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text Terry Howard: Good afternoon. This is Terry Howard. Today is September 1, 2010. Im at St. Lucie Village, Florida, conducting an oral history with Beau Bryan for the Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundations project with Fort Pierce fishermen on the Oculina Bank HAPC [Habitat Area of Particular Concern]. Welcome, Beau. Please state your name, spell your name, your place of birth and your date of birth.
Beau Bryan: My name is Beau Bryan, B-e-a-u B-r-y-a-n. I was born in Fort Pierce on August 7, 1965, and have lived in Fort Pierce my entire life, short of about a year of half away at school.
TH: Are you married?
TH: How much schooling do you have?
BB: Graduated from John Carroll High School in Fort Pierce. I attended Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, for a year and a half, along with a little bit of schooling at IRCC [Indian River Community College], but no graduate degrees in anything.
TH: What do you do for a living?
BB: Currently, Im in tackle manufacturing right here in Fort Pierce, and prior to that, I was inI grew up working in marinas and had gotten intokinda escalated into a sales position prior to the tackle manufacturing. Left the boat sales because of the economy two years ago, and have been able to get a decent income from the tackle manufacturing business.
TH: What specifically do you manufacture?
BB: Right now, primarily, its lead sinkers, downrigger weights. Trying to get into more of the jig market and things along those lines: a little more specialty items is what Im hoping to expand into.
TH: Did you sell boats?
BB: Yes, I did.
TH: What kind?
BB: For a couple of dealerships locally here in Fort Pierce. Taylor Creek was my first adventure into sales.
TH: Taylor Creek Marina?
BB: Taylor Creek Marina, which included at that time Wellcraft, Tiara, their larger division, and Mako, and then we had Mercury outboards. Most recently, I was at it for a little while. Then, I was with Lindsey Marine selling Maverick, Hewes, Pathfinder, which are locally made in Fort Pierce along with regular Parker; and then my last sales job was with Bud and Vicky Tillman at St. Lucie Outboard.
Murray Bud Tillman was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00001.
Their lines included Steiger Craft, we had Sea Chaser and Carolina Skiff, and a couple of other lines that were kinda in and out, and then Evinrude outboards is his main line.
TH: Okay. Have you worked in the fishing industry: commercial, charter, industry?
BB: I have not. My closest thing that was possibly getting my charter license, which I never went anything beyond taking a couple of classes.
TH: Okay. Do you currently own a boat?
BB: I do. I have a 1988 twenty-five SeaVee.
TH: Twenty-five foot.
BB: And its a center console.
BB: Single power Yamaha on it.
BB: Its a 300 horsepower and does everything I want to around here, along with giving me Bahama capabilities, also.
TH: Twenty-five foot. Yeah.
TH: Id like to ask some questions about the Oculina Bank. How familiar are you with the Oculina Bank?
BB: I would say Im pretty familiar with it. My younger days of growing upwhen I was just first getting into the marine business, I was working at Taylor Creek Marina and I was on the docks from the age of thirteen until I went away to college. So at that time, the Oculina was an opened area for fishing, and we had a number of customers that would frequent that area and were successful, because it is a good fishery. Since then, Ive started fishing myself and, I would say, getting into bottom fishing in the last ten to fifteen years as the thing that we generally choose to do. Weve gone to some of the deeper depths in the 170 to 180 foot range west of the Oculina and done, you know, pretty good at times. With the closure now, we havent been out as much. But I did have a chance before the closure to experience some fishing inside the Oculina, and its a difficult place to fish. But we generallyfor as long of a run as it is, it was usually worthwhile going there.
BB: Yes, sir.
TH: Why was the Oculina Bank designated as an area to protect? Do you know?
BB: My understanding was the Oculina coral and the damage that the bottom gear was doing to the coral. I know the shrimpers were out there pretty heavy in that area, so their gear on the bottom was just wrecking it. As far as the closure of it, that was my understanding, thatI think it was done as a fish enhancement, but mainly because Harbor Branch had gone out there and designated the Oculina coral as only occurring in the world in this one particular spot, and they didnt want to see it get damaged anymore.
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution at Florida Atlantic University conducted scientific research referenced in the Oculina Bank closure. It is a non-profit oceanographic institution dedicated to marine and ocean research and education operated by Florida Atlantic University.
TH: Is there anything else you can tell me about the Oculina Bank, just offhand right now?
