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Smith, Edward F.,
Edward Smith oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Robert Cardin.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (56 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (36 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted August 31, 2010.
Oral history interview with commercial fisherman Edward "Smitty" Smith. Smith has fished his own boat and other peoples' boats since the 1970s. He frequently fished the Oculina Bank and is very familiar with the area. After it was closed, he and his employer shifted their efforts further north to Cape Canaveral. Smith does not think that closed areas are a good fishery management tools and believes that there is a lot of overkill in the regulations. Fishermen used to limit themselves based on how much fish they could carry and when it should be offloaded; now people jump from one fishery to another, putting increased pressure on the other fishery. In this interview, Smith also describes his fishing history, the kinds of fish he caught, and the methods he used.
Smith, Edward F.,
Fort Pierce (Fla.)
Saint Lucie County (Fla.)
Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Development Foundation.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Oculina Bank oral history project.
y USF ONLINE ACCESS
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Robert Cardin: Okay, good morning. Hello, my name is Robert Cardin. Today is August 31, 2010. Im at Dive Odyssea in the classroom conducting an oral history interview with Smitty for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Welcome, Smitty. Would you please state and spell your name for us?
Edward Smitty Smith: My name is Edward F. Smith.
RC: And would youI guess you dont need to spell that.
ES: Naw, I think they can figure that out.
RC: Your place of birth, Smitty?
ES: Trenton, Michigan.
RC: When were you born, Smitty?
ES: Nineteen forty-three.
RC: Do you mind sharing your birthday with us?
ES: November 27.
RC: Oh, okay. Thanksgiving. Smitty, when did you move to Fort Pierce?
ES: Ten years old. I moved to West Palm, actually. So, take that off sixty-seven.
RC: So, fifty-three?
ES: Fifty-seven years ago.
RC: When do you think you moved to Fort Pierce, when you were a teenager, or
ES: Well, just come back and forth from West Palm to Fort Pierce, fished up and down the east coast.
RC: What brought you to Fort Pierce, the fishing?
ES: The fishing.
RC: Smitty, are you married?
RC: You have any children?
RC: Youre makin this go quick here. Smitty, what kind of education do you have, like, high school, college?
ES: High school. High school, college, GED.
RC: Do you have any other jobs besides fishing?
RC: Have you had other jobs besides fishing?
RC: Could you describe some of them, orboat builder. I know you do some boat building dont you?
ES: Boat maintenance, air conditioning, commercial refrigeration.
RC: Smitty, do you currently own a boat?
RC: What kind and how long is it?
ES: I have a thirty-foot Bandit boat.
RC: What is it, fiberglass?
RC: Crusader, Davidson, or something?
ES: American Marine Limited. Not AmericanCustom Marine. Custom Marine.
RC: A Custom Marine hull?
ES: Yeah, and I think they only built one.
RC: And you got it. (laughs)
ES: Ive changed it quite a few times, but I fished with it.
RC: Well, Smitty, now Id like to ask you some questions about the Oculina Bank. How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
RC: Why was Oculina Bank designated an area to protect?
ES: What now?
RC: Why wasdo you know why they closed it? What was the reason?
ES: To study the coral, why it was dying off, et cetera.
ES: Whether it was pollution or manmade. To study it.
RC: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank? I mean, what do you know about it? Is it like a good fishing place, or how far out is it, or anything?
ES: Yes, its a good fishing area because its a, you know, multitude of different bottoms there. So, it extends from basically thirty fathoms out to as far as it goes out. Theyre going out farther with it, but actually, the coral doesnt go as far as they want to go. It might go to sixty fathoms, you know, but it doesnt.
RC: It doesnt go out?
RC: Oh, not to a hundred fathoms?
ES: Out to a hundred fathoms.
RC: Okay, thats interesting. You think the Oculina coral is between sixty and thirty fathoms in there?
RC: What, youlike youve marked it on your machine, or you just dove to the bottom?
ES: All the bottom, you know, its just like an old birddog. You start to hunt it, and thats after you can see where, you know, a lot of coral dies off, and then some of it actually comes back over a period of time. Some disappeared and some came back right then
RC: I mean, do you see it on your scope, or did you catch it?
ES: I see it on my scope, and Ive caught it.
RC: What does it look like on your scope, little yellow markers or something?
ES: Little fuzz, you know.
RC: Fuzz on the machine?
RC: Fuzz coral.
ES: You can actually mark your fish and your weight going down.
RC: Right, right. Well, thats anotherIm just verifying that youve actually developed your own manner of identifying where it is. Cool. What do you think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and fishing?
ES: Some thingslike, I mean, I go along with the not anchoring, right.
ES: I think you should be able to fish it, right, which takes a better fisherman. I think it should be targeted recreational and commercial, right?
ES: Whetheryou know, not with cable, but with bandit reels, right, or any type of
RC: And you think that
ES: Or rod and reel, or just like your reels. Everybody thinks theyre deepwater. I said, Well, these bandit reels have been around, hand lines and bandit reels have been around for years, right?
ES: I mean, that was done
RC: So you feel that you could fish it without fishing the coral? Is that what youre saying?
ES: Well, the fish are in the coral, but for what little bit damage you do it isntwhen you go to drop a three-hook rig, right, youre not doing that much damage. You dont want to hang up in the coral either, right?
ES: The way your bait is, you touch bottom, bring it up so much; but for the amount of fishermen out there, you do fairly little damage to the coral that is there. Thats with any type of reel, you know?
