Billy Baird oral history interview

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Billy Baird oral history interview

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Title:
Billy Baird oral history interview
Creator:
Howard, Terry Lee
University of South Florida--Libraries--Oral History Program
Language:
English

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Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )

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Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Mr. Terry Lee Howard.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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F70-00001 ( USFLDC DOI )
f70.1 ( USFLDC Handle )

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xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
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text Terry Howard (TH): Today is October 4th, 2018. We’re sitting here at 473 Chamberlain Boulevard. My name is Terry L. Howard, and I’m here with Captain Billy Baird. And this is for the Florida Fishing Captains Oral History Project. And, with that, would you please state your full name?
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Billy Baird (BB): Billy Baird.
2
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TH: Okay, and do I have your permission to use this interview for publication, books, articles, et cetera, personally?
3
00:00:45.6
BB: Yes, you do. Yes.
4
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TH: And, two, do I have your permission to archive this interview at the University of South Florida Tampa Library digital archives?
5
00:00:56.4
BB: Yes.
6
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TH: Okay, thank you. When and where were you born?
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BB:  I was born in Kentucky. Little place called Creek Moore, which no longer exists.
8
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TH: Creek Moore?
9
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BB: Creek Moore is just a post office.
10
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TH: Okay.
11
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BB: And my parents–
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TH: What year?
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BB: That was 1943.
14
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TH: Okay. So what was your birthday?
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00:01:21.1
BB: February 18th, 1943.
16
00:01:24.8
TH : Okay. Now, brief biography of yourself and when you grew up. What were you doing as a kid? Did you go to high school? Did you graduate from high school? Did you go to college? Or did you just work on farms? And then, what brought you to Florida?
17
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BB:  I grew up on a farm in Southern Indiana. A little town called Pekin.
18
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TH: Pecan?
19
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BB: P-e-k-i-n.
20
00:01:52.5
TH: Pekin.
21
00:01:54.2
BB: Yes. And I went to school there all 12 years, except a brief time here in Florida, and graduated at Pekin High School. I came down here in that fall of ’61, started working at a packing house.
22
00:02:13.5
TH: Oranges, citrus?
23
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BB: Oranges, yes. Nevin’s Ideal, right there on the river.
24
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TH: Where on the river?
25
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BB: That was there close to the gulf dock, right next to the gulf dock.
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TH: Right down the Santa Maria–by the turning basin, Fort Pierce turning basin?
27
00:02:33.8
BB: Yes. Worked down there for several months, saved up enough money, got my first car, ’57 Oldsmobile, and went back. I got laid off and went back home for a few weeks.
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TH: Back home to Indiana?
29
00:02:48.3
BB: Back up to Indiana. Went with my brother, Donald, to New York, worked there off and on for a couple of years in Syracuse, New York.
30
00:02:57.7
TH: How many brothers did you have?
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BB: I had four.
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TH: Four brothers?
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BB: Four brothers. All of us was fishing, early ’70s. There were five of us fishing, so that was pretty unique.
34
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TH: Later on, that might be down here in Florida. All five of you were fishing here?
35
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BB: Yes.
36
00:03:14.4
TH: So you might be the ones­–that’s why they call it the Hoosier Rock.
37
00:03:18.7
BB: (laughs) But we all fished on it probably at one time or another.
38
00:03:24.3
TH: Bottom fishing for–?
39
00:03:26.3
BB: Red snapper.
40
00:03:27.3
TH: Red snapper.
41
00:03:27.9
BB: And we’d catch grouper, but it was known for the red snapper, known as south snapper.
42
00:03:33.3
TH: Okay. Well, let’s go back to your biography. So, you went up to New York—
43
00:03:39.3
BB: Worked up at GE for a couple years. And then I got drafted. I was getting drafted in the army. So in 1964, I joined the Indiana National Guard. I didn’t—I was looking at options. And, anyway, that was what I decided on. So I was up there for six years in the Indiana National Guard.
44
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TH: Okay, did you ever—were you ever shipped overseas or anything?
45
00:04:7.2
BB: I never was. No.
46
00:04:9.4
TH: Okay. So that was what years?
47
00:04:14.1
BB: Sixty-four to 1970.
48
00:04:16.6
TH: Sixty-four to ’70.
49
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BB: I think got out in February of ’70.
50
00:04:24.8
TH: But you were just part time in the National Guard.
51
00:04:28.4
BB: Yeah, it’s not full duty. You know, you got your once-a-month detail.
52
00:04:34.2
TH: Okay. And then, that’s when you came to Florida, in 1970?
53
00:04:39.2
BB: May of 1970. And my brother Ronnie had a 36-foot T-craft. So I started fishing with him, learning the ropes, how to catch kingfish.
54
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TH: And was he kingfishing [sic] at the time? Or mackerel fishing and king–I mean, or bottom fishing and he kingfishing—
55
00:04:56.8
BB: We didn’t get into bottom fishing until a few months later. We had the bandit reels, which you are familiar with, but we didn’t have motors on them. So we hand-cranked out of 300 feet, if you can imagine that. That was some work, but we were younger and a lot tougher.
56
00:05:17.3
TH: Okay. But you started out with kingfishing. Now, tell me about kingfishing, and what was it like back then? And how did you fish?
57
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BB: Lots of fish. No limits and no quota back then. And that was in 1970.
58
00:05:31.6
TH: What was an average catch?
59
00:05:33.3
BB: We probably averaged, probably 1,000 pounds.
60
00:05:38.1
TH: Per day?
61
00:05:39.8
BB: Probably. I never really figured it out. But, you know, we had a lot of times 1500, 1800, and our biggest catch was off of Sebastian. We had 3100 pounds, one day.
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TH: Oh my.
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00:05:52.9
BB: And we came at two o’clock. So I mean, we loaded the boat and came on in.
64
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TH: So you were just solid pulling fish.
65
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BB: Spoons, yeah.
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00:06:1.9
TH: With spoons. You didn’t use bait. You just used silver spoons.
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BB: We had three spoons on there. Two outriggers down one end [and] one in the middle and, of course, one line to the other.
68
00:06:10.3
TH: Just going back and forth pulling fish.
69
00:06:12.7
BB: I mean, they would jump and­—you don’t see that these days, but they were–you’d throw the spoon over, and those fish be coming out of the water and grabbing at it. We never tried—we just stayed in one circle. We just put in a circle, and we’d drift wherever we were going. And it was like the school was following us, or the bait.
70
00:06:31.7
TH: Were there a lot of other boats at the time?
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00:06:34.3
BB: Lots of boats. But, at that particular time, the boats were in the vicinity, but they weren’t that close. One boat came around us, you know, seeing us baling [fish] and he caught some, but we had him won.
72
00:06:48.6
TH: Were all the boats in the area catching fish like that, pretty much?
73
00:06:52.3
BB: Oh, yeah. A lot of them. I don’t know what the habit was at that particular time, but we ran from Sebastian down to Charlie’s Seafood right there.
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00:07:3.2
TH: In Fort Pierce.
75
00:07:5.2
BB: In Fort Pierce.
76
00:07:6.9
TH: That would have been right on where North Beach is–I mean, the North [Causeway] Bridge is today.
