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Steve Lowe oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Cardin.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (42 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (30 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted April 22, 2010.
Oral history interview with commercial fisherman Steve Lowe. Lowe has lived in Fort Pierce since 1938 and worked in the fishing industry for most of his life, as a fisherman and owner of a fish house, before retiring in 2006. He began fishing Oculina Bank in the 1950s and helped the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution locate the area in 1972. There were not many boats fishing the area then due to the tide, and all were commercial. When the area was closed to grouper and snapper fishing in 1994, Lowe stopped going there and compensated by targeting mostly kingfish. In Lowe's opinion, quotas are the best way to manage a fishery, not closing species or areas. He thinks that the regulations have worked to put fishermen out of business. In this interview, Lowe also describes his fishing techniques and some of the equipment he used.
Fort Pierce (Fla.)
Saint Lucie County (Fla.)
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 Robert Cardin: Good morning. This is Robert Cardin. Today is April 21, I think.
Steve Lowe: Twenty-second.
RC: April 22 is todays date. Im at the residence of Steve Lowe, conducting an oral history of Steve Lowe for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation project Fort Pierce-Oculina Bank. Welcome. Please state your name, Steve.
SL: Steve Lowe.
RC: And spelled S-t-e-v-e?
RC: Where were you born, Mr. Lowe?
SL: New Smyrna Beach.
RC: And what was your date of birth?
SL: 2-8-36 [February 8, 1936].
RC: When did you move to Fort Pierce, Steve?
SL: When I was two years old, 1938.
RC: And what brought you here, sir?
SL: My dad.
RC: Okay. And, Steve, are you married?
RC: How old were you when you first got married?
SL: Which time?
RC: The most recent.
SL: Oh, God. I was in my fifties, I guess. Weve been married now twenty-five years.
RC: Oh, thats a prettypretty good record, there. Steve, do you have any children?
RC: How many and how old are they?
SL: Two girls. One is forty-seven, and the other one is forty-nine.
RC: And, sir, how much schooling do you have?
SL: High school.
RC: High school graduate, okay. Do you have any other jobs besides fishing?
RC: Have you had other jobs besides fishing?
SL: Running a fish house. Yes, I have: construction jobs, when I just got out of school in 1955. I went fishing one day and caught 1,000 pounds of kingfish, and they were ten cents a pound. They were paying me $100 a week in construction work, and I made $100 that one day, and I quit the construction job. I gave the man two weeks notice.
RC: Did you stay all two weeks?
SL: Yeah, I stayed there two weeks. (laughs)
RC: Thats cool, Steve. And, Steve, you currently own a boat?
SL: No. One small boat, fifteen foot Key West.
RC: Fifteen foot Key West. So, what, do you basically consider yourself retired now?
RC: Now, Id like to ask you some questions about the Oculina Bank. Steve, how familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
SL: Im real familiar with it. I fished on the Oculina Bank in the fifties [1950s].
RC: In the fifties [1950s]? ThatsI dont even think it was discovered yet.
SL: It wasnt, till seventy-two , and I showed them how to find it then. They took the Sea Diver out there, and they were zigzagging northwest and souther, northwest and northeastand they were going right between the peaks. So, I told them to go out there 240 foot and just start running north.
RC: And you toldwho are you referring to as they?
SL: Oh, I dont know who it was, but it was the Harbor Branch Foundation.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University conducted scientific research referenced in the Oculina Bank closure. It is a non-profit oceanographic institution dedicated to marine and ocean research and education operated by the university.
RC: Harbor Branch Foundation?
SL: It wasnt, then. I think it was called something other than that.
RC: Interesting. Thank you, Steve. Do you know why the Oculina Bank was designated an area to protect?
SL: No, I do not, other than longliners were cutting the coral off with the cable. It wasnt the shrimp boats, because they cant drag in there; the peaks are too high. They come up 180 feet, some of them 200 feet.
RC: Peak meaning, like, coming out of the 240 foot of water you were speaking of?
SL: No, coming out of 600 feet of water, up to 180 feet, some of them.
RC: Interesting. I know these days, theyre like 195, 205; its like theyre shorter than they used to be.
SL: They probably are.
RC: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank?