RC: So you think the total closure is a little bit excessive? Is that what youre saying?
ES: Oh, definitely. For what the problem is and what they closed it for, you know, is the wrong reason, right? Youre going to have your natural disasters, et cetera; other predators are eating on the fish. Its not the fishermen thats doing it all, right, theres always something on the tail of something else. Theres bait and they know what bottom theyre on, right? If they cant find protection to go into, theyre going to get eaten.
RC: Right, so theyre going to leave the
ES: Well, theyre going to be in the belly of something. The bigger fish are eating the little fish all the time, more than the fishermen take with the limits. The commercial fishermen and the sport fishermen, youre not gonna deplete the stocks, right? The little bit thats caught off of it is
RC: You cant get them all.
ES: You know, youre not doing any damage out there. Its not like a cruise ship anchoring on Pelican Flats dragging an anchor through it. Its been years before they ever stopped that. We talked about it, but it took years before they actually convinced the cruise ships not to do that. That did a lot of damage before anything was stopped.
RC: So just a little bit of bandit fishing and hook and line fishing, you dont think would damage it that much.
ES: No. Definitely it wouldnt, because you have a lot of terrain and a lot of different types of bottoms. Theres different ways to fish it, whether youre targeting certain specifics before you drop. Youre not just dragging a line through there.
ES: Youreits like playing golf, you know, where youre trying to land it at a certain place, but its hard to get a hole in one, but you wanna be very close.
RC: (laughs) You want to stay out of the pond.
RC: You want to stay in the Oculina draft.
ES: Well, you want to stay out of the draft. (laughs)
RC: All right. Well, Smitty, has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing, and if so, how?
ES: Just crossing over the Bank, in certain areas you cant if the tides are running. Youre trying to go around it, which is very inconvenient, right?
RC: So this messes with your tilefishing?
ES: Definitely. Were going from one different type of fishery to another type of fishery. If Im tilefishing, then I wouldnt be fishing the Oculina Bank. You know, because you have longlining gear, but there is no longline gear, or its disabled then it is possible. But if youre not allowed any grouper [and] snapper, then I dont want to be there anyway. Right?
ES: I mean, theres sort of somethingI can see if they close off snapper totally, but for a grouper, you know, unless its an endangered species, it should be allowed on the Oculina Bank. A lot of things that happen to fish have nothing to do with the fishermen, but it takes them years to figure that out.
RC: So it affects you crossing with your tilefish. Then you said something about grouper. Does it affect you from being allowed towould you fish grouper there if it wasnt closed? Is that an area you grouper fish?
ES: I said I would if it was allowed, but it isnt allowed. Like, I mean, it would be ridiculous, you know, if were only allowed a hundred pounds of one thing, whatever it might be. If blackbellies are allowed, I think if thats the only thing I can target, then I should be allowed to catch my percentage of it.
ES: Its not like youre going to deplete it 100 percent, and youre not anchoring on it, so youre motor fishing.
RC: Okay. Back before the closure, Smitty, did youhave you ever actually fished in the Oculina Bank?
RC: Back when it was legal? What did you fish for then?
ES: Back then I fished for everything: porgies, pink porgies, grouper, snapper, gray tile, yellowedge.
RC: Thats another one of the groupers?
RC: Okay, so
RC: So, the closing of it actually stopped you from doing that kind of fishing?
RC: Okay. Heres a hard question; are you ready? If anchoring and bottom fishing in the Oculina Bank was not prohibited, would you still fish there?
ES: If anchoring was not?
RC: If you were allowed to fish in thereif the area wasnt closed, would you fish there?
RC: (laughs) Thats a hard one. I guess this is the same how and for what would you be [question]. You described pink porgies, groupers, snowies, yellowedges, golden [and] gray tiles. I guess youd be fishing for the snapper [and] groupers. How would you be fishing for them?
ES: With a bandit reel.
RC: Can you describe a little bit about a bandit reel?
ES: Yeah, its basically ait could be a hand crank or electric bandit reel. I wouldnt go to hydraulic. You know, I have a hydraulic, but you know, you can target a little better, you know, work your line a little better with a
RC: With electric?
ES: With electric; or by hand, especially if they close all the way down to forty fathoms. You need a motor for it, more or less, to bring up an empty hook, not to catch a fish. Right? Thats what you have an arm for.
RC: And other fishermen talked about you put a hook and then a sinkerwhat kind of bait would you use in the Oculina Bank?
ES: Oh, Spanish sardines. Maybe some squid or Boston mackerel or dockle eyes.
RC: Smitty, would you power fish, or anchor fish?
ES: Power fish.
RC: Okay, I think we covered that. Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area?
ES: Well, just the rules and regulations have changed everything over a period of years. I mean, itsyou know, theyre closing down any place theres a fish, right? If you close every place theres a fish, its hard to fish in a mud puddle, right, and make a living. I think fishermen were the first conservationists around here, you know. Not all fishermen are conservationists, but the first commercial fishermen definitely were. With electronics, et cetera, everybodys turning to the same hole and expecting fish to be there. Well, you cant when you keep going back to the same spot every time. You have to change your fish hole; you change it and you go back to it; you let it rebuild.
RC: Yeah, the more areas that they close, the more
ES: The more pressure you put on something else.
RC: Or you gotta go back and
ES: Right, sameif you close down certain fisheries, they dont even know where youre catching. All of a sudden you close down other fisheries, you overburden another fishery. You know, its a chain reaction because everybodys trying to make a living and its getting harder to make a living.