77
00:07:10.4
BB: Right.
78
00:07:12.4
TH: So that was 1970. And so, you had average, you know, 1000-pound days. And what did they pay for kingfish at the time?
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00:07:22.2
BB: When we first started, they were probably 18 or 20 cents.
80
00:07:28.7
TH: A pound.
81
00:07:30.6
BB: And, later on, we agreed for 25 cents a pound, and that was­–that went on for quite a while. And, eventually, it increased later on. We fish for quarter a pound quite often. And, back in those days, once in a while, the freezers would get full. And I don’t know how many times, but, once a while, the fish house said, We can’t use any more fish. So we were actually shut down for a bit because you could only hold so many. And that was before the freezers came along.
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TH: So your first experience with boating was here in Florida.
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BB: Yes.
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00:08:7.7
TH: You didn’t fish much in Indiana?
85
00:08:9.4
BB: Just lakes, rivers, ponds. Yeah.
86
00:08:14.4
TH: Okay. And so, you moved to Florida in 1970, worked with your brother Ronnie. And you first targeted kingfish.
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BB: Right.
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00:08:27.7
TH: And, first, you didn’t use any bait at all. You just used silver spoons.
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BB: We used some mullet. You know, there was times.
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00:08:37.1
TH: How would how would you use the mullet?
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BB: We would strip them out, you know, put them on a Sea Witch and back then—
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TH: Four baits to a mullet?
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BB: Yes.
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00:08:48.9
TH: Okay.
95
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BB:  And we didn’t use long lines, like we do today. I mean, we only used maybe 40 feet without a planer.
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00:08:58.3
TH: So you had—describe your equipment. You went from the boat to a–what went to the planer?
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BB: We fished a little bit of mono [monofilament fishing line], maybe 3 feet of mono and wire; that’s all we ever used.
98
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TH: How long a wire?
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BB: Probably 40, 45 feet.
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00:09:20.2
TH: Behind the paravane?
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BB: Yeah.
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00:09:23.8
TH: And then, from the paravane to the boat, what did you use?
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00:09:26.3
BB: The cable.
104
00:09:27.1
TH: Cable, okay.
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00:09:28.9
BB: The 1/16 [inch] cable.
106
00:09:29.8
TH: Okay. And then about how long were your cables?
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00:09:32.9
BB: The best I remember, we didn’t have long ones, maybe 15, 20 feet.
108
00:09:37.8
TH: Like they use for mackerel here today.
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BB: Yeah. I don’t remember ever stretching out the cable.
110
00:09:45.4
TH: And, say, what depth of water were you?
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BB: Just anywhere–mostly on offshore bar.
112
00:09:56.3
TH: Eighty feet?
113
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BB: Yeah, 80 to 90 feet. You know, we did some fishing up at Bethel Shoal. Sometimes those fish would follow you in there, of course, like they do today. But mainly, out in the offshore bar, it was the best fishing. And north of 12, north of 12 was very good. It seemed like the bigger fish–
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00:10:18.7
TH: When you say north of 12, can you be more specific?
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00:10:20.4
BB: That’s a 55, 60 feet of water.
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00:10:22.7
TH: The 12A Buoy? Or the 12 Buoy?
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00:10:26.7
BB: Just the 12 Buoy. The 12A was there in the early ’70s. Eventually, the wreck that was south of there–wherever it was, I don’t really know the history on that. But, eventually, it sunk down so low, it wasn’t—it didn’t matter that the ships ran through there. It wasn’t a hazard.
118
00:10:49.3
TH: It was deep down–
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00:10:49.7
BB: It wasn’t a hazard to the bigger ships.
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00:10:52.1
TH: The navigation.
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BB: Yeah.
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00:10:54.2
TH: So the 12A Buoy is approximately where from the Fort Pierce inlets, is what I guess I’m getting at?
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BB:  I would say the 12A was probably 12 miles. It was right on the south end of—the best I remember, it was right on the south end of the bar.
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00:11:8.7
TH: Okay. And the 12 Buoy today is about–?
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00:11:12.3
BB: I would say, what, eight miles?
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00:11:14.0
TH: That’s what I would guess, but I don’t want to jinx it.
127
00:11:16.5
BB: I’d say about eight miles.
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00:11:18.4
TH: Southeast of the inlet?
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00:11:20.1
BB: Yes.
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00:11:20.6
TH: And it’s in about 55 feet of water?
131
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BB: Yeah.
132
00:11:25.3
TH: Okay. Bycatch with your kingfish. Like, when you were catching kingfish 1,000 pounds at a time, there probably weren’t many other kinds of fish in with them?
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BB: Many times, I don’t remember catching any bonitos with them. You know, it was about 100 percent kingfish.
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TH: Okay. And so, where did you mostly fish, in general? Sebastian, northeast grounds–?
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BB: I would say northeast grounds. That was probably—
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TH: Most?
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00:11:58.0
BB: The most, yes.
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00:11:59.6
TH: That’s northeast. That’s about 10 to 15 miles northeast of the Fort Pierce Inlet?
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00:12:4.5
BB: Yeah. I’d say, you know, 12 to—and if you get about to get on the north end there, you’re going to be two or three miles further.
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TH: I want you to describe this—or I can describe—(both speaking at same time; inaudible)
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BB: Yeah, 12 or 14—
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TH: I want you to describe for me—
143
00:12:16.4
BB: I’d say 12 or 14 miles.
144
00:12:18.1
TH: Okay. And then, so the other fishing grounds off Fort Pierce is just east of the inlet and about—?
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00:12:26.2
BB: Eighty, 85 feet.
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00:12:28.4
TH: Okay. Describe the procedures, methods. Okay, you talked about the cable, and you used to use the bandit reels by hand before you hooked them up with—made them electric.
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BB: Yes.
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00:12:46.9
TH: Now, your catches over the years. How have they changed?
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00:12:51.1
BB: Well, when we were unlimited, there was lots of fish out there. And we had the old Simrad recorder. And mark it on paper. And you didn’t have all the technology with the LORANs. You’ve got the TDs now, where, back then, you just—when you’re on your number, well—
150
00:13:18.5
TH: You didn’t have numbers back then.
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00:13:20.6
BB: You’d have to line up little mounds. Line them up, and so you could figure out which way you were drifting once you walked up there, where the LORAN is. That was a LORAN-A, I believe, it’s called. So it’s very inaccurate to what we have today.
152
00:13:39.0
TH: But you were fishing before you ever had a LORAN.
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00:13:43.5
BB: Actually, the best I remember, the A-LORAN [sic] came out, and that’s where you had the lines, and you could take a knot–make a little mound here. Then you had another one, and you’d place that where they would line up, the two mounds there. And this is hand; you have to work with your hands–
154
00:14:10.4
TH: Adjust the dials?
155
00:14:11.6
BB: Adjust the dials to get—so that’s the way we got our numbers. And then, when the C [LORAN-C] came out—
156
00:14:20.6
TH: C-LORAN [sic].
157
00:14:22.5
BB: The C-LORAN came out, we coordinated those numbers with the sea. So that kept us in the vicinity.
158
00:14:34.9
TH: Okay, but did you fish before that?
