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Herman Summerlin 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 (28 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted July 17, 2010.
Oral history interview with commercial fisherman Herman Summerlin. Summerlin, a native of Fort Pierce, comes from a family of fishermen and has worked in the industry his entire life. As a young man, he fished for mullet, crawfish, and kingfish, mostly inshore. Later, he owned several fish houses and worked in the marine construction industry. Summerlin has never fished on the Oculina Bank but was still affected by the 1984 ban on bottom fishing since production declined. By 1994 when the next restrictions went into effect, he no longer owned a fish house and so his business was not impacted. In Summerlin's opinion, closing areas to fishing is not fair to fishermen. He prefers a quota system, arguing that it would be fair and lead to a better quality of fish. One problem is that there are considerably more fishers now than there were when he was a young man, placing much more stress on the fish. In this interview, Summerlin describes some of his fish houses and other business endeavors, and discusses how fishing has changed over the last fifty years.
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 morning. Â This is Terry Howard. Â Today is July 17, 2010. Â Im in St. Lucie Village atwhats the address? conducting an oral history with Herman Summerlin for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundations project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Â Welcome, Herman. Â Please state your name, spell your name, your place of birth, and your date of birth.
Herman Summerlin: Herman Summerlin, Senior. Â S-u-m-m-e-r-l-i-n.
TH: Spell your name.
HS: H-e-r-m-a-n S-u-m-m-e-r-l-i-n. Â Senior.
TH: Okay, and place of birth?
HS: Fort Pierce, Florida.
TH: And date of birth?
HS: 5-4-38 [May 4, 1938].
TH: May 4, 1938.
HS: Yes, sir.
TH: When did you move to Fort Pierce? Â I guess
HS: I was born in Fort Pierce.
TH: Born in Fort Pierce. Â Are you married?
TH: How old are youor, how old were you when you got married?
TH: Okay. Â Do you have children, how many, and how old are they?
HS: Yes, I got seven children, and they range in date fromI mean
HS: Age, from thirty-two to fifty-two.
TH: Okay. Â How much schooling do you have?
HS: Ninth grade.
TH: Okay. Â Do you have another job besides fishing? Â Have you had other jobs besides fishing?
HS: Yes, sir.
TH: Could you elaborate?
HS: I had a lot of jobs. Â When I was young, I worked for the fish company. Â I worked for several fish companies. Â I worked for Hudgins Fish Company, for Singleton Fish Company, for Kirby Fish Company, and for Garret Fish Company. Â After that, I went in the retail fish business, and I was in the fish business for thirty years.
TH: Do you currently own a boat?
HS: Yes, sir.
TH: How many? (laughs)
HS: Oh, I think about four.
TH: Okay. Whats your primary boat right now, and could you describe it?
HS: I got a little Stumpknockerits only fifteen feet longthat I fish cast net mullet along shore with.
TH: Okay. Â What kind of motor?
HS: A Mercury, fifteen horsepower.
TH: Okay. Â Now, Id like to ask some questions about the Oculina Bank. Â How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
HS: Not very. Â Ive never done much offshore fishing. Â As a boy, I fished mackerel with some of the old timers. Â But I never done no bottom fishin offshore.
TH: Okay. Â Lets go back quickly tohow many fish houses were in Fort Pierce when you say you worked for these various fish companies?
HS: At one point there was eight fish companies
HS: that I can recall. Â That was in the early fifties [1950s].
TH: Okay. Â Can you go back and name, and can you spell the names of the fish companies? Â I hate to say this, but they need it for the spelling.
HS: I cant spell the names of them, but I can name them. Â I dont have any idea how to spell them.
TH: Okay. Â Well go on. Â Id like tookay, do you know why the Oculina Bank was designated as an area to protect? Â What do you know about it?
HS: Very little. Â I know about it and I dontI never did figure out exactly why they decided to shut a certain area of the ocean down and not the rest of it.
TH: Okay. Â Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank?
HS: No, sir.
TH: Okay. Â What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
HS: I think that the closure of any area is a detriment to the fishin industry, sport and commercial. Â I dont feel that the government or the powers to be has the right to just say, Well, were not gonna let you fish in this area anymore. Â You caught too many fish here.
TH: Okay. Â Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing?
HS: No, sir.
