom fishingoh, God, yeah. Â I love it. Â Bottomoh, yeah, yeah. Â Yeah.
TH: Do you take trips over
MT: Mm-hm. Â During the summer, yeah. Â Last year weIll show you these pictures [of] tunas we caught. Â We made some tuna runs out of here, and we had, one day we left at four in the morning, we run at fifty miles an hour in the dark looking at a radar going, What are we doing? Â And we ran 125 miles, we found seventy-three degree water and we put the lines in; right away, we caught a yellowfin. Â We sawwe were running the birds with the radar and right away, we caught a yellowfin and it was twenty-nine, thirty inches, and Jeff pulled him up and he said, What do you want to do? Â I said, Throw it back. Â Its bad karma. Â I mean, its just barely legal. Â We never caught a fish under eighty pounds the rest of the day. Â I got pictures of em and theyre
TH: Thats that new area that everybodysthat a lot of charter boats are targeting?
MT: Wellits not that its new, its just that everybody has the fast boats and the fuel
TH: They never get over there before.
MT: Yeah, I would runI started going over to the Bahamas in eighty-five , is when I made my first trip in my boat. Â Ivefirst timethe first trip I made was in eighty-three  and I ran a little twenty-four foot Aquasport to Treasure Key, and then I would go and fish with this old Cuban over there; and then in eighty-five  was the first time I made a trip in my boat and I went to Walkers [Cay, Bahamas]. Â Ive been going to Little Grand [Cay, Bahamas], which is a small island four miles from Walkers, and its where all the Bahamians that worked at Walkers worked there; but since Walkers been blown away, but thatssee, I grew up with those people overguys that Ive run around with and fished with over there and they dont charge me. Â You know, we can go there, Ill bring em meat, Ill bring em hogs and stuff, and then theyll fish with me all weekend. Â Whereas theyll charge people $150, $200 a day, but theyre like going to see your old buddies, you know?
TH: Id love to go with you one time.
MT: Its the best fishing in the world. Â The mutton snapper fishing starts in March, April, May; its unbelievable. Â Dive up some conch, use the whole conch and hang on. Â Its great.
TH: Where else do you go fishing in the Fort Pierce area? Â Im supposed to bring out the map. Â You talked about the Oculina Bank, Northeast Grounds, I assume?
MT: Northeast Grounds is where I spend most of my time, because theres less people up there. Â You go south now and you got to deal with more people out of Stuart and Port St. Lucie stuff and I used to fish south. Â I used to love it around the [USS] Muliphen [artificial reef] and the tugs and all. Â Its justyou go down there now and theres just too many people. Â I started fishing up in Northeast Grounds and up to 400 and maybe a little further and you have less traffic up there.
TH: You get to 400 and youre getting up to Bethel [Shoals] and
MT: Bethel and past, yeah; its great trolling.
TH: And thats where you start into south end of Sebastian?
MT: Yeah, well, I go all the way up to what they call The Cones, which is out in the deep water, and itsin most [of the] time, Im a 120 feet, 300 feet, is where I fish.
TH: Because youre targeting wahoo and dolphin.
MT: Bigger dolphin. Â I always end up on the reef, you know? (laughs)
TH: Coming back in?
MT: Coming back, youre gonna kingfish on the way home; which you can do again, you know, its
TH: Not always. (laughs) Take it first hand, Im always
MT: (laughs) I got lucky those last two days. Â We hadthree weeks ago, we had a great Saturday and Sunday. Â I ran out to 300 [LORAN], we worked our way from the south, we worked our way all the way up in the Oculina, and went up around Indiana Rocks. Â It was justI mean, nothing. Â Saw some little teeny blackfins and these guys are dying, and Im going, Well. Â We went in just south of Bethel trolling ballyhoo with mono rigs and four kingfish at one time, and on the track line, I made a circle and it had, like, a bow on the recorder, and every time I go through the middle of the boat, we were catching kingfish. Â So, I stopped and we were throwing dead ballyhoo out and catching kingfish. Â It waswe caught our limit and left.