BB: Not too much, other thanI cant even think of anything else, other than it has proved to benow that Im bottom fishing more for myselfI think back in the days we used to do it, it was pretty much strictly jig fishing because of the speed of the current out there, which is some pretty difficult fishing. These days, I dont know that most people would really even go in there if it was open for bottom fishing these days, anyway. Some would, but most wouldnt, because theyre going to be out there trolling and doing things that are a little more on the easy side of
TH: Its a difficult place to fish.
BB: It sure is.
TH: Are there peaks?
BB: Theres definitely peaks, and mainly the current. I can remember when we did fish it, I was amazed at how far we were running after, you know, essentially making a drift from a position where we would want to start and a target we would want to hit, and then once we were beyond it, you know, the captain or whoever was running the boat at that time would say, Okay, crank up. We cranked up, turned around and run a half a mile or more, in what was a very little amount of time of drifting. And I just thought in my mind there was no way we went that far, but after doing it a few times, I realized that the drift is very misleading
TH: The currents very fast.
BB: It sure is.
TH: What do you do think about the closure of the Oculina Bank to anchoring and bottom fishing?
BB: Anchoring is virtually impossible. Youre talking about depths of 200 feet plus, and I dont know people that carry enough anchor line to do it. Bottom fishingI would be a proponent of it opening up for bottom fishing. I think the damage to the coral, the majority of it, was from the shrimp trawls, surely. You know, I know the Oculina is a sensitive coral that a sixteen or twenty ounce jig hitting it isnt going to it any good; but like I said, I think the number of people, if it opened, that would be going out there and fishing it would be very minimal.
TH: Has the closure of the Oculina Bank affected your fishing, and how?
BB: I would say its affected it only because if it were open, I surely would go into it and, you know, look at things on the recorder on the favorable days when the current is backed off, because of knowing how good the fishery is in that area. You know, that place holds a lot of grouper and snapper. Surely, you know, if Im running twenty-five miles to go to places just west of it and theyre not producing, Id run on another half a mile or mile into it to take a peek and see whats going on.
TH: Thats the next question. If it were not prohibitedin other words, if you could fish thereyou would fish there?
BB: I would surely look at it. It wouldnt be a place that I was getting up in the morning to go to, other than I would get up in the general area. And Ive still got numbers in my machine thatI cant say we troll all that much, but when I do wahoo troll or something, we run over those areas. The bottom machine is usually pretty lit up with activity on the bottom.
TH: Excellent. How and for what, you would probably
BB: There had beenwell, now theres closure on red snapper. Theyre probably the biggest red snapper Id seen as a youngster on boats coming back into Taylor Creek. One gentleman in particular, a fellow named Roland Reems, I know he would fishhe wouldnt always be in the Oculina, but prior to the closure, butyou know, in that 160-plus range, there were some really, really big snappers that he would catch. Some grouper catches that were coming out of there were always nice gags, and occasional Warsaws and some scamp groupers. So, targeting, I would sayId be going in, kinda looking for a mixed bag, and any one of those four would be something positive.
TH: Overall, how has fishing changed since you began fishing in the Fort Pierce area?
BB: I would say its changed for me in the fact that were generally going to the deeper depths these days. I cant say Im really pro-diving as to the harvest that the divers are able to collect. I continually hear of the stories of when these thermoclines push in and the divers slap their wetsuits on and go down and find a cave, you know, thats full of big grouper, and they can pretty much pick and choose the ones they want. So, the inshore side of things has become more difficult for me, anyway, to find fish to catch, so Im going a little deeper. Its not as productive out there, althoughI shouldnt say that. Im still kind of learning about that, and the times of year and the gear and everything. I generally live baitfish, although I need to change that song, because Ive got some buddies that fish with me, and when the live baits not happening, theyll switch over to different gear
BB: Jigs, generally, and end up producing a catch here and there. But overall, Id have to put the diving thing as the biggest deterrent as far as where I go these days. You know, I
TH: Deeper water thats out of the range?
BB: Out of the range of what theyre diving. Yes, sir.
TH: So thats how fishing has changed. Have you had any experiences with law enforcement within or regarding the Oculina Bank?
BB: One time and one time only. We were fishing to the west of the Oculina. It was a summer day, either late spring or early summer, about three or four years ago. I was actually just running fromI was on a plane running from one number to another and was stopped by an inflatable, which was the small boat off one of the fisherys boats out of [Cape] Canaveral, which was their cutter, and I guess they carried the little boat on the back. They had been patrolling the Oculina. They came up and asked for IDs, fishing licenses, and looked at our catch, which that particular day I did have a nice grouper that was about thirty pounds. We had a couple of smaller fish, being red snappers, and we were boarded. They checked us out; everything we had was legal and we werent in any illegal areas with bottom gear. So, we went about our way, they went about their way. However, they did have some fish laying on the deck of their boat that they had confiscated from some people that had illegally harvested in the Oculina that day. But that was my one and only run in with enforcement out in the area.