SL: Only that there was a lot of fish on it, and I caught a lot of them. Thousands and thousands of pounds of snapper and grouper and every kind of snapper and grouper: mutton snapper, red snapper, gray grouperwhat you call gag grouper, nowWarsaw grouper, plenty of them.
RC: Do you know, like, was there a fleet of boats, or did you have fellow fishermen that fished with you?
SL: No. Very few boats fished out there, because of the tide.
RC: And they would be mostly commercial?
SL: Yeah. We were all commercial, no sport fishing. There was none back then. There was no sport fishing here that went out there. Sy Thomas and George Archer were the two main charter boats out there, and they were mainly sailfish and kingfish and dolphin and wahoo, like that, trolling. They did no bottom fishing out there at all.
RC: Yeah, Ive noticed in my lifetime how it used to be game fish, and now a lot of the charter boats are now after bottom fish.
SL: Yeah, yeah, like The Floridian; he goes out there. And whats his name, Glenn Cameron?
Glenn Cameron was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00006.
He bottom fishes all winterhe did, before they closed it down. He was fishing only in ninety foot of water, and sometimes he went off in the Oculina Bank.
RC: Out that way?
RC: Interesting. What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
SL: I dont think the anchoring ever bothered it; the fishing either, other than slowing down over the years.
RC: Well, do you mind if I ask you why you think anchoring and bottom fishing didnt bother it?
SL: It neverthe anchor, with the 50 pound anchor we used, you didnt drag that anchor. When you anchored, it was in one place. A 50 pound anchor and 70 foot of chain, probably 800 foot of rope
RC: But would you anchor on the peak, or would you position the boat
SL: Wed anchor in front of the peak and fish on the edge of it.
RC: So, you were never even putting your anchor in the coral area.
SL: No. No, you didnt want to put the anchor in the peak. If you did, you didnt catch anything.
RC: (laughs) Yeah, I think a lot of people dont understand that about commercial fishing.
RC: You try to position yourself to have less snag
SL: Timing and position, thats the whole thing about fishing.
RC: Theyve made it, you know, some areas you can power fish, but to me, that just puts you closer to putting your gear into the coral.
SL: Yeah, into the coral banks.
RC: Hasor, I guess, how did the closure of the Oculina Bank affect you?
SL: Oh, at that time, I was doing a lot of fishing out there. I was catching a lot of grouper and snapper out in the Oculina Bank. Then, when they closed it, it affected a lot of fishermen, because at that time, there was probably ten or twelve boats going out there fishing.
RC: Like, on a daily basis?
SL: Yeah, on bottom reels, what they call deck reels. Then they started longlining tilefish, and then they decided they were coming in the Oculina Bank to catch grouper. And they caught a lot of grouper, but when they run those cables, the eight-inch steel cables zigzagging in the banks, when they went to pick them up, it cut the coral off. I think thats what really happened to all the coral out there.
RC: How long did that take place? Many years?
SL: No, they didnt do it many years. They did it probably five years, maybe. But they destroyed a lot of that coral.
RC: If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was not prohibited, would you have fished there?
SL: Sure I would have. I did that all my life.
RC: This question here is How, and for what?
SL: Sometimes we power fished, just to try a place. If we caught a fish or two, wed run up and anchor.
RC: So, if they wouldnt have closed it, you would have just kept right on anchoring and bottom fishing?
SL: Oh, yeah, sure.
RC: With your deck reels or your bandits?
SL: Yeah, there were still a lot of fish there.
RC: Steve, can you tell meI mean, youve been here all your life. Overall, how has fishing changed here in the Fort Pierce area since you started fishing?
SL: Well, theyve cut it down so bad that you cant hardly make a living fishing now. Theyve got one type of fish left that they can fish, and thats king mackerel. Now, theyve shut the grouper and snapper off. Well, everybody that was stopping and catching grouper and snapper go kingfishing. They get a permit and they go kingfishing, cause thats about the only thing they got left.
RC: Well, how about the kingfishermen? I guess they used to have a grouper/snapper auction. Didnt most people also have grouper permits?
SL: Oh, yeah. Yeah, they did. I had a grouper permit. Unlimited. I sold it seven or eight years ago, because there was no way I could have caught that many grouper. I sold that permit for $9,000, and now theyre probably worth $13,000 or $14,000.
