|USFDC Home||| RSS|
COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 201, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved. This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrighted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 standalone no
record xmlns http:www.loc.govMARC21slim xmlns:xsi http:www.w3.org2001XMLSchema-instance xsi:schemaLocation http:www.loc.govstandardsmarcxmlschemaMARC21slim.xsd
leader nim 2200505Ia 4500
controlfield tag 001 027444209
006 m u
007 sz zunnnnnzned
008 110308s2010 flunnnn sd t n eng d
datafield ind1 8 ind2 024
subfield code a O06-00038
Robert Cardin oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (74 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (45 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted August 30, 2010.
Oral history interview with commercial fisherman Robert Cardin. Cardin, a native of Fort Pierce, began fishing at an early age and started to sell his catch as a teenager. He is extremely familiar with the Oculina Bank, having fished it frequently but not exclusively. He is also on the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council's Oculina Evaluation Outreach Team. After the bank's closure, Cardin began working with a partner and has to take pains to avoid entering the restricted area. He works his way through different fisheries based on which fish are present, the potential for minimal by-catch, and price, changing techniques or locations when needed. Cardin generally supports fishing regulations such as closed seasons, trip limits, and closed areas, but feels that these regulations do not adequately address by-catch issues. The regulations also need to be enforced, since there will be fishermen who ignore the rules. In this interview, Cardin also discusses his fishing history, his techniques, and some of the technology he uses.
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. This is Terry Howard. Today is August 30, 2010. Im at St. Lucie Village, Florida, conducting an oral history with Bobby Cardin for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundations project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Welcome, Bobby. Please state your name, spell your name, your place of birth, and your date of birth.
Robert Cardin: Robert Cardin. Thats Robert and C-a-r-d-i-n. I was born in Fort Pierce, August 31, 1960right up the road here, about two miles from here.
RC: Well, my mom was going into labor at the Coast Guard station. My dad landed the boat at the Coast Guard station and I was supposed to be coming out at the front door of theI was kind of delivered in the lobby of the hospital.
TH: On Seventh Street?
TH: Okay, the old hospital on Seventh Street.
RC: I was almost delivered in the Coast Guard station wagon.
TH: You didnt tell me about that!
RC: Well, the way I remember it (laughs)
TH: The way it was told to you, what happened?
RC: Well, my daddy either had a thirty-six foot boat that went nine knots or a thirty-nine foot boat that went six knots, and he was diving the Amazone [artificial reef]. Back then, you know, just a buoy would mark the wrecks; people now with electronics can just go to it, dive it. My mom said he came up and asked for another speargun, and when she reached over the side of the boat, she broke the water. So of course, you know, my dad dove a half-hour, then there was a fifteen, sixteen mile ride at six knots. So, thats a few hours. I guess it was so desperate that they either had to make radio contact with Coast Guard station or they just pulled into the Coast Guard station, I dont know which. But supposedly they went to the hospital and
TH: From the Coast Guard? They transported you?
RC: I was in the station wagon. My mom said she was in the station wagon. I dont know if it was an official Coast Guard station wagon or just one of the employees. But thats all I know. But I do know this much: according to South Atlantic [Fishery Management Council], that is not a historical dive site. So, I kind of justmy mom will dispute that one with you.
TH: Its not a historical dive site. Now, wherethe Amazone is sixteen miles southeast?
RC: Oh, Lord, I havent counted miles in years. Its fourteen, fifteen, sixteen miles.
TH: Southeast of the
RC: Its a 12 [buoy] wreck. Everyone thinks 12A buoy is where a wreck is. But years back, there was actually a 12 buoy further offshore. You know, the wrecks, you trolled over em. Thats where the 12 buoy used to really be at.
TH: The numbers for it are what?
RC: Are 12. Oh, 43206.8.
TH: 206.8, so its further south. I go down to the225 is about where the reef ends.
RC: Right. Well, if you look south, youll see boats down there fishing south (inaudible) and thats
RC: Two miles. So, you can see boats with your eyes from milesdown there south and a little bit inshore.
TH: And then its 75 line?
RC: Yeah, 61975.4.
TH: (laughs) 206.8. Okay. Amazone.
RC: Thats one of those ships that was sunk during World Warby the German subs in World War II.
TH: Okay. So, you were born here in Fort Pierce.
RC: Yes, sir.
TH: What brought you here toare you married?
RC: No. Ive been married. I have two children: Jimmy, age twenty-one, and Cody, age seventeen.
TH: Okay. How much schooling do you have?
RC: When I turned sixteen, you could take this test. I took this thing called a GED test and immediately quit school. My mom said, You cant quit school till you had a diploma. And I said, Well, here, Mom. I got one. So, I quit school and moved out of the house right when I was sixteen. Actually, I was fifteen. Youre supposed to be sixteen to take the test, but I kind of fudged a little bit on it. So, I probably dont even have an education, officially. (laughs)
TH: So, you have a GED.
RC: I have a GED, and then I took, like, welding classes and metallurgy and stuff like that at the junior college. But thats just technical, trade stuff. I dont have an education.
TH: Do you have a welding permit or certificate?
RC: No. Just as a young man, I wouldnt say mastered many trades but I just piddled around, you know, find myself. When I was sixteen, I went to work right for a ranch.
TH: Yeah, thats was I gonna ask you next: what jobs besides fishing, other jobs youve had. Youre sixteen; you went to work for whose ranch?
RC: Well, when I was fifteen, I started riding bulls and stuff in rodeos, or jackpot rodeos; thats kind of a job. You pay $20 and you might win $150 or something. And then
TH: In Okeechobee or in Fort Pierce?
RC: In Wauchula. When I was ten, my father was murdered here in Fort Pierce; when I was twelve, my mom moved usbought a ranch in Central Florida. But when I was fourteen, Id ride the Trailways bus back to Fort Pierce, get out at Avenue D Friday night. My uncle would pick me up. Wed go diving and fishing Saturday and Sunday, then hed put me back on the Trailways bus and I was back in
RC: Wauchula. (laughs)
TH: How big was the ranch?
RC: Well, it had like 140 or 180 acres, something like that.
RC: Would have been a lot bigger, but my mom could have bought this 650 acres for what she paid to build the house. And she said, Well, we could have had 780 acres and a house trailer, or 180 acres and a nice house. (laughs)
TH: In Wauchula?
RC: Yeah. (laughs)
TH: She still live there?
RC: No, she finally moved back to Fort Pierce this year. Shes been gone since 1972.
TH: How old is your mom?
RC: Maybe close to seventy, sixty-nine, something like that.
TH: All right. So, that brings me to other jobs besides fishing. Now, youre pretty much a full time commercial diver, fisherman?
RC: Are we on other jobs still?
RC: Okay. Well, I guess the firstI was selling fish when I was, like, eleven or twelve. After my dad died, my mom would launch us over there next to Chucks Seafood and I was supposed to stay in the river. But she was
TH: She would launch you?
TH: In what?
RC: In my littleyou know, my dad had boats and when he died she kept the boats, and it was a little, riverboat. And youd see her go overwhen you saw her go over the bridge, then we would turn away from Coon Island and run right out the inlet and anchor it in the jetty and spearfish all day. But I mean
TH: She didnt like you to go out in
RC: Oh, I wasnt supposed to be going out in the ocean at eleven years old.
TH: Okay. So, you spearfished and
RC: Yeah, you can
TH: Whos we?
