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Victor Shilling oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Lee Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (46 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (22 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted March 11, 2010.
Oral history interview with charter boat captain Victor Shilling. Shilling has been fishing in Fort Pierce since 1970 and has kept a boat there for most of that time. After retiring from Lockheed Martin, he bought a new boat and a friend suggested he start a charter business. Shilling does not bottom fish much, preferring to troll, but he is familiar with Oculina Bank; he is careful that his fishing charters do not bottom fish in that area. None of the regulations made to Oculina Bank have particularly affected his fishing or his business. Shilling prefers quotas or closed seasons as fishery management tools, as opposed to closing an entire area. In this interview, Shilling also explains how his charter boat business works, describing the places where he takes clients and a typical day's events.
Charter boat captains
Charter boat fishing
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 Howard: Good afternoon, my names Terry Howard. Â Today is March 11, 2010. Â Im at the Fort Pierce City Marina on the boat the Victory, conducting an oral history with Victor
Victor Shilling: Shilling.
TH: Shilling for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundations project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Â Please state your name fully, if you would please, Captain Shilling.
VS: Yes, my name is Victor Shilling.
TH: And thats your
VS: My full name. Â I have no middle name.
TH: Cool, okay. Â When did youfirst of all, when were you born?
VS: Â I was born November 11, 1938.
TH: November 11, 1938, 11-11-1938. Â Okay. Â And when did you move to Fort Pierce?
VS: Well, I moved to Fort Pierce as a resident five years ago. Â However, Ive kept a boat in Fort Pierce for the last thirty-five years. Â So, Fort Pierce was in a wayI lived in Orlando, and I had a boat in Fort Pierce as my escape from the Orlando area. I started diving and spear fishing and fishing in the Fort Pierce area way back when.
TH: Now, can you maybe give me a year, or about a year?
VS: Well, lets see. Â I would say, like, 1970, thereabouts.
TH: Okay, thats a long time. Â Okay, go ahead.
VS: I remember when we still had covered slips. Â And lets see, Im trying to think of the name of the
TH: Before net fishing the kingfish?
VS: Yes. Â We used to see the big net boats out there fishing for the Spanish mackerel, and I thought that was not a good way.
TH: Okay, well get into that in a little bit. Â So, what brought you to Fort Pierce? Â Again, could you elaborate what?
VS: Yeah, I actually worked in Orlando for Lockheed Martin as an aerospace engineer, and I purchased a boatit was a twenty-foot Bertramin West Palm. Â I came to Fort Pierce after I bought the boat because I had beenI had another boat prior to that, and I used a trailer down here to go spear fishing and fishing. Â I loved the area, and my boat was small enough to fit under the roofs, and I thought that was a great idea.
TH: They had covered slips here at the city marina at the time.
VS: Covered slips, yep. Â Anyway, thats how it got me started here. Â I really loved the ocean, loved fishing. Â I fished out of Cape Canaveral on the boat that I was trailering over there, and I really became more Fort Pierce oriented after I bought the Bertram and moved it down here.
TH: Okay, are you married?
VS: I was married. Â I was divorced and my wife passed away since then; ex-wife passed.
TH: How old were you when you got married?
VS: I was about twenty-two years old.
TH: Do you have children?
VS: I had three children; one daughter passed away, so now Im left with two.
TH: How old are they?
VS: My youngest one is thirty-two and my oldest one is thirty-nine, forty, somewhere in there.
TH: Okay. Â Theres no wrong answers here. (laughs)
VS: I have a hard time remembering dates.
TH: I understand. Â How much schooling do you have?
VS: I went through college, got a degree in engineering
VS: From University of Missouri at Rolla. Â Back then, it was called The Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy, and I got a B.S. degree there. Â Then I started for my masters program in Phoenix, Arizona; thats where I worked at that time. Â I never quite finished the masters program. Â But basically, Im an engineer by profession.
TH: Okay. Â So, you have had another job besides charter boat fishing.
TH: Could you just run down and give me your job history: what jobs you had, basically? Â So, youre an engineer
VS: Yeah, after I graduated, I worked for three years in a rocket engine design and manufacturing company in Phoenix, Arizona. Â I did a job interview back then, and at that time, Martin Marietta was hiring engineers, and I decided to come work for Martin Marietta. Â That was back in sixty-five , sixty-six , so it goes way back.