RC: You can get $14,000 for them. But are you saying, like, when Oculina Bank changed, you no longer had that option, so that made you depend more on kingfishing?
RC: And the kingfish fleet in general had that same
SL: Yeah, that was it. You could only kingfish. You couldnt bottom fish, not out there, anyway.
RC: Well, the way I remember back, lets say, in ninety-four  when it closed, it seemed like most kingfish folks did have grouper permits. Wasnt that, like, the standard?
SL: Yeah. Yeah, they caught a lot of grouper inshore. There was a lot of those kingfish boats had unlimited permits, 225 pounds. Course, at that time, that wasnt hard to catch that many grouper.
RC: Well, probably the kingfish limit was still a good bit of pay. (laughs)
SL: Yeah. Yeah, it was.
RC: All right. Steve, have you had any experience with law enforcement, within or regarding Oculina Bank?
SL: Nope. Never have.
RC: All right. Now, Steve, Id like to talk about your history in general.
SL: All right.
RC: What is your earliest memory of fishing, and how old were you?
SL: Well, my earliest memory was just fishing inshore, in 90 foot of water or 100.
RC: No, excuse me, let me rephrase that. Earliest memory, like going to the lake with your grandpa fishing or something. Or did your dad take you out?
SL: My dad took me out on the river fishing when I was just a kid, just like ten year old. We caught a lot of channel bass and snook. At that time, you could bring in snook and sell them. We got eighteen cents a pound for them.
RC: Really? Ill be darned.
SL: And there was no limit on them. You could catch all you wanted to, any size. Now, you got a window thats ridiculous.
RC: Speaking of selling fish back then, there was, like, a lot of fish houses?
SL: Yeah, there were thirteen fish houses here when I was a kid. Taylor Creek wasthe north side of Taylor Creek was all fish houses. There was Hudgins and I dont know how many others along there.
RC: Like, you came in and sold a snook. Was that eaten locally or shipped away?
SL: Most of the snook, there were probably fifteen or twenty of what we called bridge fishermen that fished with cane poles and wire lines. They caught probably an average of 1,000 pounds of snook a night. They were sold locally, and they were shipped to New York. At that time, we shipped everything in barrels, 200 pound barrels.
RC: What were they, like sealed barrels or pickle barrels?
SL: No, they were wooden barrels, with a canvas-reinforced top. The hoop went on them, and they nailed the hoop on over the top.
RC: And you put ice in there to keep them cold?
SL: Yeah, there was ice in there. Yeah, there was 100 pounds of ice, and like 200 pounds of fish.
RC: Ive always wondered
SL: Ice on the bottom, ice in the middle, and ice on top. Then you put the top on it, and you take it down to the Railway Express and set it on one of those railcars. Theyd load it on a train, and away itd go.
RC: Thats way before my time, but Ive heard about that. Thats really cool.
SL: Oh, I was down therewent down there with them a lot of times to send fish off. It was something.
RC: Was your dad selling fish at that time?
SL: Yeah. Oh, yeah, he had the fish house at the south end of the Souththe west end of the South Bridge. He had that fish house there in 1938.
RC: Youre kidding me.
SL: Thats when he started it. It was there during the war, and we sold the sailors all the fish and tackle they needed. He had a bait house, and tackle, and fish house, and everything, for years and years.
RC: Sold to sailorswhat, were there military in Fort Pierce at that time?
SL: Oh, sure. This is where the underwater demolitions started.
RC: But yall were actually, like, selling to the naval base or something?
SL: Yeah, we sold some to thehe sold some fish to the naval base, and we sold fishing tackle, me and my brother. Wed go out on the bridge with trays, with balls of cotton line with a lead and a leader on it, and wed get fifty cents for it. The sailors couldthey had the guardhouse on this end, on the west end of the bridge at that time, and they could come out on the bridge and fish. Theyd buy all this tackle from us, and throw it overboard when they got ready to go back and buy another one.
RC: You were an entrepreneur there, Steve.
SL: Oh, yeah. We sold those nickel pies; we used to go the bakery here, at Bell Bakery, and wed take a tray full of them pies out there, cream-filled pie turnovers, and made a nickel apiece.
RC: Man, Id beI would have loved it back then.
RC: Steve, when youI guess you learned how to sell all the pies on your own, but how did you learn how to fish?