RC: So you think regs [regulations] have done the most to changes to our local fishery? The regulations has been about it?
ES: Yeah. Same with the recreational fishermen. I think it should be uniform as far as the laws all way through, what it is directly, so it is no problem enforcing the area. You know, if theyre going to allow fishing in certain areas, then do it all the way through: now this is totally closed, dont go over that, dont go here. But then its an enforceable thing, because you know what youre supposed to be doing. You know how youre supposed to fish it, and it isnt did you cross it or catch it somewhere else? I say, well, hey, if you caught them somewhere else. Right?
RC: Then you should be
ES: You should be. If you got fish from deeper water as a by-catch, but thats going to be changed, then you shouldnt be going with a longline reel; you shouldnt be going across the Oculina Bank. But if you only have tilefish, you know there is no tilefish on the Oculina Bank. You should be able to cross over it. There should not be a totally closed area. You got
RC: Thats another one of the regulations thats changed the face of our fishery.
ES: Oh, definitely. You know, hey youre out there yea long, the winds blowin (inaudible) and I got a tide. Am I gonna run out of fuel, or am I gonna cut across the Bank. There is no gas stations out there, right?
RC: (laughs) Right.
ES: Five knot tides with five knot boats, you better do it a little different, right? Youre trying to go around it, you know. Hey, I dont want to go to Canaveral. I want to go back to Fort Pierce.
RC: Right. On a real rough day, five knots is a good speed on a bad day, so youre
ES: On a bad day.
RC: Youre saying, but still.
ES: On five knots, youre not going anywhere. Seein that happen when you anchor up, hey, you cant even chuck your anchor when you know your anchors goin in the opposite direction. (laughs) So you gotta stay there for a day just to break an anchor loose.
RC: Smitty, our next question here is: have you had any experiences with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
RC: Yes. Could you give us a brief description?
ES: I thought I was in 102 fathoms. My gear ended up in 98, and I ended up being fined $5,000. Glen Black was fined for $5,000 dollars: a total of $10,000.
RC: They found your gear at 98 fathoms?
ES: We were hauling back, and they were on the boat, and we shouldnt have kept hauling, because theyre hauling up the hill and the person on the back deck is controlling the autopilot. So hes pulling it up the hill, right?
ES: I should have just stopped where I was, but you know, it was just one of those freak things when youre on back deck. By the time you realize there was an inshore push of tide, youre settin the gear.
RC: Oh, yeah, because
ES: You dont know till you go to turn on it, and it didnt go where you want it to go.
RC: What youre calling uphill isthe continental shelf, actually runs further east as you go north. So youre sitting there talking with the officers and stuff like that, you get blown up on it.
ES: No, I end up on it but because of the tide. But when I was hauling back, I shouldnt have been because the guy hauling here, he was so far off the gear he was hauling farther up the hill. Well, all I did was look bad, but then I said within two fathoms was not an intentional position of the gear. You know, between weather and two
RC: Where the boat was.
ES: An adverse situation before I realized there was an inshore push of tide. It was too late, cause my gear was already there, right? It was not an intentional violation.
RC: Sounds awful close to me, but (laughs) the mans the man.
ES: Well, no. When I turned to him, I realizedwhen I got the gear out, I realized I wasnt where I was supposed to be because I was on the back deck. I have no fathometer on the back deck. There isnt anybody just watchin electronics. A fifty-foot boat, and you dont see anything on the back deck except the hooks, rigs, and et cetera.
RC: Yeah, you
ES: Change the position, you know, Im lookin at a compass.
RC: Sounds like you were tryin to set close and got blown over a little bit.
RC: All right. Well, interesting. Thank you for sharin that with us. Smitty, now Id like to talk with you about your fishing history, specifically. What is your earliest memory of fishing, and how old were you? Like, your grandpa takin you to the lake or something like that.
ES: Probably from ten years old on. You know, just started in the swamps in Florida and ended up in the ocean.
RC: Probably ten years old. How did you learn how to fish? Did your dad or your grandpa show you, or kids you grew up with?
ES: I justtrial and error, you know, till I found some fishermen that had it. Change your expertise as you go along cause you ran into different hunters and fishermen that changed your attitude, and all of a sudden, Im going to places I didnt realize I was going.
RC: Learning. Its all a learning curve.
RC: How did you decide to become a fisherman? I mean, was there a point in your mind where you said, Im going to start doing this for a living? I mean, do you remember a point? What motivated you to become a commercial fisherman?
ES: Because of the love of fishing; but you know, I wouldnt want to be a sport fisherman. I wouldnt make a good captain. I dont like people yellin at their kids, and screaming, when they should be pattin them on the back. So, I went commercial. Otherwise, I think Id lose a few people out there. (both laugh) But the thing is, when you are your own boss you handle it different, and you dont go through all those antics. But just going out there to make a buck off of being a sport fishermanyou know, to me, that isnt my cup of tea.
RC: Wasnt your cup of tea?
ES: No. Its just like hunting in a different location, right? You know what youre targeting, you know what youre hunting, can you come back with what you (inaudible).
RC: Right. So what you went fishing one day and you sold your catch and youre like, This is great, this is what I want to do for a living, or
ES: Yes. If it doesnt come out of the fish box, you didnt make any money, so its very immediate and direct if youre successful or not.
RC: So did you just want to be your own boss, and you decided thats what you wanted to do?
ES: Right, and thats what I love to do. The weather, the et cetera; its a way of life. Of course, thats probably why Im still single.
RC: (laughs) You married the ocean.