TH: Captain Shilling, youre an engineer. Â Youre trained as an engineer, and you started off with Martin Marietta in rocket engineering?
VS: Aerospace engineer.
TH: Aerospace engineering at Cape
VS: No, at Orlando, at the Lockheed, whats known as the Lockheed Martin Company.
TH: Okay. Â So, youve beenwere you with them for your entire career?
VS: Pretty much.
TH: Pretty much? Â Okay, and you came here on weekends and vacations when you could get away?
TH: And you kept a boat here in Fort Pierce at the City Marina.
TH: Okay, do you currently own a boat? Â What kind, length? Â Can you describe your boat that you own?
VS: Yes, I have a forty-three foot Hatteras, 1979. Â Its a convertible, which means its got the cruising comforts and the fishing cockpit. Â Its a very nice boat.
TH: Its the one that were sitting on now.
VS: Thats the one that were sitting on now. Â The name is Victory, named afterIm Vic, and my daughter is Torry, so we named it: she had a hand in naming the boat Victory.
TH: Okay, Victoria and Victory, and a forty-six foot Hatteras.
VS: Forty-three foot Hatteras.
TH: Forty-three foot Hatteras, okay. Â Now, Id like to ask you some questions about the Oculina Bank. Â How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
VS: Im familiar with the boundaries and the fishing. Â I do mostly fishing and trolling. Â I dont do much in the way of bottom fishing. Â So, Im familiar with the rocky, hard, coral ground thats in the Oculina Bank, typically structures where the good fishing is. Â Most of the time Ive always trolled there, but every once and a while, if the party wants to make a bottom drop, we, in the past, have done that. Â But predominantly, I was a trolling fisherman.
TH: Okay. Â What do you know as to why the Oculina Bank was designated as an area to be protected?
VS: Yeah, Ive read the pamphlets on it, and basically, what I understand is its a white coral that is relatively rare, and it was damaged primarily by net draggers that were scouring the bottom and destroying it.
TH: Dragging for?
VS: Dragging for primarily shrimp, I think. Â I think the environmentalists get concerned about damaging the reef area, which I understand. Â So, my understanding is that its an area that should be protected, but I dont think that trolling over it does any damage to the reefs.
TH: Okay, were gonna come back to this more in greater length later, but one of thetheres a couple of specific questions. Â What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
VS: I have no problem with closing it to anchoring, because the original intent was to protect the coral against damage and I can see where dragging nets and anchoring would do that. Â Besides that, its in deep enough water where I think not anchoring isits, for me, too deep to anchor anyway, so I have no problem with closing anchoring.
TH: But bottom fishing?
VS: Bottom fishing, itsIm not sure Im really the right person to really get into that. Â I believe that there is enough bottom fish in that structure where dropping an occasional line and pulling a fish now and then, I dont think, is that destructive to the coral. Â Now, the argument that theres a lot of mono[filament], I guess, tied up in thereand that may be so, I dont know. Â Again, I dont think that that is destructive to the coral environment.
TH: Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing?
VS: I cant tell. Â Like I said, Im not much of a bottom fisherman, and the trollingI cant see where it has affected me one way or another.
TH: Okay. Â If anchoring and bottom fishing on the Oculina Bank was permitted, would you fish there?
VS: More than what I do now, yes. Â Now my charter business is such if that theyif people do want to make bottom drops and look for bottom fish, then I make sure that were not in the Oculina Bank. Â And there is a reef line running just west of it in 180, 160-180 foot of water that is excellent bottom fishing. Â If the closure [area] was open, yeah, we would be going in there and making deeper drops.
TH: And you would be targeting what type of fish, usually?
VS: Primarily grouper.
TH: Okay. Â Overall, has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area? Â So, youve been here a long time.
VS: Ive been here a long time.
TH: Well come back to this question, too, but just elaborate a little bit.
VS: Yeah, I think it has. Â When I used to come here, we used to see acres and acres of Spanish mackerel, and thats died down quite a bit. Â Although I never was much into bringing in tons and tons of fish, because basically, Im paid to have the people a good time, anyway, and to me, the primary thing is to show em a good time. Â And we dont have to kill all the fish in the ocean to do that. Â Sailfishing, I think, has dramatically improved since thats first started. Â Sailfishing was really, you know, hard to catch, and a primary fish. Â Here in recent years, weve been even able to target sailfish, especially during the winter months.