SL: Oh, I justI did that on my own, same way I learned how to run a boat.
RC: Just jumped in it?
SL: I didnt go to school. I just got in and went. I always put motors in boats and shafts and everything, built them.
RC: Its a good life, isnt it?
SL: Yeah. It was then; not too good now, though.
RC: Well, Steve, how did you decide to become a fisherman?
SL: Well, my dad was in the fish business, and everything I caught, he bought. So, Id catch snapper, mango snapper, off the dock, off the bridge, and bring them down there, and hed sell them. Hed buy from me.
RC: And you just decided it was a good way to make a living.
SL: Sure. I had more money than anybody in town. I could sell any kind of fish: sheepshead, snapper, grouper. Anything I caught, theyd buy.
RC: Was there a point in your life that you just all of a sudden decided, Im gonna be a commercial fisherman?
SL: Yeah, when I was working for Fletcher Construction. I decided right then, when I went that one day and caught 1,000 pounds of kingfish. I made as much that day as I did the whole week working for him, running a whole gang of men. I told him; he tried to give me more money, and I said, No, Im going fishing, and I went.
RC: Right then and there.
SL: Right then.
RC: That made your decision.
SL: Thats it.
RC: Well, Steve, when did you start to work as a fisherman in the Fort Pierce area?
SL: You mean full-time?
RC: Well, since I dont know, lets do both. I guess when you were in your teens, you worked part-time.
SL: Yeah, right. After I got out of school, then I went serious fishing.
RC: Is that when you quit Fletcher Construction?
RC: When do you think that might have been?
SL: Probably 1956.
RC: And youve been full-time since.
RC: What did you fish for when you first quit, kingfish, snapper, grouper? You named several kinds.
SL: We caught kingfish, but Id go snapper fishing. I loved to catch snapper and grouper. At that time, wed catch them in 90, 100 foot of water. Youd quit kingfishing [when] they quit biting, and youd anchor up and catch grouper. It was a pretty common thing to do then. But now, you cant catch them: its closed.
RC: In general, youre just a very diversified fisherman.
RC: Like, what was in season?
SL: Oh, yeah; different kinds of fish at different times of the year.
RC: Thats what people dont understand. They want a year-long supply of everything.
SL: No. Dont work that way.
RC: Its like your red tomatoes all year. (laughs)
SL: Thats right. Dont work.
RC: Steve, I guess you said you came in, and you would anchor up, bottom fish. Like, were you hand line or bandit fishing or deck reel fishing?
SL: Well, in a hundred foot of water, we mostly hand line fished. The first hand lines we had were made out of cotton, twisted cotton, seventy-two thread cotton line.
RC: And what, did you just use a sinker hook and some bait?
SL: Yeah, used a kidney, what we called a kidney lead; weighed about two pounds, three pounds. You put a leader off the end of it: thats what you used for line.
RC: Just one hook and one bait?
SL: One hook and one line; always used one hook and one line.
RC: And, Steve, you just mentioned, like, 100 foot or less or something, your hand line. What aboutI guess in Oculina Bank you already stated that you would use a deck reel or
SL: Right. That was a wire line.
RC: Who did you fish with, Steve?
SL: Homer Curry, mostly. I fished two or three of his boats.
RC: Who owned the boat?
SL: Homer Curry.
RC: Homer Curry. And now was thiswhat, you were full-time fishing?
RC: And how were you related to this person?
SL: Just a friend. Thats all.
RC: When did you, like, invest your money in your own boat and start fishing for yourself?
SL: In 1968, I built the first boat. Denny McGauran and myself built the boat. (inaudible) Little twenty-four footer: I called it Shantrey.
RC: And how many pounds of fish can you put on a twenty-four pound boat, Steve?
SL: I put 2800 pounds on that little boat one day!
SL: Right out of here.
RC: And, what, youve had two other boats since that one?
SL: Ive had several boats. My dad had one, the Sally Bee, and we rebuilt itFrank Johnson rebuilt that. It was good; it was a Carolina Sharpie. It was slow, at only eight miles an hour, but boy, it was a good kingfish boat, because it had a round stern; there was no wake behind it at all.
RC: Fishing close, huh?
SL: Yep. Catch em right up against the stern.