ES: Yeah, thats it.
RC: When did you start to work as a fisherman in Fort Pierce? Do you know what year it was, how old you were?
ES: No, not really. I was just passin through. I dont really, because I was out of the country for a while in the Virgin Islands. I went down there and I was down there for thirteen years, which I did fishing and some work. When I left the Virgin Islands, I came back and then I fished up and down the east coast for a lot of time. I went for my captains license in the Virgin Islands, and then I fished in Puerto Rico to U.S. Virgins.
RC: So, when do you think you got back from the Virgin Islands, thirty years old or something?
ES: When I went down there, I wasIm trying to think. Lets see. Probably thirty, thirty-five years old, I would think, something like that. I was down there thirteen years.
RC: So, say in, like, 1975, you might have started fishing around here a little bit?
RC: Okay, what did you fish for when you first started fishing out of Fort Pierce?
ES: What I said above. You know, the same things: the porgies, beeliners.
RC: Went right to bottom fishing.
ES: Went right to bottom fishing. I mean, thats basically all I do.
RC: How did you fish for the porgies and stuff? That was your bandit fishery?
ES: Bandit fishing, right.
RC: You used both natural baits: sardines, squids and stuff?
ES: Right, moss and that, et cetera.
RC: Who did you fish with when you first started in Fort Pierce?
ES: I fished for myself, but then I go on other boats, also, with David Baird, you know, on thehelp him; he was swordfishing and tilefishing. So if for some reason I wasnt fishing, Id go crew for him.
RC: Well, lets talk about when you fish for yourself on that boat. Is it your boat?
ES: I owned the boat.
RC: What kind of boat was that, then?
ES: The same boat, the thirty foot.
RC: Thirty foot Coastal?
ES: Custom Marine. They make bandit reels and all the other stuff, longline reels and
RC: When you first started bandit fishing here out of Fort Pierce, can you show me here on the map where you fished? Were you fishing here on the Oculina Bank, or were you fishing?
ES: Most of my fishing was offshore. I tried to leave the inshore fisheries alone, because people that are only going out a half a day, et cetera. Not that theres not fish there.
RC: You just kept deep water to yourself.
ES: Kept to deep water, because theres more area and it took a little more expertise. Now if the tide were running hard, I might come inshore and fish the shallows. It would be, like, say twenty-one fathoms, which would be the shallows. So, basically, you know, between twenty and forty-five fathoms; but mainly from thirty fathoms out I would fish and leave the inshore, except for the tide, alone.
RC: Well, youre basically describing the Oculina Bank.
ES: Yup. You know the thirty fathoms up. And more targeting, like I said, not anchoring up. At one time if you got good at it, if the tides running, youre not fishing one piece of bottom. Youre fishing behind it, you know, not that piece of bottom farther up that your anchor has to hang into something, right?
ES: But usually, youre fishing the backside, not the front side, of the
RC: All that hard tide, it puts you over. Yeah.
ES: Well, the fish are on the backside, not on the front side. You know, just with the tide; theyre waitin for the bait to come off the shoals.
RC: Right, like feed zones.
ES: The feed zones, and then theres bait above it. Usually, youre marking more bait, unless theres only a few, then you pinpoint the bigger fish. So thats the thing about motor fishing is you work it better, right? What youre going to catch, where its located, how much do you want off it, and then you move to another location.
RC: Your description of motor fishingits bandit fishing, but not being anchored.
ES: Right. You try to keep a no headway at all, or else you might go back a half a knot; but you dont want to go back at half a knot unless youre tryin to target something. So youre in and out of gear, in and out of gear, to maintain that exact position.
RC: Youre holding
ES: Youre holding the position with your motor.
RC: Yeah, okay. Smitty, when you were fishing your own boat, during what months of the year did you fish it? Was it a yearlong thing?
ES: It was a yearlong thing.
RC: And that was all for the bottom fish. Okay. How long did your fishing trip last on your first boat here?
ES: It kept getting longer and longer (both laugh) offshore. End up getting longer and longer, going farther and farther. I go fishing four or five days.
RC: What was your average trip catch back then? You know, roughly, an average?
ES: Maybe 1500 pounds.
RC: Fifteen hundred pounds. And that would be the pinkies
RC: And grouper?
ES: You know, the gag grouper was your major catch, you know. Then that changed, too; then you have a mixture.
RC: Kind of somewhat seasonal?
ES: No. Theres a lot of variety, diversity in it. Theres things that happen whereyou know, like when the shuttle blew up, all the gag grouper disappeared. People dont realize it. I told somebody, You should have done a doctorate on it.
ES: Because of all the sonar that was out there, with them trying to cover it. You know, the snapper didnt seem to bother it, and the porgies, but you couldnt find a gray grouper anywhere.
RC: They pinged them out of there, huh?
ES: They pinged them out of there. They did very good in South Carolina, right? Twenty-four hours a day bombarded, but they justwhere it used to be 80 percent of your catch, all of a sudden, it was zero.
RC: Ill be darned.
ES: Yeah. You caught a few scamp, but I said something could have been done. Its a shame it blew up, but it did affect the fisheries. They figure out about it. It wasnt the fishermen caught it. Your catch has been down, but the way they look at it, they say, Aw, you must have overfished them. Well, no, something else happened to them. Who else are you going to blame now?
RC: You pinged them out of there, it sounds like.
ES: Pinged them out of there. I think it was another government operation, you know?
RC: (laughs) Excuse me. Where did you sell your catch back then?