159
00:14:38.0
BB: I cannot remember. Well, yeah. We had to throw buoys out. That’s right. When we got on good mark of the fish, we threw the buoy. It might be a gallon jug, maybe it was painted red, so it would show up.
160
00:14:55.7
TH: And you’d fish next to that buoy.
161
00:14:58.0
BB: Yeah, you could fish either one side. You could circle it, but if you’re circling it and you’re not watching real close, you hang into it, and then you’re fouled up.  Lots of times you’d have a guy south of it, and somebody’d be north of it. You can take different directions to fishing around that buoy.
162
00:15:18.8
TH: And what would cause you to throw the buoy?
163
00:15:23.2
BB: A good mark of fish.
164
00:15:24.7
TH: A good mark of fish on the recorder.
165
00:15:24.6
BB: Right.
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00:15:27.5
TH: Or maybe two bites at once, or two or three bites at once.
167
00:15:31.4
BB: Usually, yeah. If all of your lines come up, that was a good sign of course.
168
00:15:37.9
TH: So then you got the LORANs. You got more sophisticated navigation, which would tell you where you are in the ocean. That was in the, what, mid ’70s, early-mid ’70s?
169
00:15:53.0
BB: I think it was probably around ’73 or so, maybe ’72 when the A-LORAN came out.
170
00:16:3.7
TH: Okay. So let’s go back to your catches. How have your catches changed over the years?
171
00:16:10.4
BB: Well, of course, we’ve been on quotas. So we started down, I think, at 1,000 pounds back in the ’80s. I can’t tell what exact year, but that really kind of backfired on the fleet. Because when we had that good year, we’d get shut down because we met the quota. So if you didn’t have anything else to fall back on, you might have several weeks that you would be off. So you would have to have an alternative to bring in a paycheck. So we did that by going to Key Largo, and we’d bottom fish in Key Largo there, several years in a row.
172
00:16:48.8
TH: Alright. But I mean, like, today you can’t go out and catch 1,000 pounds.
173
00:16:56.4
BB: No, so we’re, like, summertime we’re allowed 75 fish. As of November the first of every year, we’re cut to 50. So we’ve got November, December, January, and then—let’s see. I think February first, if we haven’t met three quarters of the quota, we can go to 75.
174
00:17:21.0
TH: Just head of fish?
175
00:17:22.7
BB: Yeah, 75 head of fish.
176
00:17:24.8
TH: Well, I guess what I’m asking is, if you didn’t have any quota at all, could you still catch 1,000 pounds a day?
177
00:17:31.0
BB: Not every day. Just a few days you could, if you stayed out there all day. There would be a few times you could, yeah.
178
00:17:40.9
TH: I guess what I’m asking is, has the fish populations changed?
179
00:17:44.7
BB: It’s changed. It seems like it’s gotten—and even in the past couple of years [it] seems like the fish have gotten a little better because of—in particular, this year, I heard that there were some limits up at the cape. We were catching good fish out here. And Hobe Sound in Jupiter area, they were doing good. So that told me that there was [sic] quite a few fish, you know, along the coast.
180
00:18:15.9
TH: Has it been like it was when you first started, is what I’m asking.
181
00:18:19.8
BB: Oh, no, no.
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00:18:21.1
TH: And that’s—I guess what I’m asking is, why has it changed so much? What do you attribute that to? I mean, you can’t go out there and just have them jumping on the spoons as you hang them over the edge.
183
00:18:33.2
BB: Well, back in the late ’70s, we had a fleet of boats that were allowed to catch a lot of fish. And they were circle net boats. So, to me, that depleted a lot of the stock.
184
00:18:45.6
TH: Have you ever seen the marks on the bottom, on your recorder, like you did when you had those old machines that showed them, the paper machines?
185
00:18:57.3
BB: Once in a while, we’d get where we can circle around, and we’d get the mark complete. But that’s—
186
00:19:7.5
TH: In your entire circle.
187
00:19:9.1
BB: Yeah. But that’s not very often. I don’t think I did that this year. But a few times I did. But that would be when they, in February usually, when they group up real tight.
188
00:19:22.0
TH: You still—it’s not like in the old days, you’d get the whole circle would be full of black marks.
189
00:19:28.7
BB: Lots, yeah. And I remember in the Sebastian, there was boats five miles long. Everybody catching fish for five miles.
190
00:19:39.2
TH: Solid fish.
191
00:19:40.9
BB: Solid fish, yeah. So those days are over. You’ve got to—you can get catches of fish today, but if you’re not on that mark, you might come home with less than 100 pounds, while somebody else got maybe 500 pounds, and they met their quota. But lots of times, not everybody catches their limit.
192
00:20:8.9
TH: But back in the day—
193
00:20:11.8
BB: Back in the day, everybody was going to come in with a good load of fish.
194
00:20:17.3
TH: Okay. And you, again, go back to—you think that the net boats, and the circle nets, and the airplanes. You didn’t even talk about the airplanes. Can you describe that a little bit, what went on there?
195
00:20:34.0
BB: My recollection is there was a lot of big boats that came up from Key West even, and they used to do it at Naples, from what I heard. You know, they would net fish over there. But then they began to get a bigger fleet. And like you said, the airplanes, they could see those fish from the air, of course—
196
00:21:5.8
TH: Big schools of fish.
197
00:21:6.4
BB: Yeah, and they could place the—they’d be talking to the captain, and they would circle up the net fish.  I was down to Key West one time, and there was [sic] five or six airplanes in the air at one time, spotting kingfish. But anyway, they had the freezer over on St. Petersburg, so they had the big semis [semi-trailer trucks] where they could truck them over and quick-freeze them. But those days are over. Adversely—it lasted a few years, where they were catching up into the millions of pounds. I don’t really know what it was yearly, but it must have been two or three million pounds.
198
00:21:54.3
TH: And you haven’t seen the fish like that since?
199
00:21:58.5
BB: No.
200
00:22:0.2
TH: Okay, that’s interesting. Okay, so you think that the specific cause for the lower catches was, if you had to put your finger on one thing or a couple of things. Was pollution a problem?
201
00:22:20.8
BB: I don’t think that pollution had anything to with it back in the ’70s. It was the late ’70s when that was taking place.
202
00:22:28.2
TH: You think it was the nets.
203
00:22:28.4
BB: They had a lot to do with it because of the amount of fish they were taking.
204
00:22:35.7
TH: And the schools haven’t gotten back to that size again.
205
00:22:39.2
BB: No.
206
00:22:41.9
TH: I recall out here, Fort Pierce, after the circle nets, they used drift nets.
207
00:22:48.8
BB: Yes, they used drift nets. And that was another thing that—they kind of put themselves out of business because it catches a lot of other fish. I mean, they’ll catch cobia, the bonitos, lots of barracudas.
208
00:23:6.4
TH: I saw some sailfish floating in the water after—
209
00:23:11.3
BB: Yeah. And they even caught, you know, mangrove snapper and (TH clears throat). I know they caught some even, because the mangrove, they come up off the bottom there at night, feeding.
210
00:23:21.9
TH: Okay. So then explain these nets. They would set them at night?
211
00:23:25.7
BB: Yeah. They would probably set at first dark and pick them up early morning.