TH: Okay. Â If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was permitted, would you fish there?
HS: No, sir.
TH: Okay. Â Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in Fort Pierce?
HS: Well, about twenty-five or thirty years ago, they tried to organize some fishermen and they couldnt get them together. Â The hook and liners and the net fishermen wanted to fight about everything. Â If the net fishermen caught a kingfish, the hook and line fishermen thought that he was doing wrong, that he shouldnt be able to catch kingfish because he was fishing with a net. Â So, as I seen it come, it gradually went downhill. Â A very smart man told me one timeby the name of Gene Hayesthat when they limit the days that you could fish that theres no way to win because the Lord limits the days that you can fish. Â The fishing has gone down so bad that they handle more fishwe used to handle more fish in a month than they handle in a year. Â Now
TH: In the fish houses?
HS: Of all species, yes.
TH: Have you had any experience with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
HS: No, sir.
TH: Now, your fishing history, specifically. Â What is your earliest of fishing and how old were you?
HS: Well, my daddy was a commercial fisherman. Â So, my fishinmy history of fishin comes from right after World War II, about 1946. Â We had to go with him. Â And he was also a mullet fisherman. Â He didnt do much ocean fishin. Â In those days, mullet, right after the war, were worth more than or as much as they are today. Â We got as much as twenty cents a pound for mullet in 1946. Â They were a primary fish that went up to North Florida and Georgia. Â But there was a big demand for em, because they were inexpensive and had a good shelf life.
TH: Whats your earliest memory of fishing? Â How old were you?
HS: Eight years old.
TH: Now, were you born in this house
HS: Yes, sir.
TH: that were in now. Â What was the address again?
TH: 2801. Â So, did you follow your father?
HS: I followed my father till I seen that that was a going-downhill situation. Â So, I ended up working at the fish house, cause it was steady money instead of you get money every now and then when you fish. Â Thats how I got most of my experience in the fishin industry, was actually working and running the fish houses.
TH: Okay. Â You started off just working there and you began running the place in short order?
HS: Right. Â Yes.
TH: How did you learn how to fish? Â This is who taught you. Â I mean, to throw a cast net, to use a rod and reel.
HS: My daddy taught me how to throw a cast net, and an old kingfisherman by the name of Sherman Merritt taught me how to kingfish.
TH: Oh, yeah?
HS: And I learned crawfishin from Sherman Merritt. Â I crawfished with him for a couple of years.
TH: You ran traps?
HS: Yes, I ran traps with Sherman. Â Then, in later years, I fished with my cousin Bill Summerlin, mainly cast net fishin and some trap fishin.
TH: Trap. Â Fish traps?
HS: No, crawfish traps.
HS: I was about twenty years old. Â I got a boat from Hudgins Fish Company, what they called a company boat. Â At that time, Hudgins had about fifty vessels that they owned and you fished them for them at 12 percent. Â I fished that boat for a couple of years.
TH: You get 12 percent of the total fish?
HS: They tookHudgins took 12 percent of the total fish for the boat, for the use of the boat.
TH: You got 88 percent to you.
HS: Right, yes. Â But you had to furnish your own gear. Â They just furnished the boat and they maintenanced [sic] it, though. Â They maintained the boat and they had a fleet of boats at that time. Â A lot of people had what they call company boats, oris what they called the boats.
TH: Where was Hudgins located at that time? Â This was the
HS: Taylor Creek.
TH: Now, what period was this?
HS: This was in the fifties [1950s].
TH: Nineteen fifties, okay. Â How did you decide to become a fisherman? Â Is that all you knew?
HS: Well, yeah. Â I was kind of roped into it, with no education to speak of. Â In those days, that wasyou kind of followed in your familys footsteps. Â And all of myDaddy and his brothers and my cousins and uncles fished, mostly, is what they did.
TH: Okay. Â So, primarilyokay, I want to talk about the mullet for a minute, and then Id like to talk about the kingfish and maybe the crawfish, too. Â How did you fish for the mullet? Â What gear and bait? Â What did you use?
HS: We used gill nets. Â Each boatwe journey fished with two boats, and each boat had 300 to 400 yards of net. Â We would find a school of mullet and one boat would go one way and one the other, and [we would] pin them up and then drumwhat they call drum it out, by banging on the side of the boat or beating on the bottom to run the fish into the net. Â Did do some seining, beach seining, and then some pursing [purse seining] in the river.