TH: Was it?
MT: Two apiece.
TH: Two apiece. Â See, I cant catch any. Â I couldnt. Â They were shut off.
MT: Didnt they open that March 3? Â Didnt they open that back up?
TH: Opened it up for five days. Â All the boats were down south.
MT: Oh, okay. Â George Kaul. Â Old George comes by when they shut down and starts his freshwater fishing.
TH: Oh, really?
MT: Oh, yeah, every year hell start hitting the freshwater and when they shut stuff down
TH: I interviewed George forhes the last chapter of my next book, if I can ever getmake it happen.
MT: Oh, yeah? Â Hes younger than us, you know? (laughs)
TH: Barely. Â Hes justhe already turned sixty.
MT: Yeah, hesno, hes fifty-eight or fifty-nine.
TH: Eh, hes sixty this year. Â Hes sixty in January or February. Â They were gonna have a party, but then theythey didnt have a big party. Â Okay, you usually go on your own boat, boats. Â You usually go on your own boat, usually?
MT: Most of the time I do, yeah. Â I mean, its parked for now. Â Ive been fishing with my buddys boat instead, because I take care of it for him and he puts the gas in it. Â Mines been sitting for a year and a half. Â I havent put gas in it because this building is more important than the boat. Â But I have something to use and it works for both of us. Â He hunts all the time, so it keeps his boat going where, when you do jump in it up here, and the nextafter March, soon as turkey seasons over with, well startI start fishing with him heavy and we start running to the islands and fishing out of here.
TH: Where does he turkey? Â Where does he hunt for turkey?
MT: He owns a ranch in Vero [Beach] and its on both sides of [Interstate Highway] 95. Â Its Corrigan Ranch up there. Â Turkeys, turkeys, turkeys.
TH: They live at our house. Â We have a cabin on Lake Istokpogo.
MT: Okay, yeah.
TH: And turkeys live in our neighborhood. (laughs)
MT: Oh, really?
TH: Ill show you some pictures here when we get out. Â During what months of the year do you fish for? Â Okay. Â How long is the fishing trip?
MT: Four days sometimes.
TH: Four days, thats when you go to the Bahamas?
MT: Go to the Bahamas.
TH: Four days at a time.
MT: Yup. Â I made another trip to the [Dry] Tortugas last year. Â I hadnt been there since the eighties [1980s].
TH: Okay, how long is that trip?
MT: That was a four-day trip, but we cut it down to three cause you cant keep anything. Â So the guys that hadnt seen the fort [Fort Jefferson], wedwhen I was going in the eighties [1980s], you could go and catch fish and keep them.
TH: The Dry Tortuga fort.
MT: Yeah, and you could fish all around the fort. Â Now all of its a forbidden zone and you have to fish way away from it. Â Itsthe fishings not as good. Â Wed have good yellowtails, all the red grouper you want. Â Every drop, you catch red grouper; youre throwing em back all day long. Â We did get some really good yellowtails and then some other bottom feeders. Â But we gotthese guys hadnt seen the fort. Â If you havent ever seen the fort, its a trip; unbelievable.
MT: To think that it was hand-made and every brick was hand-laid; this thing is five and six feet thick and two, three stories high. Â And the cannons, you could crawl inside these cannons and theyreI mean, you cantheyre big Parrott cannons and stuff like that.
TH: Who was the labor? Â Was it slave labor?
MT: It was slaves, yeah; slaves and prisoners as well. Â Whos a prisoner? Â It was a guy thatJohn Wilkes Booth, one of them guys, they took down there.
TH: His doctor, it was Dr. [Samuel A.] Mudd.
MT: Thats right, Dr. Mudd. Â There you go.
TH: He was interred there forinterred there; he was placed there for a while. Â They finally released him, I believe.