As far as bottom fishing is concerned, I cant really give you, personally, good data. Â But my compatriots who have fished for years say that the bottom fishing for grouper has dropped off in the shallow reefs. Â But I cant vouch for that.
TH: What do you attribute that to?
VS: I really dont know. Â And Im not sure how truthful it is. Â There is one thing about perception, and there is another thing about reality. Â And fishing is fishing. Â You go out one day and you do great, you go out another day and you dont do great: same spot, different times. Â So, its really hard for me to correlate that.
TH: Lets go back. Â You did say you remember acres and acres of mackerel. Â How bout king mackerel?
VS: Yeah, we had lots of king mackerel. Â I used to fish off Cape Canaveral, also. Â Back then, wed run into a school and we could just load up the boat with king mackerel, and we kind of did. Â I think about that. Â Back then, we overas a recreational fisherman, I think we overdid it as far as just the number of fish that wed catch.
TH: Im gonna come back to that, on limits, later on. Â Well, I can ask you now. Â So, you think its good that theres a limit on the number of recreational kingfishing?
VS: To me, there is.
TH: And you think thats good?
VS: Yes. Â To me, its good. Â Let me give you an example. Â If we were into king mackerel, theyre real thick, and we catch a lot of king mackerelas a charter boat captain, the limit now is two, as we know, per person. Â It gives me, a charter boat captain, a good reason to tell my group, Okay, weve caught our limit; lets go fish something else. Â And nobody gives me a hard time about that. Â Theyve got plenty of meat. Â If theres six people on board, thats twelve king mackerel. Â Theres a lot of meat there. Â I like the people to have fresh fish, not to freeze it. Â If you want frozen fish, you go to the market, [its] much cheaper. Â So, I like the idea of two per person, and I think thats the right way to manage the fishery.
TH: Okay. Â Now, have you had experience with law enforcement within, or regarding, the Oculina Bank?
VS: No. Â Never.
TH: Youve never been hassled. Â Now, about your fishing history, specifically: Â Whats your earliest memory of fishing and how old were you?
VS: My earliest is when I was in Arizona. Â We used to fish for trout in the streams, so I was about twenty-two years old. Â When we moved to Florida, a friend of mine had a boat and he introduced methis was back in sixty-five , sixty-six introduced me to ocean fishing, and I just got bit by it. Â So I bought a boat, a trailable boat, and began fishing off Cape Canaveral, and that lead to a Bertram that led to a Hatteras, which I have now.
TH: Okay and your earliest memory was you were twenty-two years old in Arizona. Â Is that where your family
VS: No, thats where I was working.
TH: As a child, you didnt fish?
TH: You grew up
VS: I grew up, actually, inwell, Ill take that back. Â We lived in Missouri when I went to school, and we did fish with cork for catfish and bass and stuff like that.
TH: In the lakes?
VS: In the lakes, right. Â So, that was backI guess I was around twelve, fourteen years old.
TH: My earliest fishing is in lakes in Indiana. Â Family really enjoyed fishing. Â Okay, how did you learn to fish and who taught you?
VS: Well, this compatriot that I work with in Orlando, hes the one that introduced me to ocean fishing. Â He used to own shrimp boats, at one time, out of Brownsville, Texas. Â Hes the one that showed me how to do thethats the first time I got introduced to trolling and ballyhoo. Â So, anyway, hes the guy that really got me bit.
TH: He was another engineer?
VS: He was another engineer, but prior to that, he owned shrimp boatsand he went broke doing thatout of Brownsville, Texas.
TH: So, how did you decide to become a charter captain?
VS: Okay. Â Before, like I said, I worked at Lockheed Martin as an aerospace engineer. Â Then I took early retirement and I took a pension. Â I bought thissold my Bertram and bought this Hatteras as a way to haveits a more liveaboard-type boat. Â I bought the boat really for myself, originally. Â But since I was retired, a friend of mine got me into thinking about using the boat to take out people. Â He used to charter, be a charter boat captain. Â So he talked me into starting a charter, and ever since then, Ive loved it. Â Its a very good way of havingits like my second career, although I do have a pension right now.
TH: And you enjoy it?