ES: Depended which location. I was fished up and down the coast. Cape Canaveral, I sold most of it to, depending on who was there. Ronny Fisher, you know; they kept changing hands and so whatever the fish house they ended up. A lot of Cape Canaveral fish from
RC: Where did you sell out here in Fort Pierce?
ES: Inlet Fisheries, and Glen Black.
ES: Then I fished all the way on up the east coast. Certain times a year Id go (inaudible).
RC: Oh, really?
ES: Georgia, yeah. Well, thats where the bait goes, and the tourists go, and thats where the fish are.
RC: Andthat worked out as far as fish prices, probably. For how many years did you fish your original boat there in the beginning?
ES: Oh, I still have it. I dont know. I got behind on the permits. I lost my permits. Somebody was supposed to be sending in the permit deal, while I was running the Pathfinder, and they sent in their paperwork and not mine. So, somehow I lost my permits and they kept theirs.
RC: Okay. You say you think you ranpermits came into effect in the nineties [1990s], so you probably
ES: I was fishing way before the nineties [1990s], though.
RC: So you probably fished your boat for fifteen, twelve, seventeen years?
ES: Yeah, something like that.
RC: Do you remember when you lost your permit? In ninety-six , or
ES: I really dont know.
RC: Is that what was then?
ES: Like I said before
RC: When it went limited access?
ES: We went through a lot of red tape. I dont know.
RC: Okay. Well, this is an oral history of what you remember.
ES: You know, it just was my own fault. I should have sent it in myself, but I spent too much time at sea. Somebody else doesnt mail it in, cause I didnt have the paperwork, but it wasnt being done. So at the time I was aware of it, which I should have stuck to my own boat. (laughs) Thats all history.
RC: The guy liked you running his too much; he didnt send in your permit.
ES: I dont know what he did.
RC: So, seventy-five , eighty-five , ninety , say, what do you think you fished your own boat, fifteen, eighteen years?
ES: I dont know, fifteen?
RC: Fifteen. Okay. Why did you stop fishing it, because you lost the permit? Is that it?
ES: No. I was fishing another boat, you know, for a friend of mine, so thats when I was
RC: Why did you switch to his boat? Is it a bigger boat or something?
ES: Its a bigger boat and we needed help, so I ran that boat. I ran various boats. You start running one, and then all a sudden youre running another. It just snowballs. (inaudible) goes on vacation and the vacation got longer and longer.
RC: So this isis this when youd go withyou said David; is this when you went with David or
ES: Well, different captains I went and fished for, which had their permits and boats; but thats when I concentrated a little more on tilefish, not so much bandit fishing. Then I got more involved with the tilefish and other things. My boat just ended up sitting, which its still sitting today. I might go Spanish mackerel fishing with whatever permit I can get, but thats way down the line. I dont know.
RC: So can you tell me about one of the people that you worked for when you stopped fishing your own boat?
ES: Trying to remember all who wasJohn Fanzia, out of Cape Canaveral.
RC: That was Vance, you said?
ES: No. Fanzia, F-a-n-z-i-a. He had the EllaI think it was the Ella Marie. I captained it for like three months or something or other. Supposed to be three weeks, three months, and David Baird had me fish that boat for probably eight years.
RC: And John, was he just a friend?
ES: A friend, you know, captained and fished other boats. He just needed a hand while he went on.
RC: Okay, for only three monthsthat was when you said you were tilefishing?
RC: And that was like awas that a multi-day boat?
ES: Yeah, it was a multi-day boat. We were tilefishing, cause you know the quota was higher, then; you got fewer. But fishing after the hurricanes actually improved compared from what it used to be. You could get your limit a few times, but not that often; but after the double whammy here [in 2004], its just like you stirred the pot up and fish came from other areas, they werent just sitting out there hiding all the time. Youd see small mackerel coming up with themyoud see some sport fishermen.
RC: Oh, yeah. Ive seen a few of those myself. Back when you were tilefishing with John for a couple months, you were doing two-, three-day long trips?
ES: Yeah, they were probably five days.
RC: Five-day trips?
RC: What were you catching on these five-day trips for that short period of time?
ES: Oh, probably 5,000.
RC: Okay, and where did you and John sell the fish at?
ES: New Smyrna and Cape Canaveral.
RC: Who was your dealer in New Smyrna?
ES: It was Philip Feger, Fegers Seafood.
RC: Can you spell that, please?
ES: Fegers Seafood, F-e-g-e-r-s. Fegers Seafood, New Smyrna.
RC: Okay, and that went for a few months, and you said next you went with David Baird?
RC: How did you fish with David Baird? What did you fish for?
ES: Tilefish, and hed bandit fish all up above, but hedbasically, from Canaveral to South Carolina.
RC: Oh, okay. So you didnt even fish the Oculina Bank with David?
ES: Yeah, cause sometimes he would. Depends on whatyou know, he was from Fort Pierce, but wed start from Cape Canaveral; sometimes wed go south. But sometimes wed start from Fort Pierce and go all the way north. So as you go, it depends on the time of year, you know? Like I said, thatsin the wintertime you sort to migrate back here, but for some reason we end up more away from Fort Pierce becausewell, one thing, its the Oculina. Right?
RC: Oh, so thats since youve fished with David, since the Oculina Bank closed?
RC: Oh, okay.