MT: Yep, and it was
TH: And it wasnt his doctor, its just a guy thata wounded guy came to his house and Dr. Mudd took care of him and thenbut they were nailing everybody that had anything to do with the assassination plot.
MT: They show how it was an outpost, theywhen I first started going, it was just a fort. Â Now its a tourist attraction. Â You can go in and watch a video of the whole thing. They tell you the whole history of it and all that.
TH: Gosh, thats a place Id like to go. Beginlets see, weve been hereI forgot to check the time. Â Were winding down. Â Id like to talk about how your fishing has changed over time in regards to the Oculina Bank.
MT: Well, itinstead of going in there and bottom fishing and catching some grouper and snapper, porgies andyou just dont bottom fish at all in there. Â I dont need any tickets for anything. Â I go troll that area andso it cut back on a lot of my bottom fishing.
TH: That was one of the questions I think I left out earlier, was, have you ever had anyhave you had experience with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
MT: I have been in the area, and had, trolling, and had the boat out of [Cape] Canaveral, the big NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] boat come up in there and, actually, we were out there trolling one day and I kept seeing these black boats with one person in em running around and Im going, Man, where are these nuts coming from? Â And when we got further north, you could see the big NOAA boat and they were boats put in on off of that and they stayed way, way far away and they would send those boats up in there to inspect boats; is what they were doing. Â But they didnt stop me or anything like that. Â Ive had the Coast Guard come up in there and ride around us when we were trolling, and I mean, thats it. Â Ive never been stopped in there. Â But Ive seen the law enforcement in there, and I guess now the big thing [is that] they can see you from a satellite in there if they wanted to.
TH: Several changesokay, let me finish this statement: Since 1984, several changes have been made in regulations in the Oculina Bank. Â Id like to know if any of these regulations affected your fishing, and if so, how? Â You already expressed that. Â It was one of your favorite areas for catching bottom fish, specifically grouper and snapper, and you couldnt do it but you didnt anchor.
MT: No, I never did anchor in there. Â It was a pain in the butt.
TH: If you fished prior to 1984, the Oculina Bank was initially closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom long lining. Â Did that affect your fishing?
MT: When they closed it?
TH: When they just closed it for trawling, for dredging, and long lining.
MT: No, because I kept tryinguntil it was closed for us to bottom fish in there, I kept right on bottom fishing the place.
TH: Its been designated as an experimental closed area where fishing for and retention of snapper [and] grouper species was prohibited. Â Snapper [and] grouper fishing boats were also prohibited from anchoring. Â Was your fishing impacted by this regulation? Â This was 1994.
MT: Well, see, theyre saying they closed it because of the fish. Thats changed. Â Isnt that correct? Â They closed it because they want to protect the coral, not the fish. Â Now theyre all into shutting everything down because of the fish.
TH: Im not certain.
MT: Well, this is what thats saying. Â Ninety-five , they shut it down to protect the fish. Now theyre saying that they shut it down to protect the coral, not the fish.
TH: Interesting. Â Originally, it was to protect the coral. Â Now its to protect the fish.
MT: No, I thought it was just the opposite, wasnt it? Â Isnt that what that said, in ninety-five ?
TH: Ninety-four  was designated as an experimental closed area where fishing for and retention of snapper [and] grouper species was prohibited. Â Snapper [and] grouper fishing boats were also prohibited from anchoring. That was when it impacted you and most fishermen in this area.
TH: Then in 1996, all anchoring was prohibited. Â Did this impact your fishing?
MT: Yeah. (laughs)
TH: It did, but it was already impacted before when you couldnt takeokay.
MT: When they cut thestopped the fishing.
TH: Trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area east and in the north of the designated Oculina Bank in 1996, and thats where they extended the Bank. Â Let me show you here. (refers to map)
MT: They ran it further south in nineteen
TH: No, they ran it north.
MT: Thats right.