TH: For mullet?
HS: For, mainly, mullet. Â But we caughtno, on the beach we caught whiting and pompano in spots.
TH: In spots.
TH: All right. Â Who did you fish with? Â And this is when you had the company boat.
HS: I fished with a lot of different people, but when I had the company boat, I fished with a fellow by the name of Cody Williams and his brother Carol Williams. Â They had the gear, but didnt have a boat. Â So, when they crawfish season ended that year, we wentme and Carol and Cody went beach seining. Â We fished the summer doing that, and I went back crawfishing.
TH: Okay. Â Crawfishing, how many traps did you run? Â Lets talk about crawfishing.
HS: Fifty traps.
TH: Okay, right out here?
HS: Yeah, right in front. Â Right out from Vero [Beach] to Fort Pierce.
TH: And you would bait em with?
HS Bunkers or mullet or
TH: How long would you soak em?
HS: Wed let em soak about two hours and then we pulled em and if they catching, we would put em right back. Â We fished only at night, night fish. Â They were open top traps. Â They were not really a trap. Â We called them pots, is what they were called, crawfish pots. Â There was
TH: They were open at the top?
HS: Open at the top, yeah. Â Thats the reason we pulled em every two hours. Â The crawfish would get in there and start eating, and then youd pull it. Â And we caughtyou know, a good night, you could catch 500 pounds. Â On a bad night, youd catch 150 or 200.
TH: Thats a lot of pounds.
HS: A lot of pounds, yeah. Â But they werent worth a whole lot. Â The little fish were worthin those days, Im wanting to say we got fifty cents for the small ones. Â That was anything less than two pounds, which we dont get a lot of in this area. Â Most of the crawfish here are big crawfish. Â Anything over two pounds, we only got twenty-five cents a pound for.
TH: Okay. Â You fished with Sherman Merritt, later?
HS: Yes, I fished with Sherman. Â I wintertime fished with Sherman, kingfishing. Â I fished with him a few times, crawfishing. Â But he normally fished by himself.
HS: He was kind of a loner. Â But he did take me under his wing and taught me how to kingfish. Â So, I kingfished that same boat, that Hudgins boat, for a couple of years, a couple of winters.
TH: Okay. Â Were kingfish in closer to shore back then, or did you have to go way offshore?
HS: Yes, a lot closer to shore. Â We neverI dont think I ever went no more than five miles offshore.
TH: Okay. Â Where did you go to fish when you began fishing? Â You know, this is a tough question. Â You went different places for whatever fish you were targeting, I assume.
HS: Thats right, yeah.
TH: During what months of the year did you fish for mullet? Â Lets go back to the
HS: Generally we started fishing mullet the first of June and fished mullet all the way through till January, all the way to the roe season. Â In those days, the season wasthere was a closed season on mullet from DecemberIm wanting to say from November 15 till January 15. Â We were not allowed to catch mullet because they were in the roe season.
TH: From November 15?
TH: So then, you fished from June till November?
TH: Until they closed the season.
TH: Okay. Â So, when did you fish for kingfish?
HS: In the same period there, around Christmas time, is when they got the thickest. Â When the mulletwhen we werent fishing mullet, we went offshore kingfishing when the weather was good.
TH: Okay. Â What was the season for the crawfish?
HS: Crawfishin was early. Â We fished crawfish all the way intoIm wantin to say the season opened in August. Â We fished crawfish August, September, October, on into November.
TH: Okay. Â So, its hard to say, but an average fishing trip would last how long?
HS: One day.
TH: But, ten hour day?
HS: Oh, no. Â Days were twelve and fourteen. Â There wasnt no ten hour day.
TH: Okay. Â An average trips catch of mullet?
HS: When we were gill net fishing, a thousand pounds for two boats.
TH: That'd be an average?
HS: That was an average day.
TH: An average kingfishing day?
HS: Four hundred.
TH: Four hundred pounds would be an average kingfishing day.
HS: Yes, sir.
TH: Average. Â And average crawfish, you already said, I think, were somewhere between a hundred and
HS: A hundred and 500.
TH: To 500, okay. Â For how many years did you fish forwell, I guess mullet youre still fishing for. Â Lets go back. Â About how many years did you fish for crawfish?