VS: I enjoy it. Â Originally, you were kind of worried about will they trash the boat and would the people get mad at you, and if you didnt catch fish and all that. Â But by and large, people have been very respectful about not trashing the boat. Â They all want to be out there having a good time. Â Its camaraderie. Â All my fears never really materialized.
TH: When did you startweve already been over this, but these are the questions; theres some repetitiveness here. Â But when did you start fishing in Fort Pierce, age and year? Â So you said sixty-five .
VS: Yeah, about sixty-five , sixty-six . Â Back then, I did more scuba diving and spear fishing than fishing with a rod and reel. Â But the older I got
TH: Whatd you target? Â Grouper or whatever?
VS: Grouper and snapper, primarily, and lobster; we loved to catch lobster.
TH: Dive lobster?
VS: Dive lobster.
TH: Your family? Â This is recreational?
VS: This is recreational, strictly recreational.
TH: How deep did you dive when you dove, when you were a diver?
VS: Actually, we liked an inshore reef close to the twenty foot.
TH: Twenty, thirty foot?
VS: Yeah, and that wasback in those years, they had big lobsters in there and we loved going there. Â But then if the water gotif it was too murky, and a lot of times it was, then wed go to the sixty foot reef. Â If that was still murky, then wed dive to eighty on the offshore bars.
TH: So you did get in where you dove to eighty, ninety foot?
VS: Eighty, ninety. Â Out here, I never really dove much further than that. Â Off Cape Canaveral, we dove as deep as 120 feet. Â But that was
TH: Thats serious.
VS: Yeah. Â That was pretty rare, though.
TH: Okay, first memory of fishing. Â Where did you learn to fish? Â You decided to become a charter captain. Â Okay. Â Now, primarily, as a charter captain, what do you target? Â Whats your main fish? Â You mention you troll, mostly. Â So what do you really look for as a charter?
VS: Well, to me, its seasonal. Â As a charter boat captain, we kind of like to fish whatever is out there. Â In the wintertime, wed like to get a few sails. Â But since Im into primarily giving a group a good time, I like to catch fish that they can eat. Â And king mackerel, to me, is always nice because we can quickly get on the reefs, catch a few king mackerel, then we go off and try for something more, what else might be out there, [like] dolphin. Â We like to catch wahoo.
TH: Its not easy to say, Im gonna catch a wahoo today.
TH: The kingfish are like a mainstay?
TH: So if you catch nothing else, at least you caught a kingfish, maybe a bonito or two?
VS: Right, exactly.
TH: Im hearing from all the charter boat captains that thatsokay, interesting. Â Again, lets go back. Â Youre also targetingyou were starting to mention the seasons. Â I guess theres a better season for dolphin, for mahi?
VS: Yes, theres a better season forreally, almost for all fish, theres a better season. Â For sails, primarily in wintertime: December, January, and February. Â Right now, were looking for the rays and the cobia. Â I love to catch that.
TH: Cobia follow the
VS: Follow the rays.
TH: Manta rays?
VS: Manta rays, right. Â Later on, in the spring, the dolphins become more numerous and bigger, and so we start looking for those. Â But basically, what I do is I know where the structure is and I troll the structure, and a lot of the times, the dolphin hang out there. After I fish the structure, then I go and look for the condition at the edge of the Gulf Stream for the mahi-mahi and the dolphin and the wahoo and stuff like that.
TH: So the edge of the Gulf Stream is how deep?
VS: Well, it varies, but typically, we like 120 foot on out. Â I think the average is more like 160 foot. Â We look for color change and weed line.
TH: Weed lines for the mahi-mahi?
TH: Okay. Â Lets see, during the months of the year you fish for what? Â Youve just gone over that. Â In wintertime, sailfish; kingfish, pretty much year round.
VS: Kingfish are pretty much all year round. Â They have their good periods and bad periods.
TH: Like any fish.
VS: Like any fish, correct.
TH: How long is an average trip?
VS: I do a half a day and full day. Â Half a day is five, five and a half hours. Â A full day is like nine and a half, ten hours.
TH: You dont do three-quarter days?
VS: No, but what I do is I give em an option. Â If theyve decided on half a day and theyre having a good time and they want to extend it, I will extend it forand prorate it, you knowfrom between a half and full day.
TH: What do you charge for half a day?
TH: And a full day?