TH: In 1998, this area was incorporated in the Oculina Bank HAPC; fishing with bottom long lining, trawl, dredge prohibited in this expanded area. Â Anchoring, as was anchoring, by any vessel. Â Was your fishing impacted by this regulation and how? Â What Im not sure of is, anchoring, trawling, dredging, but Im not sure thatsif you can bottom fish without anchoring?
MT: No. Â Youre not allowed to fishyoure not allowed to bottom fish in that zone.
MT: Youre not allowed to have a bottom fish on your boat if youre riding around in that thing.
TH: Okay, and thats the expanded area. Â The designated marine areas that are closed to fishing is being usedokay, these are Hmarine protected areas. Â This is the nuts and bolts. Â This is real important. Â The designated marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fishery management tool. Â What do you think about the use of closed areas to fishing compared to other types of management regulations like quotas, closed seasons, et cetera?
MT: I think that closing that area off is not right, but putting a link limit on us and putting a limit per fish on us isId rather see that happen than shutting it down completely. Â As a pleasure fisherman, I want to catch the fish. Â As a marina or working on outboard boats, its killing my business, and then its killing the people that do it for hire. Â So, shutting down the area completely is worse to me than just putting a limit on the fish. Â I can see maybe stopping during the spawn area when you can just slam something. Â Stopping it should give em time to do their spawning, and then go back to catching em again, and that may be a month period or something like that. Â If the scientists are doing their studies and doing em accurately, they know when those fish are gonna spawn. Â Shut it down for a spawn and then let us go back to catching em. Â But theythere is so manythe red snapper fishing, the genuines out of here is fantastic. Â Its probably better than its been in years and years. Â Your limits are really tough on em. Â Youre a quarter inch from keeping a fish on a lot of these fish, andbut shutting the whole area down, I dont agree with that. Â I think its better, myself. I think its better that they just put a limit on the fish, how many we can take and what their size would be. Â Is that the answer to that question?
TH: Thats what I want to hear. Â What do you think the best way to manageyou dont believe in no regulations. Â You believe in regulations of fisheries
MT: No, we gotta have regulations nowadays. Â You really do because our equipmentwhen I was fishing that area, I had a roundy-round flasher. Â Man, I got a depth finder right now; I can look at that screen and tell you if its a grouper, a snapper, an amberjack, and I can get on top of it, not within 100 feet of it. Â I can get on top of it. Â The fish dont have as much a chance now as they did before. Â So, having regulations is not gonna hurt a thing, but shutting us down is gonna hurt us. Â Thats gonna hurtit kind of comes, like, to not being able to run your boat because someone may be swimming there.
TH: Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
MT: Man, I guess that all comes down to the runoff from the middle of the state. (laughs)
TH: Can you elaborate on that for a few minutes, because Iits very important.
MT: Well, look at Taylor Creek. Â You fish Taylor Creek? Â You ever go by Taylor Creek and see that runoff and the foam and poisons?
TH: Tell me about it, causefor the tape. Â I know whats there.
MT: The runoff and the foam [comes] from the poisons and the agriculture. Â Im not a scientist by any means, but when I see that crud come out of the river and it darkens up the river and if the sun cant get through, it doesnt take a genius to tell you if the sun cant get through, nothing is gonna grow and all those sediments hit the bottom. Â Go over to Dynamite Point in the little cut, and when the tide goes out, dig down six inches and smell that dirt in there. Â It smells like sewage mud. Â Now, thats coming from Taylor Creek. Â Thats coming from urban runoff and its destroying us. Â But we cant
TH: Not all urban runoff; thats also grove runoff.