RC: Just neighborhood kidsI was alwaysolder boys. Ronald and Steve Hawkins; they were like thirteen and fourteen. I was always the young kid.
TH: Ronald and Steve Hawkins. Okay, so that was at eleven. Now, fifteen, sixteen?
RC: So, then I quit the school. I went to work at a ranch, you know, working cows, getting em shots. I did the day work. Thats where you take a horse and your truck and trailer and just go to different ranches and round up cattle. You know, that was all fun. Soon as I turned eighteen, I went to work for the mines.
TH: What mines?
RC: International Mineral & Chemical Corporation.
RC: There in Bartow, Florida, right next to Wauchula. And the whole timeit was a 108-mile drive. Sometimes Id drive back and forth to Fort Pierce. You know, as soon as I turned sixteen, I was back over here in Fort Pierce. But then I had girlfriends in Wauchuyou know, just a young man. I was all over the place doing everything. In one years timeI was always getting those union grievances on me, because I got qualified on every piece of machinery at the mines other than that great big drag line. You know, the shift workers wouldnt show up for work, [I would say], Ill work it. [My co-workers would say], Oh, yeah, he ran the bulldozer all night last night. [My bosses would say], Okay, go run the bulldozers. So, I was qualified on every piece of equipment, other than the drag line, at the International Mineral & Chemical Corporation. So, after a year of that, then I went back
TH: But you said you were written up for what?
RC: No. Well, the union people, like, if you called em, they wouldnt want to come in anyway. But since the company didnt call em to go run the bulldozer this morning on Sunday morning or what have you
TH: And you were there?
RC: And I ran it. Then they would say, Oh, well, you didnt call me. You owe me a days pay. Its like a union grievance. They never filed against me, but they were
TH: It was against the company?
RC: Yeah, they were always filing. Oh, they loved me. Them guys got paid forId go their work and they got paid for sitting at home.
TH: And you got paid, too.
RC: And I got paid too, yeah. (laughs) I busted ass when I was a young man.
TH: Okay, go ahead. Then you came to
RC: And then at nineteen, I came back over here, played in the family plumbing business, you know, after workat four oclock, if I could make it out in the inlet before dark, I would fish all night: snapper fish, grouper fish, spearfish.
TH: You actually fished rod and reel fishing?
RC: Back then Id go out and at daylight, Id try to kingfish, get me some kingfish.
TH: Troll for kingfish?
RC: Yeah. Then, you know, like Moby and Tommy McHale and all them guys, as soon as the boats balled up, theyd startyou know, Moby used to be pretty rank on the ocean. (laughs) And Tommy McHale would push you off and stuff.
TH: What do you mean, theyd push you off of spots?
RC: Yeah. Well, I just had a little twenty-foot Shamrock, you know, and I was likeI dont know what it was. I just wasnt one of the gang. And then Id go off and anchor up and dive or grouper fish. I used to do it all in one day.
TH: Okay. They would push you off spots if you were there first?
RC: Well, you know how, at daylight, boats are looking and then they would ball up.
TH: If somebody finds fish, they all
RC: Yeah, you know. And I was rod and reel fishing, so my circles would be bigger thanyou know, I might have two rods out and two hand lines. So, my circles would have to be big, and youd get cut off real easy.
TH: And get in everybodys way.
RC: Yeah, which was fine with me; I just went to the next thing.
TH: Okay. And then you went diving.
RC: Yeah. Eleven, twelve oclock in the afternoon, Id jump inif lobster season was open. And back then, I wasnt much of a spearfisherman. You know, Id catch fifty lobsters or something and shoot one or two groupers and get back on the boat. I wasnt reallyyou know, lobstersI could hook and line the groupers. Lobsters is what you dove for. Then size limits came in andfishing, you had to throw back little dead snappers and stuff like that. Thats when I kind of wentlike, I kind of hung my fishing gear up and just went with the spearfishing about twenty-five years ago.
TH: Now, how deep of water were you diving in back then? Did you have tanks?
RC: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I still had tanks from my dad when he died.
TH: I gotcha. Did you ever get certified?
RC: When I was fourteen, my uncle put me through one of them junior class things and then somewhere in there, I took some Nitrox certification back fifteen or twenty years ago. But yeah, Ive taken classes.
TH: All right. So, youve done a littlenow, you have family plumbing business?
RC: Yeah. (inaudible) plumbing, and then there was Cardin and Sons floor covering. Thats both sides, my mother and fathers side. Everyones been kind of self-employed in this family. Which was good, because then when the wind didnt blow, youd just told your uncle or your grandpa youre going fishing and
TH: When the wind
RC: It was like fishing is my job, but plumbing was on my days off. Lets put it that way.
TH: So, you have had other jobs besides fishing and youve mentioned those, pretty much. Any others that you want to add to that?
RC: Well, when I was, like, thirteen or fourteen, I had a fur-bearing animal license and I actually harvested fur-bearing animals.
TH: You went out where, on the ranch in Wauchula?
RC: Yeah. See, theres this license that you could have a flashlight and a gun. I bet you didnt know Florida had that license.
TH: Uh-uh. When was this?
RC: They might still have it. Its so you can shoot fur-bearing animals at nighttime, and you could take a single shotgun or a pistol.
TH: With a flashlight?
RC: And a spotlight, yeah.
TH: Then it would be legal if you bought that license.
RC: Yeah. And then I had a dog named Bo and you know, hed just take off. We had things that killed our cattle and things that killed our chicken. So, it started off killing off raccoons and bobcats and stuff that were eating your livestock.
RC: Yeah. And then it just went on from there. You know, Id run trout lines and sell turtles; you know, I was doing all that.
TH: Whered you sell the turtles?
RC: Just anywhere you wanted to. (laughs) I mean, different ethnicities have, like, different animals.
TH: So, what are some of the animals you shot or killed?
RC: Id catch the possums alive. I would get to shoot the raccoons, bobcats, coyotes. Over there, when I was a kid, I came home on the ranch and a bunch of calves were laying there dead. There was half a dozen dogs out there just pulling them to pieces.
TH: Wild dogs.
RC: Yeah. A dog will killa dogs the only animal thatll kill to kill. You know, most animals will kill to eat, but a dog will kill one animal, halfway eat it, then just keep killing.
TH: When theyre in a pack, especially.
RC: Yeah. And when youre out in wide-open country, people dump their dogs out. Theres one wild pack of dogsI swear to God one of them great big poodles acted like the leader. (laughs)
TH: Standard sized poodle?
RC: Oh, this great big thing, yeah.
TH: Theyre smart. So, you hunted dogs for a while?
RC: Well, the rancher next door, I came homeyou know, Im like a little twelve, thirteen-year-old kid and youd hear the calves out there (makes mooing sound), just
TH: Horrible noise. Theyre dying.
RC: Yeah. I looked out there and I mean, one of emthe dogs got the ear and they actually peeled the hide off the face.
TH: Oh, God.
RC: So anyway, I killed animals for a living most of my life, I guess you could say. Im getting off track here.
TH: Well, thats interesting. Okay.
RC: I shot those dogs. I threw them over the fence in the woods, thinking Id hide em so no one would see I did it. Then the rancher next door pulled up to the fence and he kind of said something to me. And I was a kid, thought I was in trouble and I tried to act like, Oh, everythings cool. [The rancher said] Ill tell you what, for every dog I find on this side of the fence, therell be a box of shells sitting on this fence post right here. (laughs)
TH: So, he liked it that you shot em?