HS: From the mid-fifties [1950s] till the mid-sixties [1960s]. Â Ten years.
TH: Okay. Â How many years did you fish for kingfish?
HS: Only a couple of years.
TH: Then mullet, youre still fishing for mullet?
HS: Yes, still trying to catch a mullet.
TH: (laughs) Okay. Â I think we covered a lot of this. Â So, youve fished a lot of boats. Â You talked about fishing the company boats at Hudgins. Â Do you remember your first boat that you owned yourself?
HS: Yeah. Â It was a little McGauran boat. Â It was built by Denny McGauran.
TH: Denny McGauran?
TH: How do you spell his name?
HS: Dont know that. (laughs)
TH: Okay. Â Well have to getIll get that.
HS: Yeah. Â Youll get that. Â I had a little boat that he had built that I bought from him for $200. Â It was a plywood boat, had a little Goodyear motor on it. Â It was
TH: A Goodyear?
HS: Yeah. Â It was made by Johnson Evinrude, but it was called a Sea King, motor on it. Â I think it was a five horse[power]. Â And I fished it around the river, trout fishin. Â I never was good at trout fishing cause I couldnt sit still long enough. Â A trout fisherman has got to have great patience and Im not a real patient person. Â So, that does not work with the trout fishing and me too long. Â I tried it a couple summers, and ended up selling bait to the real trout fishermen and making more money selling bait than I was catching trout.
TH: Youre selling
TH: Pigfish, to the trout fishermen.
TH: Okay. Â Now, you said this waswhat kind of boat did you say this was?
HS: A McGauran boat.
HS: He built a bunch of em. Â He built em from like twelve foot long to twenty foot long. Â And they all looked alike.
TH: Now, this is Denny McGauran?
HS: Denny and Donny.
TH: And you call them McGauran.
HS: That's what I always called them, McGauran.
TH: I must find out the spelling. Â I will check that. Â Okay, that was your first boat and youve owned many, many boats. Â Would it be possible to run through the main boats youve had, just a quick (HS laughs)or would this be too many?
HS: Oh, Lord, trying to think.
TH: You owned a fish house at one time. Â Is this correct?
TH: So, did you have boats then?
HS: I had boats then, yeah. Â I had
TH: When did you own the fish house?
HS: I wentin fifty-eight , I opened a retail market on Seventh Street and went into the wholesale fish business, and then I bought Baywood Fisheries from Captain Fagen, who had originally started it. Â It was a smoke fish business, and I moved my retail business over there on the causeway.
TH: South Beach Causeway?
HS: South Beach Causeway.
TH: Captain Fagen, now who was he?
HS: He was an old retired sea captain. Â He was born and raised in St. Augustine and when he came back to Florida, he settled here. Â And him and my uncle opened a smoke fish business, and it was a pretty lucrative business. Â I want to say in the early sixties [1960s] that I bought that business from him and changed the name of it to Summerlins Baywood Fisheries. Â My fish house was called Summerlins, and then I changed it because I wanted to keep the name Baywood. Â So, I changed it over. Â That was in the early sixties [1960s]. Â I owned that business for about fifteen years; ended up selling it to my brother, Astor Summerlin, who later gave it to his son. Â But after I sold out there, I opened Pelican Seafoods.
HS: Yeah, on U.S. 1. Â I bought that when I sold out on the beach. Â I moved over to U.S. 1, still in the fish business, and boughtLuther and Lindy Peterson had a little place they called 7Cs Seafood, and I bought it out. Â From there, I went down to Taylor Creek and Bernard Egan built a building for me there, and I stayed there about three years.
TH: That where you were wholesale. Â You bought fish from fishermen.
TH: Right there on Taylor Creek.
HS: Right on Taylor Creek, yeah. Â Back where I was at is right where Hudgins was twenty-five years before. (laughs)
TH: Was that on the north or south side of Taylor Creek?
HS: North side.
TH: North side of Taylor Creek, okay. Â Id be right there where Harbortown Marina is today.
HS: Right where Harbortown is now, yeah.
TH: All right.
HS: And then from there, I bought the Co-op Fish Company when it went out of business. Â I bought it from the government. Â SBASmall Business Administrationput it on the market after it folded, and I bought it and moved it up to what we call Mall Channel, which is now Riverside Marina.