MT: Taylor Creek is grove runoff, and then we have our drainpipes from our roads going out here. Â Thats kind of hard to turn around and run backwards but Taylor Creekhey, you go down to Palm Beach south, they turn around and pump everything back out west. Â We got a place out here that they designated a reservoir and nothing is happening with it, and now theythere was a thing in the paper today: it looks like its not gonna happen or theyre worried about it. Â I didnt read the article, I just kind of buzzed through it. Â Actually, it was yesterdays paper and I was reading it this morning. Â I dont know if you saw that. Â But dumping Taylor Creek during the rainGod, look at the water right now; it is beautiful out there. Â You can see bottom everywhere. Â A lot of that has to do with the cold. Â A lot of it has to do with not having heavy rain and getting that dirty runoff.
TH: And its not just the Taylor Creek. Â What about St. Lucie River?
MT: The St. Lucie River iswhat they do with dumping the lake [Lake Okeechobee] in there, thats horrendous. Â Did you see that algae bloom down there, when they had it? Â I take a boat down there, get a tower put on it, and I pulled up in the guys place and Im looking and it was metallic green everywhere. Â It was unbelievable to see whatand that was all the way on the other side of the Roosevelt Bridge. Â Iwe got a big problem with agriculture runoff and its not being addressed, and somehow, the government doesnt seem to care. Â But there is a big issue with agriculture runoff and thats gonna destroy the river fishing, which is gonna destroy the bait, which is gonna destroy the ocean fishing.
TH: Last year we had a drought in this area. Â What did you observe during the drought period of the clarity of the river and the ocean water?
MT: I test run boats just about every day, and I would go out here into the turning basin and there would be bonito. Â You could see bottom in the turning basin. Â There was bonito, there was kingfishthirty-three feet in some placesthere was bonito chasing bait, there was kings skyrocketing, there was mackerel. Â Bonito was in. Â Bonito was one thing. Â Tarpon, I would see schools of tarpon. Â Id go up the river, Id go through turn basin, Id go up through North Bridge and run up the river and I would go around the pilings, the day markers, and I would idle around em and I could see bottom around emcause I like bottom fishing the river and theres oneits in eight feet of water, just off of the channel, but theres concrete poles laying right beside it and you can see the snapper and sheepshead around.
TH: Which one is that?
MT: Its just past Riverside. Â Its the red marker, the first one north of Riverside.
TH: I know where thats at. Â Ive takenIve bottom fished there.
MT: Yeah. Â Well, right beside the pole, the poles here (indicates), the channels here layingones laying this way, ones laying that way, and it must have been old concrete poles they got knocked down; theyre laying right there.
TH: I gotta fish there.
MT: You could go up past Torpey, and the red one just past Torpey, theres an old freezer or something on the bottom right there, and its just inside. Â Good place to get stone crabs if youre gonna put a trap. Â Its right along that place, its real good for stone crabs.
TH: When theres no runoff, this areas pristine?
MT: The water clarity is pristine; just unbelievable, beautiful. Â It looks like youre in the Keys. Â You go over the bridge
TH: Or in the Bahamas or the Keys.
MT: Oh, yeah, yeah. Â Yeah, the runoff is just destroying stuff.
TH: Used to be the month of June was like that. Â June and July and end of May, itll start cleaning up like that.
MT: Yeah, and then it always rains right before dive season, and you would get the runoff and it would go out the inlet and start leeching all over the reefs, and the lobster would move out or whatever.
TH: Interesting. Â One last thing: in the lastwerebefore we wrap up, is there anything you would like to say? Â This will all be archived in the University of South Florida and researchers will be able to read over and listen to these interviews. Â Is there anything about the fishing regulations passed by the National Marine Fisheries that you would like to share, that you believe in, having fished all your life in this area? Â You mentioned quotas. Â Is there anything else youd like to add to that?
MT: I think the biggest problem I have now is that we have better science and better scientists, but were using old science to make the rules on. Â These guys dont go out there. Â You show meId like to see one of these scientists that fish. Â Im not sure any of them do, but they donttheir science is not new science. Â Theyre not out there diving and studying these rocks. Â Theyre not out there fishing these rocks, or using what the fishermen know is going on. Â I do talk to people at the bridge once in a while or at the ramps when Im running a boat, test run, and they write down what you caught that day and stuff like that. Â Thats bull. Â Theyre trying to do something, but it aintthats not bringing in anything, I dont think. Â But quotas, I dont have a problem with it. Â I forgot what your question was.