RC: I thought I was in trouble, but he knew what I did. I guess he had been losing a lot of cattle to em, too.
TH: All right. Besidesthe raccoons, did you skin em or anything?
TH: And you sold the raccoon skins?
RC: Skin and raccoon.
RC: Meat, yeah.
TH: Who would buy it?
RC: Just whoever wanted to buy em. Rabbits, whateveryou could even shoot a hog at nighttime. Most people dont realize that.
TH: Yeah, but a hoga hogs good eating, and I know you can eat a raccoon and you can eat possum, but I was wondering where the market is. Its out there, okay.
RC: Its out there.
TH: All right. Lets get on to fishing. Overalllets see, do you currently own a boat?
TH: What kind of boat? Describe your boat.
RC: The boat I use most is a twenty-two foot Shamrock.
TH: You still have ais that the same one you had?
RC: Yeah, Ive had it for a long time. I actually had it in the Gulf [of Mexico] for a while when I was fishing the Gulf. Used to Id fish in the Gulf September and October.
TH: For kingfish?
RC: Right now, when we had this (inaudible), this wind is when Id start thinking about running over to themy mom had a beach house in Bradenton Beach.
TH: Oh, yeah?
RC: Thats where that boat used to be all the time.
TH: The Shamrock, now you trailer it?
TH: What kind of engine do you have in it?
RC: What, now? A Yahnmardiesel.
TH: How big is it and how many horsepower?
TH: Yahnmar, spell that.
TH: Okay. Now Id like to ask some question about the Oculina Bank. How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
RC: Well, to be honest, Im pretty familiar because on the South Atlantic Fisheries Management Council, Im on the Oculina Evaluation Outreach Team. So, you know, periodically, I get informed about a lot of stuff going on, and I fished it quite a bit. And when I was part of this South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils LAPP [Limited Access Privilege Program] workgroup, I had dozens and dozens of fishermen call me, talk aboutyou know, with IFQs [Individual Fishing Quotas], they used to catch fish there; now they arent allowed to fish there no more, does that history count? You know, just the fact that the Oculina Bank is there and how it affected their possible future in IFQ. So
TH: Youre very familiar with it.
RC: Yeah, Ive heard about it from a lot of different people from a lot of different angles.
TH: Well, why was it designated as an area to protect?
RC: Well, I can tell you from my recollection. I can remember in the nineties [1990s] going to meetings, I remember, at the old Holiday Inn down here and they were telling us they were closing it. It was a coral issue; since, its been turned into a grouper issue, you know, to protect spawning groupers and what have you. But I believe it was originally closed to protect the corals.
TH: Okay. Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank?
RC: Its a pretty unusual area. I mean, its where our Gulf Stream hitsit's quite oftenmost of the time its a better condition on the Oculina Bank than it is in here. And thats how I used the Oculina Bank, because when we had bad conditions inshore, I knew that nine out of ten90 percent chance it was gonna be good fishing there for bottom fishing. Its pretty neat. You know, I guess that the Gulf Stream is what built it over the many, many millions of years or however long it took to build it. I guess the Gulf Stream is what was feeding the sea, you know.
TH: With clean water.
RC: Well, thats probably what transported the little larvas [sic] or whatever there in the first place.
TH: Now, are there peaks there?
RC: Theres high spots, yeah. I mean, I remember I thought it used to come up tosome of emto 185. Now, you know, Ive been trolling and stuff and ran across there going tilefishing and stuffgoing tilefishing, not coming backand I dont ever mark anything over about 200 feet. It seems like, to me, theyre a little bit shorter than they used to be.
TH: Theyre breaking off, yeah.
RC: Well, I remember seeing em jump up to 185I know they came up to 195, and I havent seen one that high in the past several years.
TH: And then how deep?
RC: On the sides? Oh, God, its liketheyre over 240 on the inshore side and then, of course, it slopes off on the back side to 300-something.
TH: Okay, 100 foot.
RC: In places, they might look 100 foot tall, yeah. On the old paper machinesI got pictures from the old paper machines that it just, you know, takes up the screen all of a sudden, like its gonna jump out and poke you in the eyeball or something.
TH: What do you think about the closure or the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
RC: Well, from a personal perspective, its kind of like a hit and a miss because, as an experienced fisherman, I dont really want to fish right on the structure because I know Im gonna get broke off and stuff. And when I fished it, I fished away from the structure and try to get the fish to come to me. So, in my mind, I think that I can probably fish it without messing up corals.
But with that said, I know theres inexperiencedI know theres people that like to drop their rigs right into the reef. I know that theres people that actually put their anchor into the reef and theyre actually fishing behind the fish, but they think that thats the way to fish it. So, I can see anchors could damage the coral. I can see fishermen could damage the coral. But like I say, if theres any way to tell who knew how to fish and who didntI guess what Im trying to say is, in some cases, I guess its a good thing its closed, but in others, its a shame its closed because you can utilize a resource in the area. You know, I think only 1 or 2 percent of that whole closed area is actually Oculina coral. So, theres a whole bunch of places you can drive across. You know, this transit kills you when youre trying to drive back from offshore fishing.
TH: And you got a load of fish on.
RC: Oh, God, and you got to turn and run fifteen miles into a three and a half knot tide and the winds out of one direction and you either got to go north or south.
TH: Has the closure affected your fishing? Thats my next question. And if so, how? Thats one way its affected it.
RC: Straight up fishing the Oculina Bankyou know, used to quite often I fished it, but it wasnt a primary for me. I mean, Ive always been a smaller boater. Ive always been more of a day boat. Theres one time I was going big. Well, actually, I was going big in ninety-three , then when it closed, I went back little again.
TH: So, it did affect your fishing.
RC: Yeah. Well, I knew I could go bigger, because
TH: That was one of your primary spots to target?
RC: Yeah. Well, if you was bigger, then you needed to catch more fish and you had more range, more hold, then you wanted to go to where more fish were. I would go diving inshore or fishing inshore, and if I didnt have the conditions, then I would go to the Oculina Bank. If theres a south tide in here or if there a ground sea and the water was dirty in here, well the ground sea slows down the north tide. Chances were if I went to the Oculina Bank, the tide would be slow enough for me to bottom fish with my shallow water gear, cause with outboards, it doesnt put out much charging power for your bandits. So, to sit there and bandit fish in the Oculina Bank all day would run my batteries down. So, it was more of abut now, if I went there with a slap day tide and I could only fish with five pounds or six pounds, well, then my outboards would keep the bandits charged up enough to fish it. I mean, I went there one day and had sixty-three gags.
TH: Gag grouper.
RC: Yeah. I had over a thousand pounds. It seemed like I caught em in thirty minutes. I mean, you know, sweat was pouring out of me and there was fish flopping all over the deck, but its just a phenomenal place to fish.
TH: A thousand pounds, when was that about?
RC: That was in the Pursuit, so that would have beenI bought the Pursuit in ninety-one , so that would have been ninety-one  or ninety-two . How it really affected me is when it closed all a sudden, it just blew my mind. All a sudden, theres these thirty, forty, fifty-foot boats anchoring up inshore. It was just like a light went off in my head. You know, those boats that tried to fish out there to try to stay in the business, they tried to come inshore with me. And then of course, Neil Logan, you know, he was a top-notch day boat grouper fisherman.
Neil Logan was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00017.