TH: Im going to talk about your fishing history, specifically. Whats your earliest memory of fishing, and how old were you?
BB: My earliest memories would be having grown up along the Indian River just river fishing, between catching trout, and redfish and snook, an assortment of others; whatever were hitting the shrimp, which everything will. Then I would say
TH: Were you in a boat or just off the bank?
BB: It was actually both. We would do some wading. We did boat fish a little bit and do some drifting. Then it was probably around the age of nine or ten that I had my first ocean experience with Captain Sam Crutchfield.
Samuel Crutchfield was also interviewed for the Oculina Bank Oral History Project. The DOI for his interview is O6-00032.
The first couple of trips with him were pretty much strictly kingfishing, because I kept looking at some old Super 8 movies that we have, and you can see the shoreline within a mile or half a mile of where we were fishing, and it was very abundant. It was pretty much catching one king after the other. Then I would say my progression into working Taylor Creek and then getting, at that time, first a seventeen-foot center console. Then when I turnedI guess eighteenwe got a twenty-foot Mako. Thats when my ocean fishing really started to take off as far as the time I spent in the river versus the ocean.
Its been kind of diverse over the years. There was a few years we got into a lot of tarpon fishing just right along the beach, just a lot of catch and release stuff. We fished at the power plant on the outside a lot, at the nuclear power plant. When the weather was right, being in a twenty-foot boat, that kind of permitted me, when the weather was right, to start getting more and more offshore. Started with trolling, catching dolphin, sailfish, kingfish, and then that kind of led in my interest in bottom fishing. I like bottom fishing because ofkinda the hunting aspect of it: finding places, knowing where to be with what direction the tides going, how fast the tides going, what kind of baits you got, and things along those lines. I got to say, the tug-of-war with the big fish is probably one of the most appealing things when you do get a big one on.
TH: How did you learn how to fish? Who taught you?
BB: Ive got to say, its pretty much been just gathering information from fishing with friends and relativesthat are obviously friends over the yearsthat I cant really say that theres one specific person that Ive learned a lot from. I would say theres definitely some advantages of working in the marinas and seeing what people were catching and talking to them about what gear they had, where they were, that I definitely got a wealth of information from them. Then it was, I got to say, a lot of just kinda going out with me and a few buddies off of on our own, and I would say we all kinda picked up things as the years have gone on.
TH: So, I guess you started fishing when you could first fish. (laughs) Do you remember how old you were?
BB: I sure do. My father and I, we always had some kind of little johnboat or something that he would get myself and my brother, Tom, whos a year and a half younger than I am, out in. I guess once I started fishing, and actually more into cleaning fish, Ive become a little more of a fan of it, because my father, as good as he meant to kinda teach us things, he didnt know a whole lot about it. But we still had a great time. Had to pick through a few bones when we were, you know, eating fish that we had caught. (laughs)
TH: Thats when your father cleaned them?
BB: Yes. No, it was a pretty young age, and definitely fortunate to have lived adjacent to the river, which was definitely one of the reason Im into it as much as I am, because during the summer monthsI know Im going to have skin cancer issues, because I was in the sun either throwing a cast net or gigging this and that, or pushing a push net through the grass to catch shrimp and then go fish. It was really an opportunity that Im blessed to have had.
TH: To grow up on the Indian River Lagoon?
BB: Sure. Yes, sir.
TH: What did you gig? Flounder?
BB: A few stingrays. (laughs) It was, I would saythese days in conservation I would shy away from things, but it was more just kids being kids and target practice.
TH: Anything you could stick the gig in?
BB: [Anything] it got thrown at.
TH: Okay. I probably should say here, your father, he was not a fisherman? What was his profession?
BB: Hes an attorney and circuit court judge, prior to retirement.
TH: When you began fishing, where did you begin fishing; where did you go? I guess that would be the Lagoon. Thats south of Fort Pierce. Mostly?
BB: Yeah, primarily we were where our home wasit was on South Indian River Driveand just from the proximity of where we lived at that time. Generally, right on the west side of the river somewhere pretty close to the front of the house. As I got older and friends had boats and stuff, then it started expanding. And I gotta say, the north side of the bridge and the North Intercoastal area proved to be very productive spots; so I would say, boating these days, if I dropped a boat in the water to fish one direction or the other, itd be to the north.
TH: In the river?
BB: Yes, sir.
TH: Do you mostly go fishing on your boat, or boats of others?