TH: And an average trips catch? Â Whats a good day? You take a charter out, whats a good day, on average?
VS: On average, Id say most people, if we catch like sixteen mackerel, most people are happy with that and they want to move on to something different. Â Different people are different, you know. Â But Id say an average day, we probably have ten fish; sometimes more, sometimes less.
TH: Okay, so youve fished for probably thirty, forty years here. Â Did you used to do more bottom fishing?
VS: No, I think Ive been mostly trolling fish. Â I do bottom fish if trolling is slow and I need to do something to catch something. Â Bottom fishing, to me, is a second resort. Â We do like to pick up live bait and make some drops on the wrecks and the structures that we have here.
TH: On average, how far do you go offshore? Â I think thats where we left off.
VS: Okay, on average, Id say weon average, we probably start on the offshore bar about eleven miles out, on average. Â From there, we on average probably go into 160 foot of water, which would be about fifteen miles out. Â But not necessarily: like, if you love chasing cobia, theyre in the forty to sixty foot range. Â But most of the time, its the offshore bar that we start.
TH: How do you decide where to fish? Â Is it based on what youre fishing for?
VS: Yeah, somewhat. Â But in general, just in general, I like to start fishing structure cause we know where the reefs are, we know where the hard bottoms are, and we know where weve been catching fish. Â So we dont doI dont do much in the way of blind trolling, per se. Â I go to a structure and try that structure. Â If we get our fill of fish off the structure, then we go and look for theor if the fishing is slow on it, then we look for conditions like the edge of the Gulf Stream and the weed lines and the color changes.
TH: By structure, you mean wrecks and reefs?
VS: Wrecks and reefs.
VS: Theyre really more ledges. Â Theres reefs and then theres ledges. Â The offshore bar is more of a ledge. Â In my book, its more of a ledge than a reef.
TH: And we talked about an average catch. Â How many years have you been a charter boat captain?
VS: Well, its been over fifteen years.
TH: Since you got your license. Â You retired fifteen years ago?
VS: Retired fifteen years ago and I startedI bought this boat for myself, and like I mentioned earlier, I got ita friend of mine talked me into chartering. Â I got my captains license and have been doing that ever since.
TH: You did say you sometimes go take charters to the Bahamas.
VS: Yeah, we do Bahama trips.
TH: What does a person do, and what do you take the people for in the Bahamas?
VS: Okay, most of the time, what we do is we leave at night. Â We go slow all night long. Â Were on radar and autopilot. Â The idea is to be on the fishing grounds on the other side of the Gulf Stream at the crack of dawn. Â Typically, what people hire me for is tuna fishing and wahoo fishing. Â Most peopleand we catch marlins, stuff like that, but most people dont hire me to catch the marlins; thats just an incidental catch. Â Most people want to go for tuna, wahoo, and big dolphin. Â Now, when were there, a lot of times the trolling is good in the morning and its good in the afternoon, and a lot of times it slows down around noontime. Â In that case, a lot of times we do make bottom drops on the deep reefs, 600 foot, for red-eye snapper and grouper and whatever.
TH: How long isyou say you go at what time at night? Â Midnight?
VS: Typically leave around eleven, eleven at night.
TH: And go slow?
VS: Go slow and by seven-thirty [am], well be on the Bank and start fishing right away.
TH: Do you have licenses? Â Do you have to have a special license to fish over there?
VS: Yes, we do. Â We have to havefirst of all, we have to have a federal license, and then we have to have tuna permits. Â If we to go into the Bahamas themselves, of course, we have to clear customs there. Â But a lot of times, what we do is we just fish off of the Bahama Bank. Â Were not in necessarily Bahamian waters, so we dont have to [go through customs].
TH: Is that the area just north of the Bahamas?
VS: Yes, thats the Matanilla Shoal, is what its called. Â Its called the Little Bahama Bank. Â The northits west
TH: Its become very popular for tuna, catching tuna fish.
VS: Yes, it is.
TH: So, when do you come back? Â A trip like this, do you just anchor for the night or sleep on the boat?
VS: No, it depends on what people want to do. Â The most popular trip is just an overnight trip. Â We leave overnight, fish all day on the other side of the Gulf Stream, and then come back, be back around seven-thirty the next night. Â Now, some peoplethe last trip I did, they actually hired me for a week. Â In that case, we go into port near customs and fish out of a Bahamian port.