I mean, it was nothing for him to come in with five or six hundred pounds a day by himself. And he approached me in May to start diving with me, because on June 15, the Oculina Bank was closing up. So, he was an offshore fisherman that was moving inshore and wanted to fish and dive. So, he could either A, be my competition; or B, we could work together.
TH: As divers?
RC: As divers. So, yeah, it totally changed the outlook of my business. It went from me with a junior personme keeping most of the money and the new guy keeping what little bit he got or a fifty-fifty business arrangement with a fisherman. So, in some aspects, it lowered my income.
TH: So it did affect your fishing.
TH: In all kinds of ways.
RC: I mean, I could go on for hours. (laughs)
TH: If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was not prohibited, if you could do it, would you fish there today?
RC: Yeah. I mean, I would have never stopped. But let me get this straight. Im saying no way that Oculina Bank was the number one source of my revenue or my first choice. But it was an important part of the pieces. You know, if you got 25 percent income here, 25 and 25 and 25, it was one of the pieces of my income. And as a businessman, every little bit helps and alternatives is what helps, what was a great part about it. Like right now, how many fishermen you know are fishing?
RC: Cause the ground sea is muddy. I guarantee you could go out there today, if you wanted to fight the fifteen to twenty knot wind and go out there and anchor up on the Oculina Bank, I guarantee you could sit there and catch amberjacks and groupers all day. And youd catch em like crazy. You know why? Because they know a hurricane is on the way up.
TH: Its probably a good time to be out there.
RC: You could probably go out there right now today and catch two or three thousand pounds of fish. So, that optionit was so nice knowing that option was there. Maybe I wasnt capable of using it all the time, but it was there.
TH: Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area?
RC: Well, itswhat, from what aspect, the commercial aspect?
TH: Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area? You fished here all your life.
RC: Okay, well, theres a lot less boatscommercial boatsin my opinion. The grouper boats, they seem nonexistent. I mean, I guess theres three boats that produce. One of em is a longline tilefisherman and the other one are me and Neil, and we work together. So, you know, basically you might call it two full-time operations. And I remember back in the day, there was always fresh grouper, and the Bairds would come in with loads of pinkies and
TH: The who?
RC: Like, Billy Baird and or Ronny Baird, theyd come in with a load of pinkies and all the red snappers.
Billy Baird was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00021.
TH: Now, pinkies, describe em.
RC: The pink porgies. You know, there was always some fresh fish hitting the dock a couple days a week, if nothing else.
TH: Bottom fish.
RC: Yeah. Now it seems like if I dont go, theres not no local bottom fish. (laughs) So, our grouper fishery is basically non-existent. Well, I dont know, what would you say? Fifteen years ago, there was probably twenty grouper boats here?
TH: I didnt have much contact with the grouper boats. I was just strictly kingfishing. Plus, I was
RC: Well, there were three dive boats, so, now theres one. Well, theres two of us, but were either on Neils boat or my boat. So, Id call that one.
TH: I think youve interviewed most of the other longliners, the tilefishermen.
RC: Right. Well, thats the problem. Now, fifteen years later, most of those people are gone.
TH: Out of that business, anyway.
RC: Yeah. So, the grouper fleet got a litter; the whole commercial fleet in general got littler, I think. The fish houses have dropped out. The areas were allowed to fish have, of course, got smaller. In Fort Pierce, we have two Special Management Zones we cant fish in; they draw fish off the natural bottom.
TH: Speak slower. Two
RC: SMZs, Special Management Zones. Like the 12 wreck, thats become a Special Management Zone.
TH: You cant fish there?
RC: I cant harvest there, but theyve put a lot more artificial reefs in place. Now, the natural reefs from several miles each way dont hold fish nothing like they used to, but yet all summer therell be fish piled on it. The fish like the higher inlet water column and stuff. I mean, lets face it, youre living in a one-story house youre paying for and right over there is a six story thats free that all you got to do is go in there and occupy it, youre gonna go to the nicer, higher place.
TH: So, you think the fish are leaving the natural reefs for a lot of the artificial reefs?
RC: Oh, I know they are.
TH: Fascinating. Ive never heard that.
RC: Well, down here all summer, thered be fifteen, twenty groupers on every spot. Now theres none, but you go to the Muliphen and therell be 300 groupers. Well, you know, fifteen or twenty groupers a spot times fifteen or twenty spots comes out to about 300 groupers. (laughs)
TH: So, the fish are leaving the naturalwhy? Why would they leave the natural reefs? Are the artificial ones better?
RC: Well, theyre higher. Theyre further up in the water column and they disturb more water. If you walk out your dock here and see water going by the piling and the seaweed hit it and it knocks a crab out and a fish hits it
TH: I gotcha.
RC: You look at the piling and see the eddy behind it, you see the sunken pieces, all of a sudden the frozen crab or frozen shrimp kicks his tail. Hes an in ambush zone. So yes, the higher wrecks create more of a disturbance. Look, the reefs are built on tide flow. Your dominant tide in the water is gonna be the predominant tide, the way the reef lies. So in other words, it doesntthats like a surfboards fin. It doesnt disturb the water much. Now, places in the places where theres bins and theres a lot of water being disturbed, these are the spots that hold the fish. These are the zones. Now youve takenwhen you sink one of those wrecks, while its going down, the tide catches it and it usually lays crossways to the tide. Now theres a lot of water disturbance going on there. You know, it just creates a better feed-zone.
TH: For the fish. Interesting.
RC: So, if they leave twenty small feed-zonesit doesnt create new fish, it just puts the same old fish in a tighter proximity where theyre easier to hurt or damage.
TH: Now, tell me this: If on a very calm day, can you see the action thats going on under the water on the surface? In other words, the boils, the
RC: Like the Oculina Bank, if you went out there and you saw blue water and you saw a dirty green spot back there, you might as well turn around. That meant the tide was running four knots. And actually, sometimes a half a mile away from one of the peaks would be boils on the surface of the ocean.
TH: Those boils, are they ever right over the wrecks on a calm day out here?
RC: Yeah, but theyre not right over em. It hitsit actually comes up, you know, down tide from wherever it is.
TH: All right. Ive always wondered about those boils and exactly how to fish em. Im seeing out there. All right, interesting.
Okay, have you had experienceso overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in Fort Pierce? Well come back to that in a little bit.
RC: Let me add this: used totalking about spots, used to [be that] youd see ten boats and nine of em wouldnt be fishing on the spot, would be fishing it all wrong. You know, as a diver, I know right where those groupers sit, and as a diver who used to fish and diveremember when I said when Id come here Id fish, then Id jump in and dive? Id hit the bottom and watch someone on the boat sitting with a beautiful live bait twenty foot behind ten groupers, and them groupers dont turn around. You know, they got their nose in the tide. You want that bait in front of em, not behind em. So anyway, used to it wasits like nine out of ten boats, theyre in the wrong place. They look odd and maybe its not hurting nothing. Nowadays, theres a lot more better fishermen. You know, nowadays, nine out of ten people are using the right bait, theyre sitting on the right spot, theyre anchored up the right way.
TH: They have better electronics.
RC: But just in general, it seems like people are a lot better fishermen. You know, youve been kingfishing a long time. How much has your tackle changed, your fishing methods?
TH: Not a lot.
RC: Were dinosaurs. This recreational fishery is like super science. They got clear sinkers. (laughs) You know, were stuck in our old ways.