212
00:23:32.9
TH: How long would they be?
213
00:23:34.3
BB: It got to where they would have two or three miles. I think it started out as just a few hundred yards. But, you know, people—bigger makes bigger catches. So it got pretty bad because we’d have to talk back and forth, going out early, to keep from running over their nets. And it was a hazard to sailboats. And I’m sure that there was [sic] times they had to try to redirect the bigger boats.
214
00:24:4.1
TH: Bigger ships.
215
00:24:6.1
BB: Yeah, the tugboats, that’s what I was trying to think of.
216
00:24:10.1
TH: Okay, so, what environmental and man-made factor do you see as the greatest threat to sustainable fish population in Florida waters today? So—
217
00:24:23.6
BB: Runoff would be a lot. Of course, the St. Lucie River in the Stuart area, it’s been on the national news and how bad the algae outbreak is there. And, just recently, I don’t know how bad it’s going to get, but we’ve had our first series of red tide. Of course, the good thing, you know, we’ve got the Gulf Stream that might be able to clear it out a lot quicker and everything, if it ever got bad.
218
00:24:56.3
TH: Yeah, it’s not as bad as on the west coast [of Florida].
219
00:25:1.5
BB: No. You know, last night, I actually saw a few dead fish. Whether it was from red tide, I don’t know. But somebody found a few dead fish down in Palm Beach, or between there and Stuart.
220
00:25:16.3
TH: Okay. They’ve had huge fish kills on the west coast, on the beach, because of the red tide.
221
00:25:24.0
BB: Right.
222
00:25:25.8
TH: Okay. Have fishing methods changed during your time on the water, in general? For you, personally, methods of fishing, how have we changed our fishing since when you were catching them?
223
00:25:38.6
BB: Yeah, well, we’ve had to stretch our lines out. You need 80, maybe up to 100 feet of line behind (inaudible). So you’ll get more bites that way, and the fish are not as plentiful, so you need to get back there, closer to where they are.
224
00:25:59.1
TH: Okay. I always thought it was to get further away from the boat.
225
00:26:2.7
BB: Yeah, well, that too, yeah.
226
00:26:6.2
TH: Do you use wire still? Or do you still use—
227
00:26:8.8
BB: I only use wire on the jerk line, the jerk bug.
228
00:26:12.4
TH: Okay, describe the jerk bug.
229
00:26:14.6
BB: I use like 70 turns. That’s what I usually start out, around 70 turns. That’s a little over 200 feet.
230
00:26:23.8
TH: Of what kind of wire?
231
00:26:25.8
BB: A number eight wire is what I use. Some people use number nine. I like the eight.
232
00:26:31.2
TH: Okay. Why?
233
00:26:33.4
BB: It’s easier to jerk. A little bit easier. A little less resistance in the water.
234
00:26:38.1
TH: Okay. And that goes right to an electric reel?
235
00:26:43.4
BB: Um-hm.
236
00:26:44.0
TH: You have the switch?
237
00:26:45.5
BB: A switch.
238
00:26:45.6
TH: Can you describe that?
239
00:26:47.5
BB: Yeah. I use about 20 feet of mono. Got to swivel there on the end of mono, to where it won’t tangle. Wrap it around your hand. Start jerkin’. (both laugh)
240
00:27:1.7
TH: What do you use for bait? Can you describe it?
241
00:27:3.8
BB: We like to use Bonita strips.
242
00:27:6.5
TH: On?
243
00:27:7.7
BB: It’s no secret.
244
00:27:8.9
TH: Bonita strip on what?
245
00:27:9.6
BB: On the bug. What we call a bug.
246
00:27:11.5
TH: Describe that.
247
00:27:13.2
BB: It’s a number three hook, I believe, most have. And it’s got the big eye where you can put the hair in it. You put that inside and wrap it down with mono wire, use super glue, use a little grout or the end of a hook, and put it in there before the wire can go through it when it seals up. So you make your own.  Most everybody does.
248
00:27:43.4
TH: And that’s what you jerk on the jerk bug, right?
249
00:27:49.9
BB: Right.
250
00:27:51.0
TH: And so really, the only change today, in your operation, is you don’t use wire on your outriggers.
251
00:28:1.6
BB: Yeah, where we used to use all wire back in the day.
252
00:28:5.7
TH: You use all monofilament.
253
00:28:7.6
BB: Easier to pull.
254
00:28:9.3
TH: Okay. All monofilament line behind the paravane. What pound [or] test monofilament?
255
00:28:15.4
BB: Well, anywhere from 100 to 200.
256
00:28:19.6
TH: Okay. So basically, the main change is longer lines.
257
00:28:26.0
BB: That’s one big change, yeah. If you don’t use a longer line, you won’t get the bites as often, unless you’re on a—you know, if you’re marking them real good, you can shorten up, if you wanted to.
258
00:28:40.7
TH: Okay. Have larger, commercial fishing corporations or operations impacted our fishery or your fishery? I mean, corporate boats, corporate fishing, corporate operations, have they impacted—?
259
00:28:56.5
BB: They—
260
00:28:59.0
TH: You’re basically a commercial kingfisherman.
261
00:29:1.3
BB: Right now. Yes.
262
00:29:2.2
TH: Okay.
263
00:29:4.6
BB: I don’t think so. Back in the day, when they bottom fished, I know there was, like, a corporation up at the cape, and they long-lined tilefished.  And that had a big impact because they were catching so many tilefish.
264
00:29:22.2
TH: When you first started, there weren’t that many rules, as far as how many fish you could catch.
265
00:29:27.7
BB: No rules that I can remember.
266
00:29:29.7
TH: Yeah, for many years.
267
00:29:31.9
BB: Size limits and things like that, you know, that came on later on.
268
00:29:34.6
TH: All right. Anything else about the method of fishing that’s changed over the years that you’d like to add?
269
00:29:44.4
BB: I can’t think of any.
270
00:29:45.9
TH: Okay. Now we’re getting into the—a little bit different here. Discuss and describe, in detail, major weather occurrences you’ve experienced on the water: storms, lightning, high wind, seas, water spouts. Think of something that stands out in your mind, some big storms, and see if you can describe them to me, what it was like.
271
00:30:6.5
BB: I was struck one time. And I was off of Bethel, and it was blowing a good 40 miles an hour, lightning striking everywhere. Well, they hit my antenna. So I lost that—
272
00:30:19.9
TH: So you were like 20 miles northeast of Fort Pierce, in the ocean?
273
00:30:23.5
BB: Right. Yeah. That one stands out to me because I did have a radio knocked out, and I checked out, and it was burnt up. But I was very fortunate because they could have knocked out a lot of other electronics. And my first real—
274
00:30:40.0
TH: Describe being hit by lightning. (BB laughs) Describe the whole storm.
275
00:30:44.3
BB: It might’ve only been a partial hit by not doing as much damage because I can’t really say, exactly. The lightning bolt did strike because it was hitting around me so much. And you can kind of smell the phosphorus, if you’re ever in a real bad one where that lightning is hitting close to you.
276
00:31:9.8
TH: The lightning was hitting all around you.
277
00:31:11.7
BB: Yeah. The first storm I remember—
278
00:31:14.6
TH: Were you running? Or were you fishing?