ES: I probably did it before it closed, but then after, it affected everything because you couldnt fish there for certain things. It took up a lot of bottom, so I said, Well, you know, we could live here and be fishing out on the Cape, just where he is locating his house or his family. Which is more conducive? But if youre going all the way south, or transfer up to Georgia
RC: Well, one time David lived down here, didnt he, in Fort Pierce?
ES: Yeah, thats what Im saying. Well, then, at the last, his father was sick and he was staying here in Fort Pierce. I was running the boat. He didnt run the boat, I did.
RC: Well, back when Oculina closed, David was living here. Was David Baird living here then?
RC: So then he moved to the Cape, you think, because of the Oculina being closed?
ES: The boat fished out of there because the Oculina being closed. You couldnt go up past a certain thing before you started fishing, because at that time you could go for tilefish, and you could go for grouper. You could longline into fifty fathoms, nothing inside of fifty fathoms. So you could bandit inside of it, right, fish off it, but with all the catch-22s
RC: You couldnt drive across it.
ES: Right. You cant drive across it. Youre not allowed to have this onboard, and you cant have the longline. At one time we had shark gear on board, but the trouble with this is if you keep shark gear, you cant do the other fish. What are you going to target? But now werewe start eliminating, and you cant go for anything.
RC: (laughs) Just spread more regulations, and moreyeah, I see.
ES: Thats what Im saying. If youre going shark fishing, then you cant go for any of the grouper or snapper. Well, I dont go after red snapper, beeliners, which is a vermillion snapper.
RC: To get your history down, I guess maybe when you stopped fishing your boat, could that possibly been because of the Oculina Bank closure or were youor did you stop fishing your boat before this closed?
ES: I stopped fishing it before it closed, just having it tied up for so long while Im fishing the other boat. You know, when I was fishing out of Fegers I didnt pay any dockage. When I fished for David, and we started going to different fish houses, all of a sudden my rent went up. All of a sudden, I dont have any dockage, you know? But back then, it was cheap anyway, but it sort of cut down the thing; then your bills add up. By the time I look at this bill and that bill, you know, I really didnt make much money trying to help other people out. (laughs)
RC: So is that when you put your boat on the hill, to save money on the dockage and stuff?
ES: Well, I kept it in the water till I moved to Fort Pierce. Then I had it towed down from Daytona to here, and now its at River Gardens.
RC: Okay. All right, Smitty, well, lets talk aboutget back to you and David Baird. You bandit fished and you longline fished. You would
ES: Back when it was legal.
RC: Youd do both, and then the Oculina Bank closed and the fifty-fathom rule changed, I guess, so you shifted your efforts north of the Oculina Bank. Then you were runningyou werent fishing with David; you were running Davids boat, is that correct?
ES: Yes, ran it for years.
RC: David owned the boat, and your relationship to him was a friend, and eventually your employer, I guess.
ES: Friend for years; friend, employer.
RC: Okay, and what kind of boat is the Prowler? Is it a Bruno or something?
RC: A Lindsey. And what is she, forty-something feet?
ES: They call it a Lindsey forty, but its a thirty-seven. Its probably forty, overall, but its a thirty-seven.
RC: Its called a forty? Okay. You described where you fished; weve got that. During how many months a year did you fish the Pathfinder?
ES: Unless we were hauled out, or something or another. Its slow in the summertime, so we usually were doing fiberglass and hull work for months till Labor Day. At least, I think so. We probably fished it nine months out of the year.
RC: Over the years, it averaged out that much?
RC: Okay. So you had scheduled maintenance and everything. So you fished nine months, and then you said in the wintertime you would come back down towards the Fort Pierce area.
ES: Right. Thats when youd do your maintenance and get ready for the season.
ES: So its more like a summertime maintenance, and by Labor Day you should be back fishing again. You know, different fish show up, the bait starts coming down from up north, sorta like the tourists: when the tourists start coming, the economy goes up, the bait comes down. Fishermen, theoretically, have a place to go, catch a few more fish and everyones happy. You know?
RC: Right, tourists follow the weather and so do the fish.
ES: So do the fish. Well, the bait, and then the fish follow the bait. So when they come down here, they all come home. In the summers you might as well go diving and do your little merry-go-round, cause fishing is a lot slower. Or else you follow the fish, but if you dont have anything to fish for, likeyou know, the sharks, everythings protected, pretty much. So the summertime everythings endangered. Theyre on every hook, but theyre endangered. Havent figured it out.
RC: I havent quite figured that one out myself. So, Smitty, when you fished the Pathfinder youve described your fishing here off Fort Pierce, off Canaveral, fished all that, did South Carolina, occasionally. How long would these kind of fishing trips last on the Pathfinder?
ES: They were probably seven-day trips, something like that.
RC: What would an average catch be on the Pathfinder?
ES: Depending where youre fishing for. Somewhere around 5,000 pounds.
RC: Sometimes it would be tilefish; sometimes it would be deep water grouper?
ES: Cowfish, snowy grouper, but back then you were allowed 2500 pounds of snowies.
RC: So you would target
ES: Five thousand of them for the tilefish; even before it got to 5,000. I forget whenever it changed to 5,000, but you werent trying to get your whole quota. If you did, you did, but youre lookin at your fuel consumption. You know, how much fuel do you have? How far did you travel? How many different areas are you going to fish on the way? Are we going from Canaveral to South Carolina or Canaveral to Georgia?
RC: Okay, where did you sell your catch? I guess at whatever port you landed?
ES: Whatever port we landed. Georgia, you know, it was usually Phillips Seafood in Georgia.
RC: When you landed in Fort Pierce, where did you sell your catch?