TH: Im learning that in these interviews.
RC: Were getting our butts spanked these days.
TH: Interesting. Have you had experience with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
RC: Yeah, years back. I guess a sheriffs boat went out there, and there werent supposed to be trawlers there and they asked if wed seen trawlers last night or something and wanted to know if we could go down to the courthouse and do some kind of a affidavit of something.
TH: Thats beforethat was when the trawlers were banned, but not the bottom fishing?
RC: Right. That was
TH: Between 1984 and ninety-four .
RC: Yeah, it was probably eighty-eight  or something like that. Thats when theyd grab their anchorId been anchored up there at nighttime sleeping and wake up being dragged by a trawler. You know, its pretty scary. (laughs)
TH: (laughs) Yeah.
RC: Especially when youre in a twenty foot boat laying on the deck sleeping. (laughs)
TH: Youre just darn lucky that they didnt run right over you.
RC: Yeah. And thenI guess thats about it. Four or five years ago, I ran way around the north corner cause I had snowy groupers and tilefish onboard. And there at the northwest corner, I went between the corner and the satellite areas. You can look on my GPS and see real square movements where I actually drove around the box. And I saw a cutter come running towards me and I stopped and it stopped. Then I ran and it ran, I stopped, it stopped. (TH laughs) And Im like, man, I want him to come board me now while my electronics are showing the clear picture, not forty miles from now at the inlet when this picture of how I drove around the box is just gonna be like a bump in the screen. You know what Im talking about, how your plotter remembers your pattern?
RC: Well, if you have it in a zero to two mile mode, it shows very detailed. But now if youre at Fort Pierce Inlet, had to show the eighty mile mode
TH: That wouldnt mean anything.
RC: Yeah, it wouldnt look like much.
TH: So, you were hoping they would board you while you could see that. Did they ever board you?
RC: No, he stopped and I ran for a mile or two and he ran for a mile or two. I stopped; he stopped. And I went, what the hell is going on here? So, I think that was a cat and mouse game that had to do with
TH: The Oculina Bank.
RC: With the Oculina Bank.
TH: All right. Now I want to talk to you about your fishing history specifically, and youve already talked a lot about it. But whats your earliest memory of fishing and how old were you? Is that when your mom had you in her womb?
RC: (laughs) I justtheres so many. I mean, we had a lake house and every day my dadwe were wading in the river snook fishing. We were in the savannas, bass fishing.
TH: You had a lake house; where was the house?
RC: Lake Istokpoga.
TH: Where on Lake Istokpoga?
RC: There on Cat House Road. Just go down the public boat ramp and turn right. They built that in fifty-nine , I figure, or fifty-eight .
TH: Is it still in your family?
RC: No. They wanted to give it to me and I told emGrandmato go ahead and sell it. But I wish I would have taken it.
TH: Yeah! Okay.
RC: Its all memories. I mean, my dad went everyI remember itd be pitch black, Id be out in the front yard crying, my dad would be loading the boat, and my mom would be saying, No, you got to go to church today.
TH: You cant go with your dad?
RC: Yeah, I remember when I couldnt go, and I have memories. You would think hed drown every time. See, he would free dive. He would stay down for two or three minutes, then when he got to aif he had a wounded fish or something, then he would put his tanks on. So, it was always like
TH: He was a commercial diver?
RC: I dont think he was a commercial diver. You know, he worked for his family in the floor covering business. But he was one hell of a sportsman. I mean, if it wasnt a twelve-point buck, it was a fourteen-foot gator. If it wasnt a fourteen-foot gator, it was a 500-pound jewfish; if it wasntyou know, it was constant. We were fishing or hunting or something seven days a week. I had a blessed childhood.
TH: I guess. Sounds wonderful. So, you remember fishing. What was the first fish that you rememberits just all a bunch of fish?
RC: Its all a blur. Whether its two years old or four or five, I dont know. It was a daily part of my life. You know, it was an everyday thing.
TH: Now, while your father was alive, you lived here in Fort Pierce.
RC: Lets see, it used to be Holly Road. Now, its Twenty-Fifth Street. Down there on Devine, I guess almost to Midway Road. White City, down to White City (inaudible).
TH: But didnt you say you lived on a lake, that you had a place on the lake?
RC: No. The lake house was a weekend and you know, a Thanksgivingwed go out here and clean oysters and go to the lake house and have clam bakes and oyster bakes and stuff like that. The lake house was a family type deal. You know, maybe this weekend an uncle and aunt would have it, next weekendyou know, it was just a family lake house. Grandma and Grandpa would be there. Wed have barbeque steaks, lobsters, whatever. It was just an oldyou remember how everyone would used toevery family took a vacation. Every family had, you know, a summer home or what have you. It was just like that type of traditional lifestyle.
TH: Cool. All right. So, what did you first fish for? What fish did you first target? Do you recall? And this is gear, bait, and how did you fish for it.
RC: Myself, the first fish I really targeted was snappers and lobsters when I was like ten, twelve years old, there around the jetties and on the beach.
TH: North Beach, mostly?
RC: Yeah. I remember we hadmy mom counted 167 head of lobsters. Eleven and a thirteen and fourteen year old boy. (laughs) So, I would target snappers and lobsters. And yes, I would sell em, probably too cheap.
TH: Who do you fish with now, or who did you fish with? I guess your father?
RC: Right. What Im talking aboutthe snappers and lobstersbefore, I said Ronald and Steve Hawkins. Their real name was Buckmeyer. They had a stepfather
TH: Slower, slower.
RC: Ronald and Steve Buckmeyer, B-u-c-k-m-e-y-e-r. Their father is Tommy Hawkins, H-a-w-k
TH: Buckmeyer. B-u-c-k
TH: Okay. And their father was?
RC: Tommy Hawkins. Theyre paving contractors here in town now.
TH: Any relation to Chuck?
Charles Hawkins was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00018.
TH: All right. Now, these are the guys you fished with. You grew up with, I guess, Ronald and Steve?
TH: Whose boatwho owned the boat?
RC: Well, I guess you would say my mom owned it, cause it was my dads and he was dead.
TH: Okay. How were you related to these people? Just friends?
RC: My dad. Oh, those guys? At the corner of our horse pasture was their housethe back corner. Theyre just neighborhood kids I hung around with.
TH: Did you have a horse pasture in White City?
TH: All right. So, did you have acreage there?
RC: Yeah. What was it? Twelve point five acres or something like that. Just some horses and chickens and stuff like that.
TH: Okay. So, where did you go to fish when you began fishing? Did you fish much in the river or as soon as your mom left, you went out to the ocean?
RC: Soon as Mom left, we were in the ocean. (both laugh) You could see her going over the bridge.
TH: I love it.
RC: She had one of those two tonedthe top of the car was colored different. What was it? It was an Oldsmobile 98, dark green with, like, a beige top on it or something.
TH: So, you started fishing basically around the inlet?
TH: North jetty, North Beach, Pepper Park, the reefs along there.
TH: Okay. During what months of the year did you fish for
RC: That was a summertime thing. Well, actually, we got the lobsters. That was, I guess, a summer and fall thing.
TH: How long did a fishing trip last?
RC: That was just a day trip.
TH: You just did mostly day trips?
TH: An average trip catch back thenyou just said you had
RC: Believe it or not, I bet you we probably did 150 to 200 pounds of stuff a day.
TH: A hundred and fifty to 200
RC: Little boys.