279
00:31:17.1
BB: Just kind of staying into it. You know, just keeping the bow into the wind. That’s what you want to do.
280
00:31:22.0
TH: Forty miles an hour.
281
00:31:22.6
BB: Yeah. You want to keep your bow, and you don’t want to get sideways and get slapped around.
282
00:31:27.9
TH: And lightning was everywhere.
283
00:31:31.7
BB: Yeah, it was everywhere.
284
00:31:34.3
TH: And you could smell it.
285
00:31:35.9
BB: Yeah. If you get—if it strikes the water, or possibly the boat, it does put off an odor.
286
00:31:43.4
TH: Of?
287
00:31:44.4
BB: Like a phosphorus smell. Now, I don’t know if that’s what it is, but it definitely can do that.
288
00:31:51.0
TH: Burning smell.
289
00:31:51.9
BB: Yeah, um-hm.
290
00:31:53.1
TH: And it hit your antenna, you believe?
291
00:31:55.4
BB: Yeah. It stripped by antenna; it was black. Well, once I found out what happened, when I got in, and so—
292
00:32:3.6
TH: Was it a summer squall?
293
00:32:5.0
BB: Yeah, it was in the summer. We were bottom fishing. And we—I can’t remember if we were coming in or what. It might’ve been when I was heading back in. But the one outstanding storm that I was in, we were on Ronnie’s boat, my brother Ronnie. Had my cousin with me. And we got in one that, it washed the rope around. We had rope at the bow, where we could throw the rope, you know—
294
00:32:36.3
TH: Your anchor?
295
00:32:37.5
BB: Yeah, the anchor. But they washed—the seas were coming over the top, and then we’d have a walkaround. That’s like the T-craft 36[-foot] walkaround. But it washed all that rope back towards the stern. It threw off the cover of one of our reels to never be seen again. It was short in duration, but the seas were some of the biggest I’ve ever been in. I mean, it just—coming over, and it was all Ronnie could do, it seems like, just keep the bow into it.
296
00:33:12.9
TH: So you were anchored?
297
00:33:14.3
BB: No, we were not anchored. We were just keeping a headwind.
298
00:33:20.0
TH: You had the engine running.
299
00:33:19.8
BB: Yes.
300
00:33:22.4
TH: So what were the lines that came back from the bow?
301
00:33:24.8
BB: Oh, that was just the rope. That was just—see, we had a—we could throw the bow—we could throw the anchor off the bow and then just tie it off on the samson post. But it was just piled in a pile.  But the seas were so much, the water coming in, it washed that rope back there toward the stern, a lot of it.
302
00:33:46.6
TH: You couldn’t go up and pull the—?
303
00:33:49.5
BB: You didn’t want to go up into that. We estimated those winds as being 70 miles an hour, maybe even more. It was one of those types.
304
00:34:1.3
TH: They were breaking right over the top, almost?
305
00:34:3.7
BB: Oh, it was—yeah. I would’ve liked to have had a video, and it would’ve been some scene. That was probably one of the scariest times. It was so bad, we had our lifejackets on. Like that was going to help in any way. (BB laughs) It was a scary storm. That’s for sure.
306
00:34:25.6
TH: We’re still talking about this storm that Billy was in, and you were—you weren’t anchored.
307
00:34:34.7
BB: No, we were, like, in 40 fathoms. You know, we were out in the deep water. And it was just pitch black. The clouds—
308
00:34:41.9
TH: This is nighttime?
309
00:34:42.6
BB: No, it’s daytime. But the clouds, I mean, it was black. We could see it coming. So we knew it was going to be fierce. So anyway, it was. The seas were so high and short at the same time; it was just throwing stuff around, and we had that anchor up in the bow, the walk-around, so it just washed it back towards the stern.
310
00:35:5.8
TH: You had to be careful not to get it in the wheel?
311
00:35:8.2
BB: Yeah well, fortunately, it didn’t go overboard. It stayed in. And anyway, that’s just a little scenario of what can happen in a bad storm.
312
00:35:22.6
TH: So tell me about how much it lifted the bow.
313
00:35:26.3
BB: I’d saw we went up, probably 45 degrees or so. I mean, it was so bad that we were worried that it could flip us backwards. It was that fierce.
314
00:35:39.8
TH: Flip you over and—
315
00:35:40.3
BB: Yeah. And this is a 36-foot boat. So anything—a smaller boat, if you’d had a smaller boat, I don’t think you’d have made it through.
316
00:35:48.1
TH: Just would’ve swallowed you up.
317
00:35:49.8
BB: Yeah.
318
00:35:50.4
TH: Swallowed you.
319
00:35:52.1
BB: Yeah. Flipped you or whatever.
320
00:35:54.2
TH: So, you said they were not only big, but they were short intervals. Can you describe what you were talking about there?
321
00:36:3.7
BB: Yeah. I mean, it was just one wave after the other coming through. So just solid water on the windshield, of course—
322
00:36:12.4
TH: (inaudible)
323
00:36:14.4
BB: So it made it hard to see the surroundings.
324
00:36:16.7
TH: Okay. You just watched the compass?
325
00:36:19.1
BB: Yeah. Ronnie was captain. Of course, I’m just standing there with my cousin. We’re pretty dry-mouthed (TH laughs) from how bad it was.
326
00:36:31.5
TH: And you put your life jackets on?
327
00:36:33.3
BB: We put our life jackets on.
328
00:36:34.9
TH: Did you tie any safety lines on or anything?
329
00:36:38.4
BB: No. The only good thing, it lasted a short duration. I mean, it seemed like an hour. But it was probably only 15 or 20 minutes.
330
00:36:50.7
TH: A summer squall.
331
00:36:52.0
BB: It was just a real bad summer squall.
332
00:36:55.0
TH: Okay. And then, you talked about getting hit by lightning. That was a different time. Any water spouts, ever?
333
00:37:2.5
BB: One time we were out there we saw, like, five water spouts. Nothing close but still a little nerve-wracking. We were in some kind of system to see that many in that one day.
334
00:37:19.7
TH: Five of them at one day.
335
00:37:23.5
BB: Um-hm. At least five. It might’ve been six or seven, but at least five.
336
00:37:29.7
TH: All right. Memorable big fish and big catch stories. I think you—I don’t know if we had the recorder on when you told me about your thirty—thirty-two-pound­—thirty-two-hundred pound—. How many? Your big catch of kingfish.
337
00:37:46.2
BB: Yeah, it was like thirty-two-hundred pounds. And I was off of Sebastian.
338
00:37:50.8
TH: One day.
339
00:37:51.5
BB: One day.
340
00:37:53.6
TH: Tell me about the day. I mean, how did it go?
341
00:37:57.7
BB: We just got on the fish. And, about two o’clock, we’re ready to come in because all of our boxes are full.
342
00:38:4.9
TH: You had no place to put the fish.
343
00:38:8.5
BB: No, no place. And we really needed a bigger fish box to accommodate more fish.
344
00:38:16.2
TH: Okay. And how about the biggest fish? one fish?
345
00:38:21.0
BB: We had Warsaw grouper when we first started fishing there on the (inaudible) Bay. It wasn’t called that back then. We just called them steeples because they would raise up several feet. But we caught one, I would presume, at about 400 pounds, a Warsaw grouper.