RC: Now, this is a question, but I want answered: Whats the most grouper you ever caught in one day, Steve?
SL: Ten thousand pounds, me and another man.
RC: (makes approving noise) Was that on your twenty-four footer?
SL: No, that was on the thirty-footer. That was on the Laura Anne.
RC: The Laura Anne?
RC: And you built the Laura Anne, too?
SL: Yeah. Bought the hull from Coby and built the cabin, and I put it all together.
RC: What did you have in her back the?
SL: Had a 653 Detroit Diesel line.
RC: What did you check home, about eight knots with that 10,000 pounds?
SL: No, that wasyeah, about that, about that. We damn near sunk. The guy I had with me, he was so beat from fishing that he was sitting on the engine box, and Im looking down and the waters right up at the engine box. I told him, Youd better go move them Warsaws. They were laying all over the deck, and he started pulling em up with a gaff hook, and opened up the scuppers.
RC: The water drained on out.
SL: The water run out then.
RC: Steve, where did you go fish when you began fishing?
SL: Right out of Fort Pierce. We fished inshore; we fished sixty, seventy, eighty feet of water, a hundred feet, usually kingfishing.
RC: Ive got this map here; Im gonna break it out. (rustles paper) Is this about the area here, the Northeast Ground?
SL: Yeah, Northeast and Bethel Shoals.
RC: Okay. Now, when you fished the Oculina Bank, where did you fish?
SL: Oh, well, I had numbers; thats all latitude and longitude. 223 was the south peak I fished.
RC: That would be right there. Thats, I guess, what they call Chapmans Reef or something.
RC: And on this map, you see this here experimental closure area. Did youis that the only place in here you fished, or did you
SL: No, I fished all the way up to Melbourne.
RC: Oh, through the whole Habitat Area of Particular Concern. All right, thank you, Steve.
SL: And the shrimp boats were outside. Id catch royal reds and rock shrimp.
RC: What depths were they working, if you recall?
SL: Where were they working?
RC: What depths? You said they were outside of the
SL: Oh, they were outside of the Oculina Bank.
RC: Seven, eight hundred feet?
SL: Yeah, six hundred feet or something like that. They had their plotters; they knew where they were at. They didnt want to get in them peaks.
RC: Theres a question here: During what months of the year did you fish for what?
SL: Well, red snapper, I usually started catching them in May. That was when they were roeing, and they were crazy. Theyd bite, just like on Indiana Rock. Id go there about once every three weeks.
RC: What, throughout the summer and into the fall?
SL: Yeah, in the summer. And boy, they were thick there. Sometimeswell, me and the Cuban, the chief, we had ninety-seven head there one afternoon, with 2700 pound. There were nothing but red snapper.
RC: Thats some serious fish.
SL: Yeah, we caught a lot of amberjacks and grouper, but we threw them over. We just wanted snapper.
RC: Just wanted snapper. Well, when would you grouper fish?
SL: Oh, grouper, wed fish them in the summer, too. And we went to the Bahamas one yearI think there was eight of us, chartered a sailboat and went over there. My dad told me the price of grouper was going down, and I had 16,000 pounds in that week.
RC: Oh, man!
SL: He wantedhe said the price was goingthey were sixteen cents a pound and they were going down. I said, Well, thats good enough for me. Ill quit!
RC: A couple pennies would be about the same as a dollar these days.
SL: Oh, yeah. Yeah, about sixteen cents a pound was pretty big money.
RC: Well, Steve, heres a tough one. How long did a fishing trip last? I mean, did you day boat and kingfish?
SL: Oh, I would day boat kingfish. Just one day.
RC: And how about your grouper and snapper fishing?
SL: Well, when I went on the Laura Annethat was the one that I built in sixty-eight Id go for three or four days on a trip.
RC: And that was
SL: Id go till I found em.
RC: That was for the grouper and snapper?
SL: Yeah. Sometimes I ended up off of New Smyrna and Daytona, up in there.
RC: Well, Steve, if you had to average out how much of a catch youd have on a tripI mean, is there any way for you to do that?
SL: Oh, wed catchon an average trip of three or four days, wed catch 3,000 or 4,000, mostly snapper.
RC: And that was by targeting snapper?
SL: Yeah. Yeah, thats what I looked for. I didnt look for grouper, I looked for snapper. They were big money. They were fifty cents a pound.