TH: pounds a day, good Lord. Where did you sell your catch?
RC: Grandma and Grandpa. I think, when my dad was alive, he sold a lot to Chucks. And I think
TH: Chucks Seafood.
RC: I think I actually sold to Chucks a little bit. Back then, it wasnt all the fish market and all the licensing requirements and all that there is these days.
TH: You didnt have to have any licenses.
RC: Right, right, back then.
TH: When I first started, you didnt have to have a license. For how many years did you fish forI guess all your life now, for all these things.
TH: And youve kind of zeroed in to grouper, snapper, amberjack, and lobster?
RC: I really wouldnt call it zeroed in. I mean, its kind of a little ethical thing with me when we started having these size limits. Remember, there was no size limit on size limits on groupers. Then it was twelve, then it was eighteen, then it was twenty-four. You know, twenty-five years ago, there basically werent many size limits. So, if you caught something, you kept it. Then the size limits come into place and this things being closed came into place. It just really irked me, sitting there throwing fish that I know were totally stressed out, but
TH: Probably would die.
RC: Yeah. Or sometimes youd throw em in and you watch a cuda [barracuda] hit em.
TH: Cause theyre maimed, theyre hurting?
RC: Well, the cuda hangs around underneath your boat when youre sitting there throwing back fish. I mean, theyd related it. Theyd related to the anchored boat and then throw the fish back. Then in ninety-one  or two  or whenever it went to a twenty-inch red snapper limit and I went out there snapper fishing, like I did for years, at nighttime, and I sit there and throw forty-one fish back, that justyou know, that killed it for me and I just started relying more and more on the spearfishing. So, if I can go fish for something and not havelike, when the kingfish are thick and I can sit there and catch kingfish all day and maybe one or two cudas and maybe one or two bonitaswhich, by the way, someone uses and I can sellI will do that. Now, on the other hand, if its a fishery likeyou know, like if I can go bottom fishingwhen Im diving, if I see 150 groupers, Ill throw that dive gear in the cabin and run out there and grab a fishing pole out of the cabin and sit and anchor up and fish em. You know, I can catch a hell of lot more than I can shoot. But when you see a big ball of groupers on the spot and theres not a by-catch there, then Ill fish it. So, Im not really zeroed in, but I try to stay away from by-catching things.
Here, were talking all this stuff about stories. Sometimes my dad and me would go hunting, and hed go with five or ten men or something and I couldnt go. So, Id sit there around the house and shoot a half a dozen quail or a couple of snipes or something, you know, with a BB gun. Well, I shot a mockingbird. Well, you know that son of a gun boiled it and made me eat it. (laughs)
TH: Your father boiled it. So, you
RC: He said, You do not kill nothing that you dont eat. You know, you dontoh, this is choking me up a little bit. I guess thats kind ofI dont know if it was drilled into me, but it kind of irks me to sit there and sit there and just waste, kill things and throw it back knowing its got a small chance of survival. So, I just weasel my way through different fisheries. You know, if I think I can catch itand another thing: if fish arent worth much, there could be a million groupers out here and if theyre not worth but two dollars a pound, Im not gonna go kill em for nothing. Then Ill jump over and maybe Ill kingfish, if its worth it. I try to stay away from by-catch and I try to makeif Im gonna kill something, its gonna be for a reason, not just to put gas in the boat and kill em again tomorrow. Now, did that answer your question? (laughs) What was that question, Terry? Oh, you made a statement.
TH: Okay. It was: What do you target?
RC: You talked about how I zeroed in.
TH: Yeah. The question here is how many years did you fish for what? What did you stop fishing for? What did you do next?
RC: I havent stopped fishing for anything. I
TH: But you pretty much explained all of that.
RC: Dive fish, bandit fish, hand catch lobsters, rod and reel fish, hand line fish, and troll fish kingfish.
TH: And mackerel. Ive been out fishing next to you for mackerel last winter.
RC: I do everything but net fish, and swordfish. I aint quit none of em. Ill do em all tomorrow, whatever looks the best.
TH: Whateverthe price, you look at the price and whats running.
RC: And the price for effort. I mean, you know, you can go fishing and just pay your expenses and kill the fish for nothing other that fuel for the boat
TH: Expenses, yeah.
RC: And Ill just sit at home.
TH: Done that. (RC laughs) So, who do you fish with now?
RC: Ive got kind of a littlelike, Neil Logan and I have been dive partners forwell, how long has the Oculina Bank been closed, sixteen years?
TH: Well, since ninety-six .
RC: Ninety-four .
TH: Ninety-four .
RC: Yeah. So, thats been sixteen and a half.
TH: No, thats ten years.
RC: No, ninety-four 
TH: Aught-four  to ten .
TH: Okay, sixteen. And Neil Logan, I know you fished with him.
RC: And Joe Klostermann, he used to dive with me some.
Joseph Klostermann was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00011.
TH: Klostermann, C-l
RC: K-l-o-s-t-e-r-m-a-n [sic]. I tilefished with him, some on the longline quota and sometimes he bandit fishes with me a little bit on the (inaudible).
TH: Okay, those are your main partners for fishing?
TH: And your son.
RC: And my sons: you know, theyll go take the boat and go catchthey might go catch a bunch of grunts. (laughs)
TH: They like to fish for fun?
RC: They can fish whenever they want to.
TH: So, you usually go onwell, I guess Neil and Joe Klostermann both have boats, too. So you go on
RC: Right. I go on a couple boats.
TH: You alternate whose boat you go out on?
TH: Depending on what you are targeting, I assume.
RC: Yeah, kind of set this boat up or set that boat up or that boat for this or that.
TH: Okay. Where did you go to fish for what? So, if youre gonna go bottom fishing forif youre going tilefishing, where do you go?
RC: Just go out here to the east, 600 feet or deeper.
TH: Okay. If you go grouper fishing?
RC: Grouper fishing, it depends if you are going deepwater grouper fishing. You know, go fish the little wrecks and stuff outside of the Ocuon the east side of the Oculina Bank. And if Im gonna grouper fish, you got to stay inshore here inside of the Oculina Bank.
TH: Ive heard theres some good rocks inside, just inside the Oculina Bank. A lot of charter boat fishermen say they fish there.
RC: Yeah. Thats the thing with the Oculina Bank. Even inshore
TH: Inside the eightyis it the eighty-degree longitude?
RC: Right, and even inshore where the bar [is] where you kingfish, theres fish pushing in and out of the Oculina Bank. They dont come out of it as often as what you would think. Now, when they were closing it, they said you were gonna have this overflow effect. Its gonna fill up with groupers and then theyre gonna just overflow into your fishing grounds.
TH: Its not happening.
RC: Were still waiting on the overflow. (laughs)
TH: Okay. So kingfish, you target those probably on the ninety-foot line?
RC: Yeah, Ive kingfished everywhere. This past year I went to Hatteras [North Carolina] kingfishing, and I kingfish up to Daytona. I usuallythose runs, when the fish are up over three bucks a pound, Ill usually try to hit em.
TH: You trailer your boat up there?
RC: Yeah. This past year, I fished in Destin. Well, Ill go to Jupiter, too, but Ill go a little bit earlier before everyone, you know, when the fish prices are high and its hard to catch 300 pounds. Well, 300 pounds at $3 a pound is more than 500 pounds at $1.25 a pound. (laughs) So, Ill just kind ofif you hear its going off somewhere, chances are Im leaving where you hear fishing is good.