346
00:38:41.4
TH: That’s big.
347
00:38:43.1
BB: Yeah. And we caught several–
348
00:38:45.0
TH: And that was on your—you hand-cranked it up?
349
00:38:46.7
BB: Yeah. Well, later on we got reels. But in the early days, we had hand cranks. And they would blow up once they got, say, 70 or 80 feet down below the boat. They just float up on their own because of all of the air intake.
350
00:39:5.3
TH: So how deep were you fishing?
351
00:39:7.1
BB: We were fishing 300, maybe 350.
352
00:39:10.7
TH: Three hundred feet?
353
00:39:11.5
BB: Three hundred feet, yeah.
354
00:39:13.5
TH: Okay. Any strange occurrences you’ve experienced on the water? Odd lights, empty boats, rafts, rogue waves?
355
00:39:27.8
BB: The only thing I’ve found was a Cuban inner tube.  But that was, then, off of Key Largo. So it wasn’t really unusual because that was when they were coming over here during the Carter Administration.
356
00:39:47.4
TH: And rafts were out there?
357
00:39:49.0
BB: The rafts were out there, and, of course, the Coast Guard. They were out looking for different people.
358
00:39:54.6
TH: Okay. Well, tell me about your brother’s experience up off the cape. (BB laughing) I want to hear it. That’s in one of my books.
359
00:40:3.1
BB: Oh, yeah.
360
00:40:4.5
TH: But it’s probably the most interesting story I think I’ve ever heard. And get all the details from the beginning to the end, to the fellow that came up on the dock afterwards.
361
00:40:13.9
BB: Yeah. Well, Ronnie could tell it. Of course, he’s not here to tell it.
362
00:40:18.7
TH: This is your brother.
363
00:40:20.4
BB: This is my brother.
364
00:40:21.0
TH: And he’s an older brother?
365
00:40:22.0
BB: He was about a year and a half younger than I was.
366
00:40:24.3
TH: And he’s deceased.
367
00:40:26.3
BB: Yeah. He died in 2000. I mean, he’s been gone that long: 18 years. But anyway, he could tell the story a lot better than what I could because, you know, an eyewitness is much better than somebody just hearsay.
368
00:40:41.2
TH: Secondhand.
369
00:40:41.2
BB: The story’s secondhand. But what little bit that I remember, they were seeing some kind of huge birds, like seagulls or something. And the—
370
00:40:53.7
TH: Set the setting. Where were they? What were they doing?
371
00:40:56.3
BB: They were anchored up, anchored up at night, off the cape.
372
00:40:59.0
TH: Cape Canaveral.
373
00:41:0.5
BB: Cape Canaveral. That was with my brother, David. That’s my younger brother. And, anyway, they were seeing some strange things happen. Right now, I’d have to refresh my memory on that. But he did—I remember, he did see somebody. And it was like he saw what was happening out there.
374
00:41:23.2
TH: That was afterwards.
375
00:41:24.8
BB: That was afterwards.
376
00:41:26.5
TH: But tell me—tell me about the birds. Start from the start, back to the start of it. That was later.
377
00:41:31.9
BB: Well, I remember they had strange helmets on.
378
00:41:34.4
TH: Who?
379
00:41:36.4
BB: The birds.
380
00:41:38.1
TH: Had helmets on?
381
00:41:40.1
BB: (laughs) But I—you know, I think—
382
00:41:42.8
TH: That’s the first I’ve heard that.
383
00:41:44.7
BB: Was it?
384
00:41:46.2
TH: I’ve heard—
385
00:41:46.8
BB: Ronnie said something about, like, they had helmets on their heads. And that’s strange.
386
00:41:55.2
TH: I think you told me—somebody told me they were strange birds that they’d never seen before. That was the first I’ve heard about helmets on their heads.
387
00:42:5.1
BB: He’d have to be here to explain better than what I can come up with.
388
00:42:12.8
TH: Go with what you know. And he wasn’t joking?
389
00:42:16.6
BB: Wasn’t drinking. He told me that, you know, it was on the up-and-up, that what he was seeing was very strange.
390
00:42:26.3
TH: And it was calm at the begi—?
391
00:42:28.9
BB: Very calm, from what I remember.
392
00:42:32.4
TH: Birds with helmets, or they looked like they had helmets.
393
00:42:35.3
BB: Yeah, yeah.
394
00:42:37.5
TH: So then what happened? Was this at the beginning of the evening? Was this daylight?
395
00:42:42.9
BB: I can’t verify what time it was. I just know it was sometime during the night.
396
00:42:48.4
TH: Oh, during the night. Okay. And then, were there any­—the lights.
397
00:42:56.7
BB: I remember there were some lights, some bright lights. But I’m sorry—I can’t give you very much detail because I haven’t heard the story for so long.
398
00:43:5.9
TH: Steve Lowe told me this story, and that—he said there were lots—the whole ocean lit up, like, blue.
399
00:43:14.2
BB: Yeah.
400
00:43:17.1
TH: So they got through the night, nothing happened.
401
00:43:21.3
BB: Right.
402
00:43:23.2
TH: And?
403
00:43:25.0
BB: And they–I guess, they were off-loading their fish, and this guy comes up to them, starts talking. And it appeared that he must have been out there to see it, somehow.
404
00:43:39.0
TH: He asked them questions?
405
00:43:41.9
BB: Yeah. And, like I said, we’re going to have to go over this—what happened. Because—(laughs) yeah.
406
00:43:49.1
TH: It’s strange.
407
00:43:51.4
BB: It’s strange.
408
00:43:53.0
TH: It’s the strangest story I’ve ever heard on the ocean. And I’m sorry your brother’s not here. I would—
409
00:44:1.2
BB: Yeah. That would be a lot of fun. He can tell a whole lot better than me, of course, being there.
410
00:44:6.4
TH: And there’s—your other brother was with him.
411
00:44:9.4
BB: David.
412
00:44:10.6
TH: Is he—?
413
00:44:11.9
BB: He’s deceased, also.
414
00:44:13.6
TH: Oh, man. That’s too bad.
415
00:44:15.2
BB: Yeah, he died about six years ago.
416
00:44:18.3
TH: Well, any strange—okay, you found a Cuban raft. Anything else? Strange occurrences? Weather occurrences? Odd lights? Empty boats? Rafts? Rogue waves? George told me about a rogue wave. One time, when they were fishing out there, this one wave came out of the blue.
417
00:44:36.6
BB: Yeah. Fortunately, I don’t remember any rogue waves.
418
00:44:40.4
TH: Okay. Rescues? Sinkings? Near-sinkings? Inlet tragedies? Collisions? We talked about that before we turned the computer—the recorder on. Other calamities that you know about and have experienced, about rescues? Found anybody floating out there?
419
00:45:1.4
BB: Never found anybody floating.
420
00:45:3.8
TH: Boats broke down? You’ve towed some boats in, I bet.
421
00:45:7.4
BB: Yeah, just with minor issues. Yeah, we’ve all been there, where we have to throw a rope or tie a rope off the stern.
422
00:45:17.5
TH: Any near-sinkings, where you almost sunk a boat?