BB: You know, actually, these days, I would say, primarily on mine.
TH: I mean, did you?
BB: Oh, did I?
TH: Back then.
BB: Yes. Yeah, I would say back then it was generally on my boat.
TH: Early on, who did you fish with?
TH: Okay. Thatswith E-n-n-s, two Ns?
BB: You got it. Yes, sir.
TH: During what months of the year did you fish for what fish?
BB: Weather permitting, I love fishing in the wintertime, but it would be more wind dependent because we were generally in smaller boats in the early years, and still are. And I would say kingfishing on the beach was a real popular thing for us, you know, getting offshore and sailfishing in the wintertime. Then with the bottom fishing thing, thats pretty much year round as far as fishing and us targeting them; however, theres better times of year that theres, you know, gonna be more productivity.
TH: For which?
BB: For the grouper and snapper species.
TH: What would that better time of year be?
BB: Well, I would say the spring and the fall.
TH: Okay. How long would a fishing trip last? Every trips different, I know, but theres an average; how long would it be?
BB: Yeah, I would say we were pretty hardcore about it. If we were dedicating ourselves to launching the boat and going into the ocean, if we were going offshore, it was going to be a pretty early morningyou know, not much after sunriseleaving the dock, and getting back in the late afternoon hours.
TH: How much would you catch on an average trip?
BB: Kingfish, you know when theyre schooled up, you can catch really as many as you wanted prior to them putting the limits on. We would get to the point of, obviously, what we felt like we needed and what we wanted to clean.
TH: Did you live bait?
BB: First thing, I would say, I was pulling plugs and baits, and
BB: I definitely cant saynot too much with spoons. I cant say we werebiting means the originators of fishing with live baits, but we did get in at the early stages of guys with using the gold hooks to catch the baits at the time. It was before there was ever any Sabikis in the store, so we were buying boxes of gold hooks and tying our own rigs up and doing it that way. But prior to that, there were definitely plenty of days I was pulling plugs around the schools of live baits. We were productive there.
In the springtime, you know, the dolphin fisheryyou know, that has its good and bad years. When its good, I would say catching eight or ten, fifteen dolphin in a day wasnt out of range by any means. And I got to say, I did shy away, mainly, because I really didnt like the way it looked when people would come back to the marina that I was working at when they would have a cooler full of the schoolies that you could just catch one after the other.
TH: The little ones?
BB: Yes, sir. That didnt make much sense to me. I know Ive kept a lot of fish at times, but to see some of those people coming in with, you know, fifty or sixty in a cooler or more was a little depressing.
TH: The next question is: for how many years did you fish for each fish? I assume you probably progressed from river fish to?
BB: Yeah, I would say through upuntil my high school years, it was the inshore side of things, and then it wasprobably through high school and my early twenties was more of the ocean, but near-shore fishery and that was about the time, getting into my twenties, when we started progressing more offshore as far as running our own boat. My opportunities prior to that wouldve been either fishing on charter boats or fishing with friends on bigger boats, which I definitely didnt shy away from, you know, wanting to go offshore.
TH: You got an opportunity?
BB: Yeah, and I would say one of the things that changed for me that made a big difference was as a youngster, I used to get seasick pretty much every time. So, there was always in the back of my mind of that happening on an offshore trip, and I think the Scopolamine patches and running a boat myself and thinking about things other than going out and getting seasick changed. Once that ended, which was probably aroundI was probably around nineteen or twenty years oldI dont get seasick at all anymore and dont have any issues with it. Because of that, Ill jump on any boat, really any weather these days, and go if the opportunity is there.
TH: You never mentioned snook. Have you fished a lot for snook?
BB: Sure do. Love snook fishing. Have gotten a little bit better at it, just learning kind of tides and places. We did a lot down at the power plant when we were doing more the inshore thing around, you know, the later teen stage.
TH: Near the boils?
BB: In the boils, and had some really, really fun and successful trips as far as the quantities of what you could catch down there.
TH: Okay. So, I guess youre still fishing for most everything you started fishing for. Do you still fish for trout?
BB: I sure do. I cant say the inshore side of things is as much as we used to, because were spending more time in the ocean, but I surely dont shy away from an opportunity to jump on a boat and go throw some plugs. My father still doesactually lives on the north end of the river now, and weve got a couple of small boats there, which I hope to be using more once I get a little closer proximity to him with the home Im going to be moving into.
TH: Okay, the next thing is: where else do you go fishing in the Fort Pierce area? Now, youve mentionedlets see if theres any place that youve left out, because youve mentioned the south river, the north part of the river
BB: Ive fished the Turning Basin, Ive fished the Inlet, Ive fished north and south in the river, I fish north and south of the beach, and anywhere offshore. I would say county line to county line we cover it.