TH: Thats the way to be. Be there on the first day it bites. Okay. During what months do you fish for what fish?
RC: Terry, I reallywell, nowadays, with seasons, I guess it does narrow me down some. Now I tilefish in January and February and March. Groupers and amberjacks is May, you know, May through the rest of the year. Lobster starts in August. So, you know, August and September and November. March is usually pretty good. Dont do much in February anymoreI mean in March anymore, though, because the grouper seasons closed then. Terry, you cant pin me down on everything. Im back and forth withyou know, I bob and weave. You throw me a management punch and(laughs)
TH: I understand. So, an average catch, you know, its different with everything you target. So, lets say an average catchlets go through the fish one time. An average catch of grouper right now, average. You know, you have the highs, lows. Couple hundred pounds?
RC: Well, thats hard to say. When the season started, it was over 500 pounds a day. Now, its under 100 pounds a day.
TH: Okay, your averages?
RC: I cant give you an average. I dont like to go for less than 200 pounds a day. I usually start backing off at that point.
TH: If you cant reach 200 pounds.
RC: Yeah. Its two people on the boat; that would be 100 pounds a person. Its 500 for
TH: So, if youre not catching over 100 pounds, you tie the boat up.
RC: I want to go do something else, yeah.
TH: Now, it says for how many years did you fish for? Why did you stop fishing for anything? Youve already explained some of that.
RC: The only thing you can say I stopped fishing for is I used towhen I had a shark problem, Id shoot the shark and I had shark licenses to land and sell em. Usually at the fish house, you know, the guys wouldpeople acted funny at the fish house, so usually Id just turn around and just gave em to the shark fishermen at the fish house.
TH: The sharks?
RC: Yeah. And now that they took my shark license because I didnt have enough shark landings, now if I have to kill a shark, I got to leave it lay, which is against my principals. But you know, Im gonna get on my soap box and say, You made me do it. (laughs)
TH: Well, youre trying to abide by the law. Its a toughokay.
RC: It would be so simple for me to throw it on a shark boat. I can throw it, tie a jug to it, and have a shark boat come pick it up and throw it on board. But then that would be consideredyou know, if I threw it on a shark boat, that would be considered transferring at sea.
TH: Itd be a lot easier if you can just take it in and sell it.
RC: Yeah. Let me take it in and give it to a shark fisherman, or donate it to charity or what have you. I try not to kill em unless I have to, but sometimes itsyou know, three or four Ive killed, I didnt even pull the trigger to shoot em. They ran into the speargun that hard.
TH: They ran into the?
RC: Speargun hard enough to make the bullet discharge in the power head.
TH: They were attacking you?
TH: And so you
RC: They come up to me that aggressively and that close, just pointing my thing out in front of me and letting em run into it, discharging it.
TH: You were just protecting yourself, basically. Okay. Theres several groups here, and weve covered a lot of all these different fish.
RC: Sounds like the transcriber is gonna have to pick this to pieces.
TH: Thats all right, its all right. I think youve done quite well. Lets just move on. You know, they want a detailed thing on each type of fish you fish for. Now
RC: We can go back through the gear things. And gears and baits, I guess, is about as detailed as I can put it. Timelines, I cant really do this.
TH: Dont worry about timelines. Just worry aboutlets say the gear. Lets go through grouper, snapper. Thats pretty much the same gear. Amberjacks probably the same gear. What do you use for grouper, snapper, amberjacks?
RC: Well, like I say, I spear fish with just a spear tip sometimes for smaller groupers and stuff. I powerhead a lot, but I wontIll take the bullet out of it and just shoot it with the bare powerhead, which is basically a spear tip. Amberjack, of course, I like to powerhead those. Its a bullet inside. A spear shaft hits and then a bullet goes off. It kills the fish instantly. You dont have any loss. They dont swim off. They dont tear your shaft out. Theyre not sitting there kicking, quivering, drawing in the sharks. So, thats spearfishing. And of course, I hand collect lobsters occasionally while Im spearfishing, and thats when you just grab the lobsters by hand. Now, if Im fishing for groupers, it depends a lot on what Ive seen, how many there are, how theyre biting. If theyre plain old chewing, the bandit works fine.
TH: If theyre biting.
RC: Yeah. If theyre biting funny, sometimes you got to go to the hand line or these new flurocarbons theyre using. In the cabin of my boat, I have a pin 6/0 with 150 pound
RC: No. Fins line on it, you know, and then with the flurocarbon leader, and as soon as a grouper hits it, it hooks itself. That line doesnt stretch or anything. And its so fine, you can put a smaller sinker on it. You know, with that line, you can fish a heavier tide. With that line on the Oculina Bank these days, without that couple hundredwithout that 100-foot of stretch in that mono, God, could you be deadly on these things. But anyway
TH: What kind of line is it again?
RC: Its the Power Pro and the Fins and the Spectrum. Its like a Kevlar type line or something like that. Its like a 150 pound test of that stuff is probably the diameter of twenty-five pound mono.
TH: I see. It doesnt have the stretch either?
RC: No stretch. I mean, you feel a bite go click, and that hook drove through its lip right then.
RC: So, when the bite slows down and you want to fish lighter gear, you know, that recreational method works great. Its even better than the hand line. Now, sometimes I hand line groupersyou know, when the tides slack and youre not wanting to use a five-pound or a big heavyweight. When theres not much tide, a bandit aint very good cause you cant really feel the bite. Remember how George and Steve used to go handand Chief, he would hand line the groupers? Well, if you can fish under two pounds, if you got a little pound or two
TH: Two-pound weight?
RC: Yeah. Two pound or less a tide, the hand line works fine.
TH: Cause you can feel the bite going to jerk.
RC: Yeah, when you pull him in. You know, get him before he runs to the rocks. Thats groupers. Now amberjacks, put some power to them things, cause theyll (laughs)after four of five hand line or rod and reel, they wear you out. I use electric for amberjacks. I already said that I spear em. Then with amberjacks, you use a one-hook rig and a leader and a heavy sinker and you just let the electric reel fight him in. Usually on most of those fishand its all live bait, either bait I catch in the ocean or some dead bait bought from the store, say sardines or something. Now deepwater groupers, I like to use the five hook rig and the squid.
TH: Five hook rig?
RC: Thats a bandit with a sinker and with four or five or six hooks, or what have you.
TH: Bug sinker?
RC: Yeah. Youre dropping down in five, six, seven hundred feet of water. Well, it takes so long to get (inaudible) to reel up, so while youre there, you try to catch a couple, you know, more that one fish. Then tilefishing, I use either aof course, you use power, like a bandit with a two hook rig or something, or you throw down a bunch of hooks and leave it sitting there.
TH: Tilefishing, its kind of like longlining or trout lining.
RC: Right. You know, I have hooks on (inaudible) or whatever they call em leaders. You got a clip-on clip and hooks and sometimes if I lay out a longline, thats the way you do it. You just clip the hooks on. You know, you pre-bait the hooks and clip em on. Or you can bandit fish em two at a time with two hooks.
TH: All right. Then I guesswhats left? You already get lobster by hand.
RC: The kingfish.
TH: Kingfish, you trollsea witches or spoons.
RC: Or bug, I use my bandit as a
TH: Bug reel?