TH: What port?
VS: Either West End or Lucaya are the most popular ones.
TH: A week charter, what would that cost?
VS: Oh, thats a lot of money. Â Thats like $9000, I think it costs em.
VS: The guy had a company and he was treating employees and relatives that were vacationing in the Bahamas. Â So he had his own private boat to enjoy the fishing. Â And we did some snorkeling, whatever they wanted to do.
TH: Wow. Â Okay, finally, Id like to talk about how fishing has changed over time in regards to the Oculina Bank. Â Since 1984, several changes have been made in the regulations of the Oculina Bank. Â Id like to know if any of these regulations affected your fishing, and if so, how? Â If youis this the sheet I gave you?
TH: Its not. Â Here.
VS: Whatd I do with it? Â (looks for map)
TH: Yeah, if youll go to the map on here, its the second page; Figure 1, I think. Â That was 1984. Â It was initially closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom long lining. Â Did this affect your fishing?
VS: To me, probably no. Â Not really.
TH: Nineteen ninety-four, Oculina was designated as an experimental closed area where fishing for and retention of snapper grouper species was prohibited. Â Snapper grouper fishing boats were also prohibited from anchoring. Â Was your fishing impacted by this regulation?
VS: Not really. Â Since I do mostly trolling and occasional bottom fishing, it reallyI dont think it really affected me that much.
TH: Did it close off one target area for you?
VS: Not for trolling, for bottom fishing only.
TH: Okay, and you did not do much of that?
VS: We didnt do much of that. Â And when we did bottom fish, we did honor that regulation and bottom fished outside of that. Â But I have to admit that I think the catch, bottom fish catch, when we do that, has dropped off. Â So its more difficult to keep the customer happy when you dont bring in the big fish.
TH: Okay. Â In ninety-six , all anchoring was prohibited within the Oculina Bank. Â Did this impact your fishing? Â Not really, cause you never anchor.
VS: We never anchored on it.
TH: In 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area east and northand if youll look at the next map, youll see what Im talking aboutof the designated Oculina Bank. Â In 1998, this area was incorporated into the Oculina Bank HAPC. Â Fishing with a bottom long line, trawl, or dredge was prohibited in this expanded area, as was anchoring by any vessel. Â Was your fishing impacted by this regulation? Â Thats when they expanded the area.
VS: Yeah. Â Again, not really, since I wasnt much of a bottom dropper and I never anchored anyway.
TH: Okay. Â Now, heres the probably most important question: Â Designated marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fishing management tool. Â Okay? Â Ill say this again. Â Designated marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fishery management tool. Â Now, for example, what if they said the northeast grounds, north of 12, if that were a HAPC, habitat protected area, what do you think about the use of closed areas to fishing, compared with other types of management regulations, i.e. quotas or closed seasons?
VS; Yeah, I much prefer the quotas and closed seasons as the best, primarily, because it doesnt affect me. Â And it seems like its a good way to strike a balance between preserving the fishery and not killing all the fishing thats allowed.
TH: So the most, the fairest formokay, in your opinion, if you were managing the fishery, what do you think the fairest way to manage all the fisheries would be? Â Were gonna elaborate on this a little bit, because I want you to
VS: Yeah, size limit, number of quota limit, in my book, is the best way to do that.
TH: It will help the fishery, the fish, and the fisheries, is what youre saying?
TH: Okay, and you feel thats preferable to
VS: Closing an entire area to all fishing. Â Absolutely.
TH: Okay. Â How bout closed seasons?
VS: Closed seasons are okay.
TH: Okay. Â Well, like right now, theyve closed grouper snapper for six months. Â Is that
VS: Well, yeah, if you closeit has to be in light of protecting the species and not just the way of killing fishing overall. Â For instance, you want to close it 360 days out of the year, thats, to me, kind of ridiculous.
TH: Okay. Â How bout for commercial fishing? Â For exampleI talked to another fisherman recentlyif you have a commercial snapper grouper permit and youre a diver, in cold water, I was just told, that the fish are pretty much almost dormant.
TH: Should there be commercial limits, quotas that are strictly enforced? Â Could you elaborate a little bit?