ES: At one time when he was running the one boat, it was Steve Lowes, and then it was Inlet Fisheries.
Steve Lowe was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00014.
Either Steve Lowes or Inlet Fisheries.
RC: Steve Lowes was named Charlies at the time?
ES: But thats when we was running the other boat, so I (inaudible) was running the Caracal for an individual back then. That was before the Pathfinder. That was swordfish and tilefish, too.
RC: And how many years did you fish for the tilefish and the snowies and stuff?
ES: I have no idea.
RC: So, I guess you start with David?
ES: Yeah, lets say, (counts) ninety-two , ninety-three .
RC: Now, itd be about seventeen years or something?
ES: Yeah, maybe more than that.
RC: On the Pathfinder?
ES: No. Were at 2010 now.
RC: Right. And this was ninety-four  when you werent allowed to drive across this anymore, so that was sixteen years ago.
ES: I think about ten years, thirteen years. Thirteen years.
RC: All right. Why did you stop? You havent stopped, right? Youre still fishing the Pathfinder?
ES: Well, David passed away, but right now were just juggling the paperwork and tryin to get enough money to fix the boat. Its the season, but by the time I got the permit, it slows down. With all the paperwork, nothing was planned, so it sure backfired on me losin the last season.
RC: So, were notare we saying you stopped fishing? Well, you havent stopped fishing; youre just on hold.
ES: Were on hold right now. We have the permit now, but the thing is, other things have to be done to the boat because the money hasnt been put into it. So, if everythings going to get done by the opening of the season, should be a few phone calls, and were trying to figure out whats going to happen here by the first of the year.
RC: As you said, the boat owner, David, passed away, and now I guess youre working for his family or something?
ES: Right. Its a corporation; his daughters ended up with the boat.
RC: You dont got to tell me all the business. Im just trying to verify that its still an operational business.
ES: Its stillits a limited corporation of the familys.
RC: Okay, so it sounds like weve covered your fishing history. You feel like we did?
ES: Yeah, I feel like we did. Theres all kinds of little things that I could have said that pertained, but I think we got enough about the Oculina Bank. And you made your points, and what you could, but I think it should be done for the commercial and the recreational where its uniform where they can enforce whatever is regulated. But it should be uniform throughout the whole Bank, not little square boxes and all this little things where you can do this, but you cant do that. It would be easier for them to monitor it, right?
RC: Yeah, if it was all the same.
ES: If it was all the same, and itd be easier for a sport fisherman to fish it if he wanted to, because hes aware of what hes allowed to do. You know, if everybody you talk to has a different little thing, not that youre not allowed to have much, but youd be a little clearer.
RC: All right, Smitty. Finally, Id like to talk to you about how fishing has changed over time in regards to the Oculina Bank since 1984. There have been many regulationstheres been several changes have been made to the regulations of the Oculina Bank. Id like to know if any of these has affected you and your fishing; if so, how? In 1994, this area was designated as an experimental closed area where retention of snapper [and] grouper was prohibited and anchoring was prohibited. Was your fishery impacted by these regulations? I think youve explained yes, but could you tell me how, again? When this closed, it made it so you couldnt
ES: Cross over it; or if you had a mixed catch from somewhere else, if youre fishing somewhere else you cant; you either got to go around it, you know, but you cant cross over.
RC: Well, you described on a three- or five-day trip and you talked about tide. I guess if it was too much tide here one day, and you wanted to fish here for a day or two, and then you might want to go back out
ES: Well, basically, what youre doing is you come all the way inshore to anchor up, not on the Oculina. You have to anchor inshore just to anchor for the night. You pull your anchor and then go offshore fishing in the daytime, right?
RC: Yeah, I think thats one topic we havent touched on isI believe, if I remember correctly, a lot of people did that to save fuel. I mean, if you stay out here and run all night long, it costs a lot of fuel and a man doesnt get to sleep all night, right?
ES: Thats right. You got to take turns on the watch, and they have to know what theyre doing, and some people you just cant trust. (laughs) Back in the day
RC: Back in the day, you would to come back here and anchor it up.
ES: Yeah. Inside the thirty fathoms, youre not in the Oculina; you anchor up and then you go back offshore. But you know if you cant cross over it but youre not allowed to fish there anyway, so it makes no sense in being here because its closed down. Like Im saying, if I wanted to fish a trip from here to Cape Canaveral and make a trip back from Cape Canaveral to Fort Pierce because of the limitations of where you can start fishing, and what you can have enough, but if youre not allowed any volume, you cant in the Oculina if youre not allowed any grouper and snapper. Right? Theres no sense in me being there, right? Im talking about before the Oculina separated, you know? You say, well you can motor fish it, you know, or you can check that for me, even up. It goesthe Oculina goes all the way up to theIm going by the
RC: Cape or something.
ES: Yeah, straight off from the Cape there, basically, like the old 4800 line. Itll show you on the chart. Well, thats where youOculina stops, right? Well, theres no sense in me fishing an area. If you fish, likeif I cant fish offshore, then theres no sense in meyou know, Im not going to fish somewhere where Im not allowed to have any fish. So thats where the whole thing comes to anow, from 800 on, you can goyou can bandit fish or anchor, et cetera. I have the feeling theyre going to extend the Oculina someday, but even if they do, right, they should make provisions where youre allowed to keep something. You know, same with the recreational. Otherwise, I could fish down one way in, say, the deep, if it was allowed. Then, Id fish back on the shallow. The shallower water, say twenty-one, fifteen, I wouldnt be up in the same area. You leave it alone. Why fight the tide? You understand what I mean? So you
RC: So the fish around.