RC: I keep saying bandit. I personally use Kristal reels as the recreational version of the electric reel. I bought one eight, nine years ago because it had similar specs to that a commercial bandit does, you know, the same retrieval rate and pulling power. I tell you what, theyre stronger that a commercial bandit. So I usewhen I do it, Im using a Kristal reel, a recreational electric reel.
TH: Okay, thats not the same as what kingfishermen use. Does it work like a kingfish electric reel?
RC: Well, I dont know if youve seen me on the little boat, but I take that Kristal reel and just run the wire up to a pulley and use it as a jerk bug reel. Im actually using a Kristal reel as a bug reel. And I have a brand new bug reel at home for five years sitting in the garage. (laughs)
TH: This works just as well.
RC: Works fine.
TH: So you dont have to switch out the reels?
TH: Okay. Cool.
RC: Its like I can be grouper fishing one minute, spin it 180 degrees and be kingfishing with it.
TH: Versatile. Finally, Id like to talk about your fishing, how your fishing has changed over time in the Oculina Bank since 1984. Since 1984, several changes have been made in the regulations of the Oculina Bank. Id like to know if any of these regulations affected your fishing and if so, how? The Oculina Bank was initially closed to trawling, dredging, and bottom longlining in 1984. Did this affect your fishing?
TH: Okay, cause you didnt longline then. In 1994, the Oculina Bank was designated an experimental closed area where fishing for and retention of snapper [and] grouper species was prohibited. Snapper [and] grouper fishing boats were also prohibited from anchoring. Was your fishing impacted by this regulation and how? Nineteen ninety-four.
RC: Yes. That messed up the tilefish, messed up the transitmessed up having to drive around it, took away the snowy grouper and the yellowedge grouper fishery. I didnt say this before, but outside the peaks, you know, there between 300 and 600 feet, theres some little shelly bottom and stuff, and that used to be good snowy fishing and yellowedge fishing. So, it took that fishery away from me.
TH: Because you had to travel around?
RC: Nowell, now you cant fish all the way out to 600 feet.
TH: Oh, okay. Yeah. They expanded it.
RC: Yeah. So, you cant put your gear in there inside of 600 feet. So, it did take away some grouper fishery, cut back on my golden tilefishing, cut back on me going bigger. Me and Donny had bought a bigger boat. And then, of course, it changed my diving.
RC: Hes one of my dive partners.
TH: Whats Donalds last name?
TH: Donny Browning?
RC: Yes. Doctor Calvinyou know, the doctor, the old chiropractor, you remember Calvin? His son.
TH: Donny Browning. Okay. Then, in 1996, all anchoring was prohibited within the Oculina Bank. Did this impact your fishing, and if so, how? I assume it was already impacted.
RC: Yeah, it impacted because I knew some more laws were coming out and I was hoping theyd give us some transit provisions.
TH: To transport fish through the area. And they didnt?
RC: Yeah. Then that basicallyit didnt directly impact my fishing, but it made me give up any hope of keeping up any deepwater fishery. So, I just changed the way I fish a little bit more. (banging noise) Excuse me.
TH: Its all right. The designationin 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area to the east and north of the designated Oculina Bank, and in 1998, this area was incorporated in the Oculina Bank HAPC. Fishing with bottom longline, trawl, or dredge was prohibited in the expanded area, as was anchoring by any vessel. Was your fishing impacted by this regulation?
RC: Yeah. Further, it reduced the availability of snowy grouper.
TH: Now, this is important: The designation of marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more frequently as a fishery management tool. What do you think of the use of closed areas to fishing compared to other types of management regulations such as quotas, closed seasons, trip limits, et cetera?
RC: Well, you kind of got to have seasons because of spawning aggregations and stuff. Trip limits make sense. If you limit your trip, you probably shorten the trip. The shorter the trip, the more the fish arethe fresher the fish are, the more theyre worth at the market. Public health [and] safety concerns are addressing the trip limits.
TH: So you think trip limits are
RC: Its a thing that hurts, and as a fisherman, you dont want like it. If theyre biting, you dont want to quit. But just in general, its a good thing. Closed areas, MPAsand lets consider the Oculina Bank an MPA, a Marine Protected Area; its not its designation, but its basically the same thing. From that aspect, it seems a bit excessive, the size of it in relation to the amount of coral thats actually there. It would be nice if there was some transit provisions.
But on the other hand, a lot of management measures dont address some of the by-catch issues. You know, its gonna be hard to totally clean up any fishery. So, since by-catch is an issue, I guess if theres areas that theres no fishing, then theres gonna be areas with no by-catch. And from that aspect, you might be able to protect some prettyyou know, species that are in bad shape. Give em some safe harbor. I dont know, maybe an inshore closed area here, and fifty miles north an offshore closed area, maybe a system of marine closed areas. Lets say if you want to do a 50 percent reduction in the take of your fish, if you closed 50 percent of the areas off, you might address some of the reduction. I dont know. I think well set up marine closed areas distributed up and down the coast might actuallymight be good.
Now, the problem is you have winners and losers with that, because theres not much law enforcement. You got people that are gonna follow the law and those that dont. And youre gonna have aggressive fishermen that cross the lines, and youre gonna have honest fishermen that dont. Now youre coming into a thing where youre talking about IFQs and catch histories and stuff like that. The people who cross the lines and do fish illegal are gonna be the ones rewarded in perpetuity (laughs) through these IFQ systems and stuff. So from that aspect, closed areas without enforcement dont sound very good, no.
TH: I have a follow up question. Ive always asked this in my interviews, this follow up question: If you could manage the fisheries, and you kind of touched on this and some of your ideas are very good, but if you could manage the fisheries, what do you think the most equitable, fairest ways to both the fishermen and the fish [would be] to manage fisheries? Again, what tools are the mostthe fairest and most equitable? You mentioned trip limits, quotas, closed seasons, slot limits, and then HAPCs.
RC: Fairness and equitability, thats a three-hour discussion, Terry. (laughs) I mean, man, youre opening up a can of worms. Whats fair? I mean, commercial fishing is way less than one percent. Recreational fishing is less than 5 percent of the nation. And you hear of people saying, Well, theres all of those wrecks. We should get it because theres more of us. But no one ever speaks for the 95 percent Americans that dont fish, that dont have access to it. And youll hear a charter guy or a wreck guy or a commercial guy say, Well, they can go with me. But do you realize that every trip you take, that means you got to take nine other people with you? Theres now way were giving equal access to other Americans. I really think they need to be addressed in this equation, and they never are addressed. Fairness and equitable, I dont know how I can address that one with all that in mind.
TH: Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
RC: Well, Im optimistic. A lot of these management measures that are really cutting our throats and that are hurting a lot of us, if people follow some of these limits and some of these closures we have, Im optimistic. I dont see how it can do anything but get better.
TH: You think that some of the laws are good and that the
RC: Well, I mean like theyve done the four month grouper closure. If the groupers arent touched for four months and theyre allowed to spawn unharmed every year, I mean, there cant be anything but good results. But on the other hand, sharks have been so protected here lately, the last three or four years Ive been seeing sharks hammer the spawning aggregations harder that Ive ever seen em hammer em before. Its like the grouper spawn is now, you know, a school of mullet to a school of jack crevalles. I mean, its just a food
TH: Food for the sharks.
RC: I dont know. I guess Im gonnasometimes part of the process. Im gonna be optimistic and say I hope things might be better.
TH: Thank you very much for sharing your fishing history with me. And with that
RC: All right.