TH: Its just anything else youd like to add.
MT: Id like to see new science done with the stuff. Â I dont mind the quotas, [but] I dont want to be shut off. Â I think that they dive in and start these projects, and then they invite the public to come talk with them and their minds are made up and itsyoure not going anywhere. Â I dont go to the meetings cause I get real upset, and you know youre going in there and theyre not listening to you. Â Theyre just doing it the democratic way: youre getting to have your say, but youre not being heard. Â I think were using poor science. Â Werenot as smart as we are today.
TH: One other thing you mentioned about closing an area: it affects you as a businessman?
MT: Yeah. Â Right now, I have people thattheir comments [are], Im gonna quit. Â Im done with it.
MT: Because they cant bottom fish right now, for four months. Â Four months. Â They cant bottom fish. Â Theres some people that do absolutely nothing but bottom fish. Â Now, four of their best months are being closed.
TH: Do they have big investments in equipment?
MT: Well, $300,000 boats, half a million dollar boats, $50,000 boats to the guy. Â And their tackle; God knows you ought to see the tackle I have, just for what I do. Â Its a big trickle-down. Â That guys gonna get rid of his boat. Â I just lost a customer, the motor builder just lost a customer, the boat builder just lost a customer, the guy that made the cleats, the lines, the oil; everything goes backwards when they shut this stuff down. Â Recreational-wise, its as bad as it is for a charter man. Â Its just not as direct immediately, but it does affect everything I do. Â Were struggling like crazy to begin with, because of this depression that we have in Fort Pierce. Â They [can] call it recession all they want; were depressed. Â Theres nothing going on. Â If people dont have recreation, even if they do have money, then it goes downhill. Â Its [a] big trickle-down; all the way. Â The people are quitting.
TH: Finally, Ill ask you one last question, [it] is: do you have one story about fishing that you tell over and over, thats your favorite fishing tale?
MT: Boy, you know that.
TH: Theres probably tons of em.
MT: Probably the first one that jumps in my head is, we do a lot of deep dropping over on the Bahama Bank, and theres a lot of great big tiger sharks over there. Â And it was on a really hot dayit was like June or July or something like thatand we were on our way back from the weekend over there. Â And we stopped out there and we were deep dropping at 800 feet, and we were catching really nice silks and
MT: Snapper. Â And I had to poop really bad and my boats a bucket, which is no problem; but it [the conditions] was just so slick, and so beautiful, and hot, so I just jumped in the water and I was hanging on to the bracket in the boat and just doing the old thing (TH laughs) and got done. Â And I jumped up in the boat, and a fifteen-foot shark, if it was an inch, swam right up to the boat, swam around it, and left. Â I never got out of my boat again over there ever, (TH laughs) never. Â But that wasand another encounter with a tiger shark was the same thing, but on the north wall. Â We were deep dropping and
TH: North wall?
MT: By the Middle Grounds, over in the Bahamas. Â We were deep dropping there and I had on what I thought was four good fish coming up, and all of a sudden the reel just stopped, and it started going back out, and then it popped, and here it came. Â And I said, Oh, man, big shark got my fish. Â Its coming up really fast, and it stopped again, and it started going back out, and then it popped loose, and it started coming up again, but I still had fish. Â And we were looking down and that water is so clearits like looking up, its just so clearand you could see this shark. Â You could see two fish and the lead was still there, and this shark was underneath it. Â The lines coming straight up and he was coming straight up underneath it with his mouth open, and just before the fish got to the surface, he swallowed the lead and tried to get the two top fish, but he didnt. Â He bit the line in half. Â So, he got ten pounds lead and two fish. Â (TH laughs) Â And that was another tiger shark, and then he stayed around for quite a while, so we left. Â But like I said, those are two things that really stuck with me. Â When you said that its likeman, Ill never forget that shark coming up right after I got out of the water!