RC: To fish around it like that, youd have to be out there several days of that to do.
ES: Oh, definitely, yeah. With the price of fuel, you dont want to be in and out, in and out. Its not like kingfishing, you understand? When you dont want itwell, they dont have the volumes of fish anymore. It isnt not like you know you go to one rock and load off the boat; those days are over. Theres a couple old things they found in the shuttle (inaudible), theres fish, but youre not allowed to have many; but even a hundred pounds almost makes some dough.
RC: Youre talking about the snowies. All right. Next, in ninety-six , they said noanchoring within the Oculina Bank was prohibited. Did this impact you, and if so, how?
RC: You said you never anchored there anyway. Okay.
ES: You have to come farther inshore to get out of the tide, off the bottom. I dont want to anchor there. You know? It isnt like Im trying to fish at night.
RC: But you wont get up in the morning and pull anchor and
ES: Haul the anchor, et cetera. You might troll on the way out, you know, look for a wahoo or a dolphin on the way out, and start bouncing the bottom whether you want to go for an amberjack or whatever it might be.
RC: Well, 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited in the area east and north of the Oculina Bank, and it was designated asand north was designated as Oculina Bank. Thats when they extended it. In 1998, this area was incorporated into the Oculina Bank HAPC. Fishing with bottom longline gear, trawl, and dredge was prohibited, you know, in 1998. You could no longer longline anything up here through here. Did that impact your fishing, and if so, how? When they bottom longlined here, did that affect you?
ES: Maybe back then it did, you know, but thats all. It definitely did, but I said, Well, I prefer to target a little more, but you know, its still thereeven those tilefish. They will come in shallower even, but theyre larger fish, right? It is a piece of bottom. I mean, for a buffer zone, right? Youre not on a section of coral, but there is fish in between that area.
RC: Yeah, your law enforcement thing: you were two fathoms inside of a buffer zone and you still got a big fine, huh?
ES: Yes. Well, youre not
RC: Well, thats not a buffer zone, then. (laughs)
ES: Its a buffer zone for them, but not for me. Even if youre hard off, you cant try to catch a crappy, or it isnt likeif I thought I was doing something wrong, I would have cut the cable, you know, or turned around, but it was not like I thought I was doing something wrong. Well then, and that, its like longball. Okay, you made a mistake, but then whats this?
RC: Okay, I didnt mean to bring that up. It just doesnt soundthe word buffer zone doesnt sounds like a good description if you get right up in there. Here we go: The designation of marine areas that are closed to fishing is being used more and more frequently as a fishery management tool. You know, MPAs [Marine Protected Areas], ECAs [Experimental Closed Area], SMZs [Special Management Zone]; just closed areas. What do you think about the use of closed areas as a management tool compared to other types of management tools? I mean, what do you think about closed areas? Is that a good management tool, or do you think theres other ones that are better?
ES: I think theres other ones.
RC: Okay, and which do you prefer: quotas, closed seasons, et cetera?
ES: Well, I think we have a lot of overkill here. I mean, theyve already restricted the amount of fish you can catch, and were limiting ourselves to nothing. If youre going to cut back that you cant have any product onboard, what do you need a buffer zone for, right?
RC: Or a closed area.
ES: Or a closed area. Your limits on what you can even have onboard, it used to be limited by how much ice and how much time you would put on a fish: if it was iced properly, whats the shelf life, what is it fair to everybody else. It wasnt like a quota, you know? But the thing is, you knew when you had a decent catch onboard and when it should be offloaded. Right?
RC: So you used to limit yourself, now youve been limited by many different management.
ES: Many different management, which is backfiring on them, because people are jumping from one fishery to another fishery, which overburdens the other fishery. So these buffer zones arent really the prime thing. I mean, you got enough besides the management deal between weather and other factors that feed into this scenario, too, where its unfishable. The fish are getting plenty of protection, right? The fishermen are not getting the protection, and they used to be the conservationists; now we hire a bunch of people that are not conservationists. They areyou know, if you cant add up how many fish were actually caught, youre not doing a very good job at management.
RC: Ah, I see the point there.
ES: Definitely. Somebody should, with all the technology we have and all the information coming from fish houses and fishermen, figure out what the stocks are, how much was caught, a lot better, not that it was overfished and under fished, and all this. But theyve got jobs. Theyre getting paid for all this erroneous information. The one on the tail end of it is the fishermen, and even the fishes in there are suffering. I mean, theyre not getting a vacation, but they got other predators thatll get them. Even if it is an (inaudible).
RC: Sharks are getting terrible.
ES: Sharks are getting there, you know.
RC: Ive noticed that.
ES: When you keep bringing up heads, you know, somethings eating them. I can tell you, you arent getting a bite. Theres fish there that are afraid to move.
RC: Sharks are the things they need to regulate, that they need to put limits on next. Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing will be like in Fort Pierce ten years from now?
ES: I think itll be a sad situation. I dont think its going to improve, because the fishermen that can afford ityou know, it has to be a younger person, because the older persons already got all his goals made. So maybe a cast netter, a Spanish mackerel, et cetera, but theres so many that get into fisheries, with all the double permits, you have to be pretty well to do in order to get into the fishery industry. If youve got that much money, you ought to find another profession, because they definitely are going to put you out of business.
RC: All right, Smitty. I think that concludes our interview, unless theres something youd like to add?
RC: All right, sir. Thank you.