RC: Thats a 500 percent increase
RC: over the grouper prices. Now, where did you sell your catch at that time, Steve?
SL: To my dad. Charlie Seafood.
RC: And howdidwe spoke of when your dad opened his business in thirty-eight  and stuff like that. How long did he keep a fish house open, or did you just take over his fish house?
SL: I took over his fish house in the late seventies [1970s]. Seventy-six , about then. He got sick, somebody had to take it over, and I did.
RC: Thats almost forty years, Steve!
SL: I know. I quit fishing then. Tied my boat up and sold it to Frankie Breig.
RC: That was the Laura Anne, wasnt it?
SL: Yep, that was the Laura Anne. And that boats still fishing.
RC: And how long did you run that fish house, Steve? Let me ask you.
SL: Seventeen years.
RC: Till the Oculina Bank closed.
RC: I figured out the math: you ran it till ninety-four .
RC: And did that have anything to do with
SL: No. Nineteen eighty-eight was when I sold out over there. The reason I sold out is because the government got in with me, and when they get in with something, its ruined.
RC: Okay. So, I figure Ill write this down: you said you ran it for seventeen years
RC: and you started in seventy-six ?
SL: I think seventy-six , yeah. I sold it in eighty-eight .
RC: And did you run it after you sold it?
RC: All right. Well, its time for me to switch pages. So, throughout your history, I guess when we asked you where did you sell your catch, you sold it to your dad
RC: until seventy-six , and then you kind of sold it to yourself, maybe, or you didnt fish at all?
SL: I didnt fish at all then. You cant run a fish house and go fishing. It wont work.
RC: Anduh, give me a break here. Im trying to figure out my question paper here. This is where I got tripped up the last time. Okay, um, youve given dates. I guess now we would be to the point of maybe when you went back to fishing, perhaps after you sold your fish house. When would you havewhat did you
SL: I sold my fish to Inlet Fisheries.
RC: Okay, so, lets say, what did you do next?
SL: Went fishing. That was it; mostly kingfishing.
RC: And then youd slip out and do your Oculina Bank?
SL: I did go off there a few times and catch some grouper, before it closed. Then, when they closed it, I quit going out there at all.
RC: So, would we be safe in saying, like, from ninety-four  tillwhen did you kingfish, Steve?
SL: I kingfished there year-round, then.
RC: When did you quit? Its been abouthas it been four years since you quit?
SL: I think four years, yeah.
RC: So, lets say 2006.
RC: All right. Now, what did you do next when you retired, Steve?
SL: I got neuropathy drop foot. I cant do anything.
RC: And its safe to say youd still be out there hitting if you could.
SL: Yes, I would. Id be out there kingfishing today, if I could get out there. But I cant do it.
SL: And I miss it a lot.
RC: Well, it sounds like you got to catch your fair share.
SL: Oh, yeah. Ive caught mine.
RC: Dont let anyone say that you [have not] caught yours.
SL: Like I always say, I got mine. (laughs)
RC: Well, Steve, finally Id like to talk about how fishing has changed over time with regards to the Oculina Bank. Since eighty-four since 1984, several changes have been made in Oculina Bank regulations. Id like to know if any of these changes affected you and, if so, how.
SL: Oh, they closed it up, and when they closed it, I quit. I didnt even go back out there.
RC: And youre speaking of the ninety-four  closure.
RC: Well, in eighty-four , it was closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom longlining. Did this affect you?
SL: No, cause I never did any of that.
RC: Okay. And, of course, you fished prior to ninety-four , when it was designated as a closed area, no retention. I guessdid that affect you?
SL: Yeah. I quit. I didnt even go out there.
RC: So, in ninety-six , all anchoring was prohibited within Oculina Bank, and did this affect you? No, youd already quit.
RC: The reason it didnt was because you already had quit.
RC: Okay, heres another one: In 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area to the east and the north of the designated Oculina Bank; and in ninety-eight , this was incorporated into the Oculina Bank HAPC. Fishing with bottom longline gear, trawl, or dredge was prohibited in the expanded [area]; along with that, no anchoring of vessel. Did this impact you? Once again, you had already quit, correct?
SL: No. I had quit.