423
00:45:24.1
BB: One time, I washed up. The hose came off.
424
00:45:30.3
TH: It filled the boat right now.
425
00:45:31.6
BB: It was filling the boat, and Woodrow Smith, he’s with me. And he’s standing over beside me.
426
00:45:38.1
TH: Who?
427
00:45:39.2
BB: Beside me. Woody.
428
00:45:39.8
TH: Woody Smith.
429
00:45:40.9
BB: Woody. And, anyway, I start to see some water coming in the scupper, and I knew that—and it was flat out there. And so, I hollered to Woody. I said, “Woody, we’re sinking.” And I’d had that problem once before, where it came off. But, anyway, I shut the water off immediately, and the water was up just before it got to the starter. I mean, it was a lot of water.  And I was just glad to be able to pump out—get in. Woody [says],—they [the fish] were biting a little bit—“Let’s fish some more.” I said, “Woody, we’ve got to go in and get this taken care of.” But that’s probably the mishap that I could have—you know, if you weren’t watching, you start coming in the stern, there, and especially if it had been rougher when it happened. But, anyway, I’ve got it fixed up, where it shouldn’t happen again.
430
00:46:32.8
TH: It would’ve been down fast if it—
431
00:46:34.7
BB: It’s one-inch water coming in, you know, it’s a one-inch pipe coming in.
432
00:46:38.6
TH: Yeah, I mean, once it gets to that certain point, it’ll sink in a hurry.
433
00:46:42.9
BB: Oh, yeah. Well, we were next to that point.
434
00:46:45.2
TH: Okay.
435
00:46:46.7
BB: And that’s only been, like, four years ago.
436
00:46:50.9
TH: Inlet tragedies? I was out there when, who was it? A. J. Brown went into the inlet. There was a line of boats heading out. I was there for that.
437
00:47:2.5
BB: Well, Tommy McHale, he had to be rescued.
438
00:47:4.8
TH: Oh, that was it. It was Tommy McHale.
439
00:47:6.6
BB: Ronnie Caruso actually pulled him in. Yeah. He turned too quick and hit the North Jetty. And I was out ahead of that, so I’m hearing this on the radio, you know. He’s almost screaming, you know, “I’ve hit the rocks.” And fortunately, Ronnie was there to bring him in. And he was able to go to Cracker Boys or wherever to get dry dock[ed] and fix it. But that was very near tragedy, if he had not gotten rescued real quick.
440
00:47:40.3
TH: Okay. Drugs, alcohol, people-smuggling stories. Have you heard or experienced? No names.
441
00:47:49.3
BB: I’ve only heard of a few stories, but it’s kind of hearsay. So I won’t try to get into that. And, fortunately, I was never approached by any drug dealer, who wanted to say, Well, if you’ll go out there and meet this bigger boat, it’s got all this pot on, I’ll give you a 100,000 [dollars]. You know, thankfully, I—of course, I would have said no, anyway. But, anyway, there was people who was approached, I know that.
442
00:48:23.9
TH: Okay. I, one time at the Hudgins(??)—I think it’s in one of my books—there were a group of people there that weren’t from around here, that were sitting there, waiting for somebody to pick them up at the fish house early morning. Anyway, humorous, funny stories that you’ve heard or experienced on the water that come to mind?
443
00:48:48.7
BB: One story. We were out there, on the bottom, fishing.
444
00:48:53.8
TH: Bottom fishing?
445
00:48:54.4
BB: Bottom fishing. And Billy Steward(??)–I don’t know if you know Billy.
446
00:48:59.4
TH: No.
447
00:49:0.0
BB: He’s been out of the fishing business for quite some time. But he’s on a boat, and he invited us to come over, and we’d fry up some fish and have dinner with him. So we had Jerry Harris, and this is young Jerry, he was fishing with us. So there’s three of us on the boat. So we just jumped over, you know. Jerry pulled the boat over. For some reason, he wanted to stay on the boat. But, anyway, we go over there and eat. And so Jerry goes in there. What happened, the seas kicked up. The seas picked up so big that we did not want to take a chance on jumping from the stern onto the bow of the boat. You know, now that’s convenient. And it’s nighttime. Anyway, he goes inshore. And Ronnie tells him, he says, “Why just go in there a little ways and throw the anchor, and we’ll get things going in the morning.” Well, the next morning, Jerry’s nowhere to be seen. The boat, you know—we’re out there in the the Gulf Stream. Sometimes, it’ll run three knots, you know. So you’ve got to have a lot of rope and a big anchor to hang up out there.
448
00:50:18.0
TH: How deep is it?
449
00:50:18.9
BB: And this is—300 feet. We were out there, like, what we call the 40-fathom bar, 45 fathoms. And, anyway, we knew what happened: the anchor had broken loose. So, anyway, we got on the radio, and I don’t know if he got on the—with the A LORAN. That was back there on the A LORAN. And we figured out, he was about 10 miles north of us. (laughs) He’s resting several miles to the north. And we pull anchor and do our best to get to him. But that was kind of an odd situation.
450
00:51:0.7
TH: So his anchor dragged?
451
00:51:2.4
BB: It drug. Yeah. Because, if you’re not on a rock bottom, if you just throw it out there on the sand, and, you know, you—and you don’t have a lot of rope, and that current’s going, like I said, it’s going like three, four miles an hour. That’s how you can drift a long ways, even with an anchor that’s dragging in the sand.
452
00:51:25.6
TH: So he was right next to you, when you went to—
453
00:51:29.0
BB: Just inshore of us, a ways.
454
00:51:30.3
TH: And you went to sleep, and then—
455
00:51:31.4
BB: Yeah, went to sleep. We all went to sleep, and when we woke up, the boat—where’s Jerry at?
456
00:51:37.5
TH: And he was 10 miles downstream.
457
00:51:42.0
BB: Yeah, up to the north. Yeah. So that’s one of those funny situations.
458
00:51:47.1
TH: Now, you have some stuff written down here. Tell me about these stories.
459
00:51:52.6
BB: Okay. I wasn’t with Ronnie at this time.
460
00:52:0.9
TH: That’s your brother.
461
00:52:1.7
BB: Yeah. And, anyway, Steve Lowe, they’re out there, offshore, bottom fishing. And I don’t know what this situation was. But Steve, he starts trolling offshore more. And Ronnie, for some reason, he says, “I want to follow Steve to see where he’s going.” Well, it’s like he’s leading him to nowhere. Unless he would know of a wreck or something out there. But, anyway, he dropped his line down there. And this is like 600 feet of water.
462
00:52:35.5
TH: That’s deep.
463
00:52:37.8
BB: Well, what happens? Bam, bam, bam. He’s getting a bite of the fish, and he brings it up. You know what it was? He got a golden tilefish. And no bait. And even tried to fish that deep of water because, you know, you’ve got to have a lot of wire and line.
464
00:53:1.3
TH: Six hundred feet.
465
00:53:3.5
BB: But, anyway, he brings it in, and he finds out it’s a golden tilefish and finds out that, up in New Jersey, they catch tilefish up there and, I guess, around in Massachusetts and places.  But, anyway, that was the beginning of us starting to tilefish.