TH: Specifically north here, do you fish out on the west shore or on the east shore, mostly?
BB: You know, its kind of a flip of the coin there. What would probably determine that is the boat Im in, whether or not it has a trolling motor and, based on that, what wind direction if it doesnt have a trolling motor, and what the tides doing. The west shoreline Ive found to be very productive on redfish up north around Lane Port, trout fishing on thedid I say the west side?
BB: Yeah. The east side is a real productive trout spot, and around the islands, the spoil islands, especially above with the trolling motor, actually getting out and wading the snook fishery around them. Throwing top water either early in the morning or late in the afternoon is a lot of fun.
TH: Again, what do you fish for? Theres a lot of repetitive questions here. Do you usually go in your own boat now, yours or your fathers boats?
BB: I would say for the most part, yes. Kind of the only reason that Id venture off of that is getting back to fishing with my buddy, Gladwin Enns. He has an identical boat to mine, and he and I have never really gotten into trading gas money back and forth; we just go in one trip on mine and one trip on his and it just kind of averages out.
TH: You just answered my next question: do you usually go on your own boat, or the boats of others? You just go back and forth.
BB: Yes, sir.
TH: You usually fish with Gladwin. Hes kind ofout of all your friends, you settled in and you fish with him, primarily?
BB: Hes the one I spend the most time with on the water.
TH: How much would you catchagain, now, today, how much would you catch on an average trip? Whats an average trip, a good trip?
BB: If its bottomwell, really, anything. In general, I would say things are a little slower. Weve had some unusual weather patterns in the last year. This past spring with the cold winter that we had, I would definitely say that there was not the dolphin fishery. Now, thats not to say they didnt come through here; it was just the opportunities that we had, between either work days or weather days, we just didnt have the catches that Ive seen in the past few years. Bottom fishing, Ive come to learn that that can be just a hit and miss. I would say a productive day is catching two or three gag groupers, you know, maybe an assortment of snappers, and maybe some scamps or red groupers. Kingfishing, that kind ofI cant say its hit or miss, but surely, if we go out on the beach and theres not any bait pods there, then its not a place wed be necessarily stopping. On the other hand, if theres a lot of bait there, that could be a productive bite.
TH: You going to the beach for the larger kingfish?
TH: Live bait?
BB: I definitelyif Im on the beach, Im looking for the bigger ones.
TH: Whats the biggest kingfish youve ever caught?
BB: Forty-nine pounds. Havent been able to break the fifty barrier.
TH: Thats a big fish. Thats a very big fish.
BB: I wasthat was caught, actually kite fishing on the beach. We dont do that a whole bunch, but similar technique to the way they do some sailfishing.
TH: With live bait?
BB: We were just kind of giving it a whirl one day, and this one whacked it.
TH: Forty-nine pounds.
BB: Long, skinny fish. He shouldve been seventy. (laughs)
TH: He didnt have a big girth.
TH: Thats interesting. The biggest ones Ive caught have had a big girth. So youre still fishing forfor how many years have you fished for all these? I guess all your life, whatever you target. And youre still fishing, primarily nowprimarily now, what do you target?
BB: I would say leaving the inlet these days is whatwere primarily gonna go bottom fishing. Surely, you know, we can get out there and change plans: if the tide isnt in our favor, or if baits been hard to find, I would say Id probably go out with too much gear, but we definitely leave a little bit of a flex zone as far as, you know, trolling some if the conditions arent right for what our first target is.
TH: Okay, so you always have a Plan B.
BB: Generally. (laughs) We kinda stare back and forth at one another when it comes to Plan B, but we generally like to have an option if Plan A doesnt work.
TH: How often do you go offshore fishing?
BB: These days, with the closures that weve had in this past year, its changed a lot. I would sayif you were to ask me that same question about last year, weather permitting, I would say its almost once a week. This year, its probably been once a month getting into the summertime and the opening of grouper season again as far asI think it opened May 1then maybe once every couple of weeks.
TH: The closures on the grouper [and] snapper?
BB: I would say theres definitely some things that have affected it, because Im not trolling as much, so I cant say other than sailfish season. We get up going, Okay, were going trolling and this is what were going after, which sailfish we do, and thats not a real regular thing. I can go outI love catching sailfish, but a trip or two and having a few good bites and you know, seeing a few fish jump and releasing them, thats enough for me for the year. Like I said, with the dolphin thing this year, we wouldve gone more had the weather been in our favor on the days we could go versus work and things along those lines.