VS: Well, yeah, it seems like if you want to protect the species and you want to impose quotas, then thats got to run the whole gambit ofI would think that the amount of fish that are caught commercially probably far exceeds whatever I take. Â So if youre interested in protecting the species, you got to target those people that will affect the species, and commercial fishing is part of it.
TH: For commercial kingfishand this is the one Im most familiar withfor part of the year, were allowed to catch fifty head of kingfish per day. Â Part of the year is seventy-five head of kingfish per day. Â Whereas, when you first moved to Fort Pierce and you said you could catch as many king
VS: Unlimited, yeah.
TH: Commercial fishermen used to fish dark to dark, actually
TH: and catch huge catches. Â Good friends of mine that fished then caught 900 pounds, average, 900 pounds a day. Â With the fifty to seventy-five head a day, youre making almost as a good a livingnot just as good a livingbecause the price is more stable. Â Could you elaborate on, you know, applying this to other fisheries, if this is for commercial fishing, the quota system? Â Could you elaborate on that? Â I dont want to feed you what youre
VS: No, I think thats really a good way to control it. Â I mean, Im not a commercial fisherman, but just looking at it from common sense, nobody, including the commercial guys or us, wants to kill every fish in the ocean. Â Were all in favor of making sure that we have the species survive. Â So putting a quota on, I think, is a very, very good way to do that.
TH: Catch limits and quotas?
TH: Thinking ahead, okay, anything else you want to add to that? Â Cause this is really important.
VS: No, the only thing I want to add to that is that I remember years back, in the early years when we had the net fish boats off Fort Pierce, they would encircle an entire school and just decimate the school. Â I think clearly that, to me, is detrimental, cause even though you dont catch all the fish in there, they need that schooling mentality to survive. Â And if you destroy that, in a big way, I think thats very detrimental to the fish. Â So Im glad the netting-thing ban is in effect, and I think thats helped a lot. Â Hook and line, I think, is much more fair to the species because you dont have a big injury [of fish] as a byproduct. Â But again, I think that the quota systemit seems to me like its a good way to do it.
TH: [Its] fairest and itll help preserve the fish and
VS: And the livelihood of people that rely on em, whether theyre commercial or
TH: Recreational. Â Okay, thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
VS: Well, Im afraid that theI think the fishing will be okay, but the regulations are gonna be more and more imposing on us. Â I hope Im wrong, but if it goes to an extreme, I can see where they outlaw fishing almost altogether. Â I really dont think that that should happen, but if you look at history, its been creeping up and up and up, and becoming more and more difficult. Â As far as wiping out the species, I personally havent seen a big detrimental effect on the species itself.
TH: In the time thats leftwere really pretty much finisheddo you have any stories, fishing stories, or big catches that you would like to share?
VS: Oh, I can share one that happened to me recently. Â You know, you as a kingfisherman, youre familiar with running planers and spoons behind. Â I was going over a wreck, pulling a spoon on a planer on an eighty pound line. Â I had a twenty-year-old kid and his father on boardI said twenty-year-old kid, but twenty-year-old man. Â And we had this tremendous hit on the planer, and we were trying to figure out what it is. Â Its hard to get him up, and the poor kid is fighting it and fighting it and fighting it. Â Finally, we get it close to the surface. Â Its a huge hammer; its a 500 pound hammerhead [shark]. Â And the kid, being the macho type, he wantedyou know, I told him, I said, Were not bringing him onboard. Â No way. Â But he wanted to take a picture of it to prove to his friends. Â So he was on that line and he brought it to the boat six or seven times and we took several pictures of it. Â He was clearly worn out, but he wouldnt give up, wouldnt give up. Â And finally, after the seventh time, the shark kind of broke the spoon and off he went. Â But who would have known that a 500 pound hammerhead would hit a spoon, a three-and-a-half inch spoon?
TH: How long is a 500 pound hammerhead, approximately?
VS: Well, we never got him alongside the boat. Â We had him behind the boat, and of course you could see his head; clearly, he was a hammerhead. Â But he was a good fifteen, twenty foot long.
TH: How wide from eye to eye, would you guess?
VS: Oh, Id say about four feet.
TH: Holy cow! (laughs)
VS: He was a scary little sucker.
TH: Okay. Â Well, thank you very much for your time, and with that, well wrap it up.
VS: Okay. Well, thanks for getting my input.
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