466
00:53:25.9
TH: The long-line tilefish.
467
00:53:27.4
BB: With bandits. Well, we started out with bandits.
468
00:53:29.5
TH: Bandit reels.
469
00:53:30.4
BB: Yeah. So we’d be out there. You’re out there in the Gulf Stream, so we kind of head southeast because the current dropped down. We’d have the boat in gear a lot, you know, to keep from drifting so far. But, a lot of times, we’d drift 15, 20 miles, through the day. We’d be out there, northeast of Vero [Beach].
470
00:53:56.0
TH: When you’re done, at the end of the day.
471
00:53:56.9
BB: At the end of the day. But we’d catch a thousand, 12 [hundred], 14 hundred pounds of fish because we’d fish three circle hooks. That’s what we’d fish with.
472
00:54:8.8
TH: Per line?
473
00:54:11.3
BB: Per line, yeah. We’d have a swivel, three-way swivel. That’d be the top. I guess we fished, you know, it would be two three-ways and then one hook on the bow.
474
00:54:21.3
TH: Two three-way swivels.
475
00:54:23.0
BB: Yeah.
476
00:54:23.8
TH: Describe what you’re talking about.
477
00:54:24.5
BB: With a short leader, maybe a leader a foot long.
478
00:54:27.7
TH: Yeah
479
00:54:29.3
BB: We’d drop it down, hit bottom, and then you’re continuously having to be on the crank, you know, to make sure that you’re keeping the wire—the weight on the bottom. We’ve got, like, a 10-pound lead weight to keep it down.
480
00:54:45.9
TH: On the bottom of the line.
481
00:54:47.6
BB: Yeah. But, anyway, you wouldn’t have to stay down there long when you’re on the fish. You’d feel them: boom, boom, boom and—
482
00:54:55.4
TH: Put baits on the hooks?
483
00:54:55.3
BB: Yeah. I don’t think we used squid back then. I’m trying to think. But we used mackerel. I think we used mackerel, you know, dinner-cut. They’d like that.
484
00:55:8.9
TH: Okay. Cut mackerel, cut chunks of mackerel on the hooks.
485
00:55:12.6
BB: Um-hm. Then, later on, you know, then the long lines, they started, uh—
486
00:55:18.6
TH: Now, describe a long line, what you’re talking about.
487
00:55:21.4
BB: Well, they’d use cable. And they’d drop it down and fish, probably, 50 or 100 hooks. I don’t really—I never did do it. So I only—what little bit I saw when they’d come in.  But anyway, they’d drop it down, and have probably a 15-pound weight, or something, to hold it down one end. And then, they’d go to the north. So they’d have to be very careful not to run out of cable when they made their turn. You know, because they’re fishing there [with] maybe several large yards of line. And then, they bring it in against the tide because you have to fish it against the tide to bring in your fish.
488
00:56:15.7
TH: So they’d back against the tide; back the boat in—
489
00:56:18.2
BB: No, they’d turn the boat around it, being the bow. So they’d have the cable over here, on the side. And so, they could see the fish coming up.
490
00:56:27.7
TH: They’d have a pulley on the side of the boat?
491
00:56:30.7
BB: Yeah. They have a pulley. Yeah, you know, keep it up to where it wouldn’t tangle up.
492
00:56:36.6
TH: All right.
493
00:56:37.2
BB: But, yeah, they had to—you know, just like they did with a swordfish, they had the big rigs where they could just—
494
00:56:43.0
TH: Big reel.
495
00:56:43.6
BB: Yeah, the big reel where they could drop down.
496
00:56:45.9
TH: So you didn’t know anything about this, so you saw Steve Lowe going out east.
497
00:56:50.5
BB: Yeah.
498
00:56:51.5
TH: And you didn’t know where he was going.
499
00:56:52.2
BB: Yeah. And, for some reason, Ronnie said, “I’m going to drop down the line here.” And he brings a big tilefish in.
500
00:57:1.6
TH: This golden tile.
501
00:57:3.5
BB: Golden tile.
502
00:57:4.2
TH: Very good to eat.
503
00:57:5.3
BB: And it was, like, virgin territory, then. So you could catch—I saw, like, a 25, 30 pound tilefish.
504
00:57:13.1
TH: I’ve never seen anything like that.
505
00:57:14.5
BB: No, but they were full grown. But when they started hitting, you know, catching lots of fish, they get smaller because you’re catching grandpa and grandma. (laughs)
506
00:57:28.2
TH: Do they still catch big ones, or are they pretty much fished out?
507
00:57:33.8
BB: I don’t think they catch—very seldom catch any of those 30 pounders, like they did back then.
508
00:57:39.2
TH: I’ve never seen it, but I’ve seen the little ones.
509
00:57:41.2
BB: Yeah, well, most them, they’re like 5, 10 pounds, and a few 15s. But, back in that day, yeah, they were full grown.
510
00:57:52.9
TH: It’s almost like a virgin lumber. You know, once you clean out the big ones, they never quite get back.
511
00:58:1.2
BB: That’s why this is.
512
00:58:3.5
TH: Anything else you wish to share about life as a fishing captain in Florida?
513
00:58:10.3
BB: Well, Lord’s been good to me. I’ve been fishing these 48 years, and I still enjoy it.
514
00:58:22.2
TH: You’ve done it for 48 years?
515
00:58:23.8
BB: Yeah.  I still enjoy going out there. If I don’t enjoy it, I’d probably just hang it up. But I still enjoy going out there and feeling that tug on the jerk bug or whatever (laughs). And I know you do, too.
516
00:58:37.4
TH: Yeah. I can’t think of anything else. Anything else you want to add? Do you have anything else on your notes?
517
00:58:45.3
BB: Not at this moment. I’ll scan this just a little bit.
518
00:58:51.5
TH: Some of the characters you’ve known over the years.
519
00:58:54.5
BB: Oh, Pappy Hayes. He was a character. That was Gene’s father. I knew him.
520
00:59:2.0
TH: He was a net fisherman.
521
00:59:4.6
BB: Yeah, but he did do some kingfishing.
522
00:59:7.3
TH: I didn’t know that.
523
00:59:7.4
BB: Yeah. I’m trying to think of one of the guys that fished with him. Brian Golf. Brian Golf, fished with him as a young man.
524
00:59:19.5
TH: Okay.
525
00:59:20.0
BB: Yeah. A lot of the old-timers. BC Davis. You remember BC? He retired out of the Navy; he got into fishing.
526
00:59:31.2
TH: Was this Davis Fish House?
527
00:59:33.0
BB: Yeah. He was at Taylor Creek back in their early days.
528
00:59:36.3
TH: I remember that.
529
00:59:37.7
BB: Yeah. That’s–
530
00:59:37.7
TH: I didn’t know the fella. I didn’t know anybody.
531
00:59:40.1
BB: Yeah. He was in with a doctor, and they were able to lease, or they bought it. They resold it, or whatever—the property there. But I never did fish for them, so I don’t know much about what went on there.
532
00:59:54.8
TH: Okay. Well, we’ll wrap it up.
533
00:59:59.0
BB: Okay.
534
00:59:59.7
TH: Thank you very much.
535
01:00:0.8
BB: Yes, sir.



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