And then, I would say, as far as not going, I could throw a few different things in there: the closure with the grouper species this year definitely had an effect on how many times we were going. The cost of fuel and what it takes to get out there and make a day of it has an effect. Im by no means, a big dollar guy, so its usually trying to get a few buddies together to where its not a huge cost to go out. The live baiting that we do, I dont know what has affected it, but its definitely not the concentrations that Ive seen really prior to the Frances and Jeanne hurricane year . I dont know what could be attributed to them as to why things havent rebounded.
TH: You say theres less bait?
BB: In my opinion, theres definitely less. We had a fewyou know, a few weeks ago, I was hearing of some pretty large concentrations of greenies along the beach, the threadfin herring, but didnt have an opportunity to get out during those times. But it was the first Id heard in years that there were schools ofreally acres of bait. So, that really affects. Theres times when, in the last couple of years, that weve gone out bait fishing, been unsuccessful, and weve pretty much turned around and gone in and just called it a day.
TH: Theres some months that you go fishing more frequently?
BB: I would say the spring is probably my favorite, March through May.
TH: Are there some months where you never or rarely go fishing?
BB: It just seems because of, generally, the weather, the later fall November, December; although December starts to crank up the sailfish season, so, we generally do try to look for a day or two that month to get out. But Id say late October, November, you know, were at the end of the hurricane season but were starting to get the cold fronts blowing through, so it gets pretty brutal out there.
TH: Well said. On average, how far do you go offshore to fish? The average?
BB: Twenty, twenty miles, and thats not necessarily directly east. Thats, you know
TH: From the inlet?
BB: Yes, sir. I know that just because of the GPA functions when I go plug it in either in a roundabout way getting to where Im fishing, but when Im coming home its in that twenty-mile range.
TH: What do you fish for and how? Weve talked mostly about that. Who do you fish with? Gladwin Enns. Who owns the boats? You each own similar boats. Youre just friends, you grew up together.
BB: Yes, sir.
TH: How do you decide where you will fish? Thats an interesting question.
BB: There are, I would sayin my GPS machine, it stores 3,000 numbers. Ive gotI was just adding some the other night and I sawI looked down at my counter and it said Ive got 1300 numbers in it. Theres probably, of those 1300 numberswhich do include a lot in the Bahamasbut I would say theres probably to the northeast grounds, maybe ten to fifteen numbers that were generally going to go to one of those areas. Its not always fishing, exactly, on top of one of those numbers, but its going to be one of those fifteen, and thats not to sayit could be almost be at a years time between I might go to the same spot. There are some that we frequent a little bit more; theyre a little more isolated. Therere numbers I dont go to on the weekends because I dont want people to see me there, (TH laughs) but they are productive spots and they continue to be productive. And we try to keep that in mind that, you know, we dont want to overfish them; theyve produced good for us. I would say there are a half a dozen that are my favorites.
TH: Very interesting. Follow-up question on that: now, you go to these spots now, today. Do you mostly power fish, drift, or anchor?
BB: I would say outside of 150 feet, were drifting. I have set up my boatI cant say Ive done it much, but I carry close to about 750 feet of anchor line that I got from a company down on Fort Lauderdale with the intention of trying to anchor in some of the 170 and 180 stuff. I have anchored there; I cant say Ive never done it. But primarily those areas we are drift fishing. And then I would say definitely in the shallow range, its mainly, in my opinion, just because of the structure on the bottom that drift fishing on what we would refer to as the ninety-foot bar is difficult because of getting hung up. The areas that were fishing in the deeper water, there are some ledges out there, but it tends to be, I think, a little more of rocky bottom and flatter shelves, so its something that you could pretty much hit the bottom and crank up a little bit and make a drift and not worry about losing gear and things along those lines. So, I would say the inshore side of things, being 150 and shallower, were anchoring up, primarily and generally trying to hit a specific target there where I know its a little cave, you know, a ledge or something that has held fish and continues to hold fish.
TH: Now, do you make a few drops before you do the anchor; do you drop some baits down first?
BB: Terry, I would say we do that sometimes. Thats kind of dependent on the tide and the wind. A lot of times in the shallower stuff where Im going to anchor, we pretty much just pull up and
TH: Know where you want to stop.
BB: stop where I want to, try to figure out which heading were gonna be on once we drop the anchor. And thats whereI gotta say I think Im pretty good with the GPS. And thats big with bottom fishing, cause you dont want to anchor and then be looking at your number fifty yards away from where you end up. So, I would say a lot of timesthere are times when we make a drift, but I would say primarily were running up, looking at the bottom machine, and if were marking some fish on the bottom where we want to be, were dropping anchor and starting that way.