TH: Okay, so you bought the Co-op.
HS: I bought the Co-op from SBA.
TH: But it was located down south of here.
HS: It was north of here.
TH: I mean, north of here.
HS: It was landlocked.
HS: But I bought it and moved it down there to
TH: Where Riverside Marina is today.
HS: Where Riverside Marina is today.
TH: So, that was Hermanswhat did you call the place?
TH: 7Cs, that was right across the little canal from Hudgins.
HS: Thats right.
TH: At that time, that wasokay.
HS: Hudgins was still downtown at the time when I bought that. Â Hudgins was leasing a place from Joe Tourney
TH: On Seaway Drive.
HS: Yeah, on the corner of Seaway Drive, right.
TH: On the west side of the river, the base of South Bridge.
HS: Yeah, base of the old South Bridge.
TH: All right. Â So, youve had fish houses. Â Youve owned too many boats to probably count. (laughs)
HS: Yeah, I have owned a lot of boats.
TH: All right. Â Lets go back to the question: How has fishing changed since you began fishing as a kid? Â What do you think has affected the fishing most in this area?
HS: I think that probably that what affected the fishing is thatyou gotta remember, coming as up as a boy, that if youd seen five boats in one day other than your own, youve seen a lot of boats. Â Today, I dont have to leave my dock to see five boats. Â In the day when I was fishin, when I was twenty years old, there was probablyall through the fifties [1950s], there was probably a hundred fishermen lived in Fort Pierce. Â When I say fishermen, I mean full-time, gung-ho fishermen. Â We didnt have anything [like] what we called [in] later years, we call weekend warriors. Â Then, I think it just got to a point that the boat traffictheres still a lot of fish, but the boat traffic keeps them beat so bad thatI dont know much about the ocean fishing, but the river fishing, it appears to me that the fish dont have a chance to rest. Â Theres just so many people out there.
HS: And I know theya lot of them do fish and return the fish to the water, but I thinkIve always believed that half of the fish returned to the water are dead when you return them, no matter whether theyre sailfish, kingfish, mackerel, or bluefish or mullet or whatever. Â They dont survive the trauma.
TH: Have you seen runoff? Â Has that been a factor?
HS: Say again?
TH: Freshwater runoff, has it increased? Â Has that been a factor in the fishing in the river?
HS: I dont think its increased, but I think they turn it loose all at one time, where it used to be the runoff would last for two or three days after a rain and it was over. Â But now, they hold it up and dump it in smaller amounts, I suppose. Â But it seems to affect the river for ten days after a hard rain or something like that.
TH: Okay. Â So, you think it comes in greater volume, or just the way theyre releasing it is changing?
HS: Just the way they release it.
TH: Okay, theyve always released the water from Lake Okeechobee?
HS: Oh, yes. Â Yes, theres always been.
TH: Since you were
HS: Since I was a boy.
TH: Nineteen thirty-eight.
HS: Yeah, there was always release. Â I dont think it was as great as it is now, but there was always a release. Â You could depend on it if you were fishing Gilberts Bar or Port Salerno, that if you had a hard rain, it was gonna be two or three days before the river got back to its normal self.
The House of Refuge at Gilberts Bar, a.k.a. the House of Refuge, is the last remaining shipwreck life-saving station on Florida's Atlantic Coast and is the oldest building in Marion County.
TH: All right. Â Id like to talk about your fishinghow your 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 The Oculina Bank was initially closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom longlining in 1984. Â Did this affect your fishing?
HS: Only to the point that the production was down in eighty-four .
TH: Now, did you own a fish house at this time?
HS: Yes. Â Yes, I did.
TH: So, you were not getting as many fish coming in from your longliners, I assume.
TH: All right. Â So, that affected your fishing business.
HS: Yeah. Â Well, they actuallyat that time, they stopped the fishing all through the straits. Â You couldnt fish more than half the distance from one country to another along that same period of time.
TH: And that was the swordyou were getting a lot of swordfish?
HS: All the small boats that were swordfishing. Â Nick the Greek had one of my boats he was fishin. Â It was only a thirty foot boat and he just fished maybe two nights, and that put him completely out. Â And then there was several other
TH: Now, whats Nick the Greeks full name?
HS: Korrusis, Nick Korrusis.