RC: Okay. Heres one just for you. The designation of Marine Protected Areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fisheries management tool. What do you think about the use of closed areas to fishing, compared with other types of regulations?
SL: Well, I think the regulations are enough, without closing off all the ocean. At the rate theyre going, theres not gonna be any place left to fish.
RC: And so, we have things like closed areas, closed to fish, closed seasons, et cetera. Which do you prefer, and what do you think is the best way to manage fisheries?
SL: I think the best way to manage is with the quotas: you know, limits.
RC: Quotas are the allocation in poundages?
RC: Number of allowable catch.
SL: Not closing the damn ocean! (laughs)
RC: What do you think about when they closedcaught, the boats park? I mean, a lot of people say thats not the way to manage a fishery.
SL: What, closing the ocean?
RC: No, once the quotas caught, then everyone has to park their boat.
SL: Well, they dont care, but thats not the way it works. All those boats will turn to another fishery thats open, and theres only one left thats open: kingfish. King mackerel cant stand that kind of pressure, and theyll find out that next year, theyll get less and less quota, like they do every year; or take part of the quota here and give it to the west coast, over in the Gulf. That dont make sense.
RC: Well, heres a question Im gonna ask you: Because youve been part of the fishing industry in Fort Pierce for so many years, what do you think of fishing in general? I mean, do you think some management measures have worked, or they havent worked?
SL: Well, I think it worked to put everybody out of business, as far as I can see, because its getting worse and worse and worse all the time. Its not a free enterprise like it used to be.
RC: And with these people being put out of business, do you thinkI mean, theres all kinds of talk about how the kingfish are in as good a shape as they were twenty years ago.
SL: No, theyre not. No. Ive caught as high as 3500 pounds of kingfish a day, by myself.
RC: Out here off Fort Pierce?
SL: Yes. And you cant do that now. I dont care how good you are or who you are. They pat themselves on the back now if theyve got a seventy-five head limit; they really think theyve done something [when] theyve caught seventy-five head. I caught 800 head a day.
RC: Well, I will thank you. That was good. Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
SL: There wont be any.
RC: And is there a reason why you believe that? You think the laws will be closing it down?
SL: The laws will be closing it down. They keep limiting and regulating it and regulating it and regulating it more all the time. They can only stand that much. You cant just keep closing down. Now youve got all your inshore fisheries; theyve got a restricted species on them. Thats another government thing thats gonnathat kills everything in the river.
RC: Yeah, everywhere from the beach and the river and everywhere.
SL: Everywhere. Yeah. You got the net closure; thats three miles offshore. Thats a bunch of baloney.
RC: Well, Steve, in summary, Ive picked up some things here, and you said when the Oculina Bank closedyou just, basically, quit bottom fishing.
SL: They closed it, I quit.
RC: And you said that you actually sold your grouper permit.
SL: Yeah, because theres no way I could have made that kind of money bottom fishing. No way.
RC: Just because Oculina Banks that rich?
SL: Yeah, and the inshore. Theyre just not there. The fish arent there like they used to be.
RC: Do you think that maybe the Oculina Bank held more fish, or you had more fishing opportunities, or it held fish year-round? Did you find, like, any patterns of migration?
SL: We had more opportunity then. Id go out there and Id be the only boat there. Anytime you can find a place like that, youre all right.
RC: Not inshore fighting with everyone else.
SL: Thats right. Theyre fighting over kingfish. I sat out there and caught a thousand pounds of red snapper while Im watching them, and theyre fighting over a damn ten cent kingfish.
RC: All right, Steve. Well, thank you very much for sharing your fishing history with us, and Im about to conclude that. Have you got anything else to say about it?
SL: No, not a thing, other than its something that no young person should ever get into now.
RC: The Oculina Bank or fishing?
SL: And the Oculina Bank, they took that.
SL: They will never open that again. I dont see that in my lifetime, and I aint got that much longer to go. But I dont think theyll ever open up again.
RC: I know it was designated as an Experimental Closed Area. You ever figured out what the experiment was?
SL: No. Only thing I can see is John Reed
John Reed has worked for Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution as a research scientist since 1969. He has over thirty publications relating to the subject of the Oculina Bank.
going down there in his submarine looking at it.
RC: Oh, okay. Well, thank you, sir. Thatll conclude it.
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