TH: Once again, now todaywe talked about it earlier, but today, how long does an average fishing trip last?
BB: To use last weekend as an example, left the inlet atoh, it was probably 7:30 in the morning, ran around pursuing live bait for more than an hour. Went to a 170 foot spot, fished that. Two spots out there was unsuccessful, other than a couple of heads. We didnt catch anything. I know I got some grouper heads. I just set up on fish with a circle hook that I know I pulled it right out of their mouth, thinking I had a j-hook on. Then we came into some inshore spots, fished them, and we were getting back to the inlet about five oclock that evening.
TH: Ooh. Long day.
TH: What was your catch for the day?
BB: That day was pretty slow. We caught on the inshore spot some of the smaller red snappers, a lot of little sharks, and had one cobia opportunity that I failed on because I didnt have a rig ready to put a bait on and cast to him; casted the jig that he looked at and caught three more sharks on that.
TH: So that was probably an average to poor day?
BB: That I would class as a poor day.
TH: Okay. All right. Finally, Id like to talk about how your fishing has changed over time in regards to the Oculina Bank. 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, and if so, how?
BB: At that particular time, it had no effect other than, I would say, an occasional trip that I would have the opportunity to go on with friends that have been fishing the area. At that time, I had not fished it myself, personally. Didnt have the equipment and the LORANs and the numbers to go out there and feel like I could go there and be successful.
TH: Okay. In 1994, the Oculina Bankthats ten years later. The Oculina Bank was designated as 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?
BB: I would say its impacted now from that regulation, and the fact I have learned more about bottom fishing. I would say if it were open, I could definitely produce some target areas I would go and look at. At that time of the closure was about the time I was getting into boats big enough to venture to the areathat I own personallyand learning more about bottom fishing at the time. So in ninety-four , I would say it had no effect. Since then, I would say yes, it has.
TH: Then in 1996, all anchoring was prohibited within the Oculina Bank. Did this impact your fishing, and if so, how? Thats two years later; they said no anchoring at all.
BB: No, and the anchoring side of thingslike I said, I dont even know that Id really try it at those depths, even to this day.
TH: And the current, too.
BB: Anchoring, no.
TH: In 1996, trawling for rock shrimp was prohibited of the area to the east and north of the areato the east and north of the designated Oculina Bank. In 1998, this area was incorporated into 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, and how?
BB: No. Didnt change.
TH: Finally, 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, slot limits, whatever?
BB: As far as regulations and what we target, Im sure that closing an areaI mean, it could only do good things as far as the fishery. On the other hand, I got to get back to the diving side of the snapper [and] grouper species, and I feel like the population is seeing more damage from them than anything. So, I can say if I had my choice of regulations being put on things, it would be spearfishing those species. Closing particular areas versus seasons and things along those lines, I guess time will tell, because this grouper thingI dont know how many years its gonna be enacted for, if its permanent now, but
TH: This grouper thing?
BB: With the grouper closure that we just had this year from January through May 1: it was closed season, where prior to this year weve never had a grouper closure before. I think theyre targeting the spawning months, I guess, is the reason for doing that. I will say that some of our better grouper fishing, generally, is in those months. Ive got one number in my GPS that is reflective of that; its Super 42 is what we call it, which was Super Bowl Sunday, the forty-second year of the Super Bowl just a few years ago, and it was a good grouper day.
But as far as the closures and things, I guess I personally need to see more information as to what the scientists have, you know, retrieved from catches and things. And thats really whats kind of hard to judge by, even saying that Im looking for that information to learn more from, is that I find a lot ofwith kind of looking on to the snook side of thingswith the research information that theyre retrieving where their guys are sitting at the docks or the ramps between ten oclock in the morning and three in the afternoon, where the majority of the snook fishermen I know are going out the opposite times of that, and theyre not getting the best information that they should.
I was interviewed last year, or I guess a couple years ago, about the red snapper closure and things that have been enacted now. Im seeing some of the best red snapper fishing that Ive experienced. You know Im obviously bottom fishing more; were going to see more because were doing it. But when I started hearing they were going to close red snapper down, personally, on either my boat or my friends boat, Ive seen some of the biggest fish in the last five years Ive ever seen, and definitely not any problems catching quantities of smaller fish; the stocks seem to be doing very well.
TH: As a follow up to that, what do you think the best way to manage fisheries would be? And again, the fairest and most equitable for both fishermen and fish.