TH: Nick Korrusis, okay, Ronnies father.
HS: Ronnies father.
HS: He fished one of my boats, the Barbara Bee, he fishedand Jerry Harrison fished one of my boats, one of my swordfish boats. Â What was that other boys name? Â Jewfish, but I cant remember what his name was. Â Martin. Â Cant remember his first name, but he fished one of my boats. Â At that time, I had a half a dozenin fact, I had seven longline boats. Â We rigged the first longline boat that ever fished out of Fort Pierce.
TH: Youre talking swordfish?
HS: Right, swordfishing.
TH: Tell me about that.
HS: The mackerel season was over, and we took the Little Jody, one of my mackerel fishin boats, and put two miles of longline on it. Â Kenny Cheetham and Roy and Larry SummerlinRoy and Larry Summerlin and Jimmy Moore talked me into financin' agoing longlining. Â And the first catch we had waswe had one fish that weighed 400 pounds, but we ended up with about 1500 pounds of swordfish for the first couple nights.
TH: Fifteen hundred pounds a night?
HS: No, for the two nights.
TH: Two nights.
HS: And we shipped them to New York, and they refused them because they said the mercury content was too high. Â Later, I found out it was not the mercury content; it was the northern swordfish boats that didnt want the southern swordfish on the market. Â So, it took us about a year to find a market for the southern swordfish. Â Hudgins had fish turned down in New York, and we had ours shipped back down here; wed just give them away. Â But that was out first experience, and as far as I know, we had the first boat, the Little Jody, the first boat that was ever rigged for swordfishin.
TH: The Little Jody was about how long?
HS: It was a forty-eight foot Marine Management.
TH: Marine Management
HS: Forty-eight foot.
TH: Wheres that? Â Is that the titlename of the boat, the Marine Management?
HS: The name of the manufacturer, yeah, Marine Management.
HS: Gene Hayes had one of them. Â Bobby Crain had one. Â There was a lot of them around. Â Henry Crain had one. Â There was a lot of Marine Managements. Â They wereI dont know. Â Gene always called them Clorox bottles. Â But they were a high sided boat, would carry a big load, and were fairly fast because [in] those days, we fished under the plane, and the fastest boat got the best set. Â So, with the mackerel fishermen
TH: So, a plane would spot the mackerel?
HS: So, speed was a big factor, and the Marine Management was fast. Â [In] later years, we bought a couple of the ones that Gus built up there.
HS: No, they were
TH: Gus who?
HS: Gus Lenard.
TH: L-e-n-a-r-d? Â L-e-n-n-a-r-d?
HS: n-a-r-d. Â L-e-n-a-r-d. Â He builtcant remember the name of his boat, but he built quite a few of them. Â We bought the first one out of the mold, and then we had another one. Â We had two of those boats. Â They were fifty-foot long withthey put double engines in some of them; we had single engines in ours. Â And we used them for mackerel fishing and swordfishing.
TH: This was in the 1980s?
TH: So, to go back to my question: So, when they did close down the Oculina Bank, you couldnt run a swordfish line?
HS: Right, you couldnt run a swordfish line out there unless you were half the distance to the Bahamas, to the Bahama Bank. Â You had to be
TH: So, thats way deep.
HS: Right. Â And then the Bahamian government pulled a couple of boats over there for fishing in their waters. Â So, itd become big contest where we couldnt fish anywhere in the straits.
HS: From Miami to Fort Pierce.
TH: In 1994, the Oculinanow this is probably1994, youd probably given up your
HS: Yeah, I was out of the fish business in ninety-four .
HS: I was in marine construction.
TH: In 1994, the Oculina Bank 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? Â Probably not.
TH: Nineteen ninety-six, all anchoring was prohibited within the Oculina Bank. Â Did this impact your fishing, and if so, how?
HS: I have no idea.
TH: It probably didnt. Â In 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area to the east and north of the designated Oculina Bank. Â And in 1998, this area was incorporated into the Oculina Bank HAPC. Â Fishing for a bottomfishing with a bottom longline, trawl, or dredge was prohibited in the expanded area, as was anchoring by any vessel, you know, when they expanded the Oculina Bank area in 1998. Â Was your fishing impacted by this regulation?
TH: By this time, you were in the marine construction business, building docks, water and sea walls.