TH: Ill never forget one time, in the summertime, I was just not catching anything trolling the Northeast Grounds, and I was just leaning over the side. Â I think I went to the bathroom over the side and I was leaning over to see how far I could see down in the water. Â And then the shadow under my boat was this bull shark as long as my boat. (laughs) It was a twenty-four foot boat; this guy, it wasnt quite as long, but his girth was
MT: Was huge.
TH: You couldntit was like a cow.
MT: I used to snorkel in the Bahamas and I was attacked by a bull shark.
MT: We were in fifteen feet of water and everybody had gotten in my boat and I was in the water. Â This one boy had shot a hogfish and I saw him go up under this rock. Â So, its like, Im gonna run down and get him. Â And I swam down and I got him, and as Im coming up, a bull shark came at me and so I shook the fish off and then he turned and Im hollering at the boat to get me, and he looked at me from way off and he came at me wide open.
TH: The shark?
MT: The shark did.
TH: Youre out there by yourself?
MT: Im screaming like hell and Imeverything started going through my head right then. Â My God, Im gonna die.
TH: This is coming right towards you.
MT: Coming right at me. Â Im gonna die. Â I grabbed my steel rod, and hes about as close as I am to you, cause it was six foot and I had it halfway, and I hit him right here in the forehead. Â And when I hit him, I remember it felt like hitting concrete, and he just turned.
TH: Not his nose?
MT: No, I hit him right on
TH: Above his nose.
MT: Right above his nose is where I hit him. Â When he swam, he swam off and he made a big circle and he came right back again and Im screaming at the boat and these guys are up there making drinks and Im screaming, and the one buddy of mine realized that Buds in trouble. Â Well, the guy thats supposed to be running the boat is just looking instead of backing over to me. Â Well, Im backpedaling towards the bracket and Im thinking, As long as I can see him, I can fight him. Â And he came again
TH: Hes by the pole.
MT: I had my pole and he came at me again. I hit him again and Iyou could see where I hit him the first time. I scarred him up and I hit him that second time and he swam off again, and now Im getting real close to the boat. Â And this one buddy, I look and hes gonna jump in. Â Im going, No, no, screaming, Just get me out of the water. Â The fish ran out there and he stopped, and then here he came again, and Im justIm going, Im gonna lose my hand, Im gonna lose a leg. Â Im going, Shit, Im just gonna bleed to death. You know, were twenty miles out of Walkers, there aint no way Im gonna live to get there. Â He came again. Â When I pulled my hand back to hit the sucker, he turned, and when he turned, his tail hit my mask and knocked my mask and snorkel off and Im going, Well, Im done now.
I turned and looked at the boat and I threw my spear at the boy that was supposed to be driving (TH laughs) and [Im thinking], Im gonna die, somebody else is gonna die too. Â And I threw it as hard as I could and it hit the side of my boat; it didnt make it in it. Â And I just started swimming like hell and I was real close then, anyhow, and Dave [Johnson] grabbed me and got me on the bracket and the fish come swimming right under the bracket. Â Ive never been in the water over there since.
Actually, Ill tell you, I tried two years later. Â Buddy of mine said, You gotta do it. Â I got in there on the (inaudible) and I swam around, there was two big barracuda. Â I was like, Yeah, theyre okay. Â And I swam a little bit further and theres a big old nurse shark laying there on the bottom like they do, and I said, Oh, the hell with this. Â And I went back in the boat and that was it; I was done. Â (TH laughs) And I love spearing hog[fish], God dang. Â They say stuff runs through your head, all I could think about was dying. Â It was unbelievable. Â But that isnt a fishing story, but that was a scary thing.
TH: Best one Ive heard. Â Thank you very much for sharing your fishing history with us and
MT: Yes, sir.
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