BB: I would say my opinion on managing fisheries, the best thingIm not totally against the closed seasons. I think the extent of the closed seasons this year with the grouper thing is a little too long; I think, you know, a couple months at a time. The snook thing, I definitely am not an opponent of that being closed in the summertime, because theres times when you can definitely catch as many baits as hit the bottom; youre gonna get the snook bite. But I dont know that Im big on closed areas, and the main reason with the Oculina is just I feel that its a difficult area to fish. Its a difficult area to manage, and the same being said if they were to do something, you know, even on the closer reefs to the coast. Fishing is a recreational sport for me. Its also an income-producing business for me. So, to just start shutting things down, I dont know. I wouldnt object to seasonal closures, you know, when they are the peak spawning months. I would say that would be something that I wouldnt have a problem with.
TH: Okay. Thinking ahead to the future, what do you think fishing in Fort Pierce will be like in ten years?
BB: I thinkI dont know that it would change a whole bunch. I still see it being a very productive place. I think were very fortunate with our whole ecosystem here and the fact that weve got the Indian River, which is just a tremendous estuary. I do feel like we have a big advantage over the area south of us, with the proximity of the Gulf Stream and the range of shallower depth of water that we have. I got to give the guy credit with the St. Lucie County that is continually enhancing the artificial reef areas off our coast.
If you want to make someas far as designating some MPA [Marine Protected Areas], I would have no problems with wherever they dump material that there werent any fish before, making those an MPA, because theyre only gonna enhance an area that wasnt enhanced to begin with. But I think were really, really very fortunate in the variety of what we have here. And long term, other thanif anything for the divers, let them start killing some of the goliaths again, because if anything, not harvesting those things seem to be kind of counter-productive as far as theirI cant say this from scientific fact, but I think they kill a lot of smaller species that would be thriving a little bit more were the goliaths not there. But overall, I would saywell, I shouldnt say but overall, but thats about it.
TH: You thinkyou have a positiveyou think fishing will be good in ten years?
BB: I surely cant see it changing a whole bunch. Obviously, you know, if our population continues to increase, that would surely have an effect on it. But you know, barring having tremendous hurricanes that should disrupt anythingwhich I dont think we will; I think a few years ago was kind of a one-shot deal for us, or three-shot deal. But the ecosystem that we have is a very productive system here. Have the divers shooting a few less fish would contribute. But I see guysa lot of the majority of what I see on the ocean and in a days time fishing offshore is the majority of people are trolling, you know, the productive.
A dolphin, I think, pretty much reaches maturity in about three years, so thats a fishery thats continually replenishing itself. The kingfishing, thats a life that we dontI generally dont see as many guys out there kingfishing as we used to. Im sure that has part to do with, you know, what they were catching; but theyre not harvesting it like they used to, so I would say if anything, thats gonna stay the same but not get better. Sailfishing, in general, most people are aware that sailfish arent to be harvested, and even the handling of them has come more the forefront ofyou know, people are more aware of not bringing a fish into the boat for the pictures these days. Although the tournaments, you know, theyre catching a lot of fish, but theyve moved in to fishing with circle hooks; were not seeing the stomach-hooked fish. Thats something that, you know, determines. In the past few years, theyre producing record numbers, so that fishery definitely is thriving. But if anything, just have the divers shoot a few less, and maybe not have it quite as available in the restaurants. (laughs)
TH: Okay, so other than that, you have a positive outlook?
BB: Unfortunately, watching Swords on the Line last night, swordfish should not be available for sale at all.
TH: Okay. Well, thank you very much for sharing your fishing history with us, and I appreciate you taking time to do this interview. Thank you very much.
BB: Thank you for calling me, and its been a lot of fun. Hopefully, well gain a wealth of information from myself and the other anglers youve interviewed.
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Ben Bryan oral history interview
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Terry Howard.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (59 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (24 p.)
Oculina Bank oral history project
Interview conducted September 1, 2010.
Oral history interview with recreational fisherman Ben "Beau" Bryan. Bryan was born in Fort Pierce and learned how to fish at a young age. He worked in boat sales for much of his career and began manufacturing fishing tackle in 2008. He is familiar with the Oculina Bank but did not fish there much when the area was open since it is a difficult area to fish and he did not then have the necessary skill or a boat capable of doing it. Bryan's preferred fishery management tool would be further restrictions on spear fishing, which does a lot of damage to certain fisheries. He is not opposed to closed seasons when fish are spawning, as long as there are no arbitrary closures as with grouper. In this interview, Bryan also discusses his fishing history, the kind of fish he catches and the equipment he uses, and explains how he determines where to fish.
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