TH: The designation of 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 such as quotas, closed seasons, trip limits, et cetera? Â What do you think aboutIll repeat this, this is a mouthful. Â What do you think about the use of closes areas to fishing compared to other types of management regulations such as quotas, closed seasons, or trip limits?
HS: Im against closing any part of the river or its tributaries or the ocean. Â I think that the quotas and the limited fishing works better than closing an area. Â I just dont think that closing an area is a fair and equitable way to manage the fisheries.
TH: You do believe in managing the fisheries?
HS: Yes, I think it has to be managed, yes.
TH: But you
HS: I dont think closing an area is the proper way. Â I dont think its fair to the fishermen or the sport fishermenyou know, the commercial fishermen or the sport fishermenbecause fish cant read signs. Â I mean, they put signs up that say go slow cause theres manatees. Â But you gotta remember, those manatees cant read that sign. Â So, they dont know where to travel, and thats the same way with the fishin. Â The fishinyou might go out there and those kingfish pull in, and they only pull in on Oculina Bank. Â So, what do you do now? Â Where do you go? Â You go back to the dock and hope theyre gonna pull offshore or pull inshore or
TH: Someplace where you can fish.
HS: somewhere you can fish.
TH: Okay. Â Next question is: What do you think the most fair and equitable way to manage all the fisheries is? Â How do youif you could manage the fisheries, what do you think the fairest, most equitable way to manage the fisheries [would be] so there would be a plentiful supply of fish and fishermen in the future?
HS: You got me now. Â I dont know how the hell you would manage it.
TH: Well, the tools
HS: I think that thewhat I see is that the quota thingthe number of fish that you can catchis a fair and equitable way. Â If everybody abides or has to abide by the rules, it makes a better quality of fish. Â I know that to be a fact. Â That was always one of the biggest problems with the fishing industry, was having a quality [fish] to sell, not necessarily a quantity. Â It was the quality of the seafood that made it worth more money and gave people a better taste in their mouth.
TH: So, in the kingfish industry, I guess when they werethe quality slumped when nets
HS: The quality went to hell when the net fishermen come. Â In fact, we packed net fish and hook and line fish in two different boxes. Â We marked right on the box, hook and line. Â And on the net fish, we didnt mark the box.
TH: So, youd get more money for the
HS: Yes, and they did bring more money. Â As a general rule, they brought a nickel or a dime more by just having hook and line on it.
TH: A nickel or a dimes not that much today.
HS: Well, it aint today, but it was a lot then when kingfish were a quarter and sometimes twelve cents. (laughs)
TH: I guess, yeah. Â Okay. Â So, you think quotas are probably the fairest way?
HS: The fairest way.
TH: And trip limits, maybe?
TH: For sport fish?
TH: Do you think they should be policed at the docks, at the boat ramps, or in the water?
HS: At the docks or the boat ramp, not in the water. Â Thats a dangerous and very bad situation, to try to police somebody in the water.
TH: Okay. Â Finally, thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
HS: I dont think were gonna see a lot of change. Â [There is a] possibility that, if they get something done with that Everglades thing and get that freshwater from flowing, I think it will help our river.
TH: But the rivers where the small fish spawn.
HS: Right, and
TH: The river grasses, I guess.
HS: Right. Â I think itll help that part of it once they get that water diverted south, if they ever do. Â They have created a monster with this South Florida Water Management District and now they dont know what to do with it. Â Their hands are tied. Â So, I dont know whats gonna become of that, whos gonna end up having to step up to the plate and put a stop to the stuff were going through right now. Â I see the fishery staying about the same, really. Â I dont see it getting any better or any worse. Â They keep changing the rules. Â If you want to go fishing now, you almost gotta take your lawyer with you cause theyll change it while youre out there. Â (TH laughs) I just got my paper from Tallahassee to tell me the new rules and regulations, and theyve changed things all around again. Â So, I had no idea some of the rules and regulations that are now in effect. Â It wasnt in effect a year ago.
TH: So, you think in ten years, it wont change a whole lot?
HS: No, sir.
TH: And you do think that one of the biggest problems right now is the pressure on the fish from the numbers of all kinds of fishermen?
TH: Like you said at the beginning, the boatstheres far, far more boats.
HS: Yeah, the boat traffic, more than fishing, just the boat
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