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subfield code a F70-000022 USFLDC DOI0 245 Charles Wood Bowen, Jr. oral history interviewh [electronic resource] /c interviewed by Mr. Terry Lee Howard.500 Full cataloging of this resource is underway and will replace this temporary record when complete.1 600 Bowen, Charles Wood, Jr.7 655 Oral history.localOnline audio.local700 Howard, Terry Lee710 University of South Florida.b Library.Digital Scholarship Services - Digital Collections.Oral History Program.773 t Florida Fishing Captains Oral History Project4 856 u https://digital.lib.usf.edu/?f70.2
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Terry Howard (TH): Okay, my name is Terry Howard. Iâ€™m here in Sebastian, Florida. Itâ€™sâ€”whatâ€™s the address here?
Mason Bowen (MB): Three six fiveâ€”
TH: Three sixty-five Orange Avenue in Sebastian, Florida. Today is Thursday, October 11th, 2018. Iâ€™m with Charles Bowen and Mason Bowen. Charles is the father. Mason is the son, and weâ€™re going to begin with the interview with Charles and Mason. Please state your full name.
Charles Bowen (CB): Charles Wood Bowen, Jr.
TH: Okay. Charles Wood Bowen, Jr.
TH: Okay, and where and when were you born?
CB: I was born in Fortescue, New Jersey, in 1929.
TH: What date?
CB: March the twenty-seventh.
TH: March twenty-seventh, 19â€”what?
CB: Twenty-nine .
TH: And name thisâ€”where in New Jersey?
TH: Spell that. Please.
CB: F-o-r-t-e-s-c-u-e. Itâ€™s on the Delaware Bay.
TH: Escue? Escue?
CB: Yes. E-s-c-u-e.
TH: On the Delaware Bay.
TH: Okay. And do I have your permission to use this interview for publication in a book or article or anything like that, if I were to write another book?
CB: Sure. Yeah.
TH: And secondly, do I have your permission to archive this interview at the University of South Florida Tampa Library digital archives?
CB: Sure, yeah.
TH: Okay. And we already established when I got a little ahead, when and where you were born. Now, when did you start fishing? When did you begin fishing?
CB: When I was about 10 or 12.
TH: And where and what kind of fishing did you do?
CB: Fortescue, I fishedâ€”on deck on a boat, on party boats. All of us kids, boys, I think we got 35 cents a day. Weâ€™d fish on these party boats, you know, cut bait and baited linesâ€”
TH: The bottom fishing boats?
CB: Yeah, they had to pull the anchor and all those little things you do and clean the boat up.
TH: For tourists?
CB: Yeah, they wereâ€”yeah, people paid to come on that boat.
TH: Okay. And before that? Like, how old were you when you started doing that?
CB: I would say 12.
TH: About 12 years old, they let you work on those. Thirty-seven cents for how long?
CB: All day.
TH: (laughs) Okay. And you did that until? You always did that? You always fished? Did you have other jobs?
CB: Well, once in a while, on the farm, we would pick beans and stuff. But, mostly, whenâ€”see, I think I was 13 when Iâ€”Buzz Garrison had a boat called the Storm King, and I went to work for him.
TH: The Storm King.
CB: Right, and we moved up to Brielle, New Jersey. That was up in north Jersey in the summertime because they got more money there than they did out of Fortescue.
TH: Got more money for what?
CB: Taking people out.
TH: Oh, for the boats did.
CB: Yeah, for the boat. I think I got paid seven dollars a day, and then I got tips from the party and, actually, in the summer up there, I would average 100 dollars a week. Now, this is back in the â€˜40s. And, you know, working people didnâ€™t make 100 dollars a week, you know.
TH: So what was the name of that boat again?
CB: Storm King.
TH: Now, was thatâ€”did he troll for fish or was he a bottom fisherman?
CB: He did both, but up at Brielle, we did all trolling.
TH: Brielle, how do you spell that?
CB: B-r-e-l-l-e [sic], I think. Itâ€™s [on the] Manasquan Inlet.
TH: Can you spell that?
CB: M-a-n-a-q-u-a-n [sic], I guess. Itâ€™s Manasquan Inlet.
TH: Manasquan, with an S in there. Manasquan. Okay. Inlet.
TH: And he took smaller parties out.
CB: Right, six people. And they trolled for bluefish [sic] tuna. And then, used to fish for Boston mackerel, but we drifted for them.
TH: Yeah, okay. Donâ€™t worry.
TH: You drifted for Boston mackerel.
CB: And we chummed, and we chummed. And then, if we were fishing for giant tuna, which we did, weâ€™d chum for them too.
TH: Now, did you do that commercially? Or did you take people to fishâ€”?
CB: No, we were taking people.
TH: They would fish for the giant tuna.
CB: Right. Yes. So, you know, you would get one of them big tuna on, and you followed him for three or four hours.
TH: That was an all-day affair, pretty much.
CB: Right. And sometimes, you followed it for three or four hours and lost him. But it happens.
TH: I see.
MB: Tell him about that when you had to get in the water and make sure the line didnâ€™t get in the rudder.
CB: Oh, yeah. Because we were anchored, we would be anchored up when weâ€™re doing this in the ocean.
TH: Sometimes. Sometimes, youâ€™d troll, and sometimes youâ€™d anchor?
CB: But for giant tuna, we were chumming. We were anchored. And if a fish went underneath the boatâ€”and the boat had two screws, two wheelsâ€”and the line wouldâ€”Iâ€™d get overboard in the water and get that line out, so it didnâ€™t get cut off on the wheels.
TH: They sent you overboard.
CB: Yeah. There would be a lot of hammerhead sharks. But, you know, they never bothered me.
TH: Well, thatâ€™s why youâ€™re still here. They never bothered you.
CB: Yeah, they didnâ€™t. You know, they didnâ€™t bother me at all. And I guess, the sharks, there are certain times that they feed, and certain times they donâ€™t, I guess. I donâ€™t know.
TH: Okay. Were they there probably because of the chum?
TH: That would bring them in, too.
CB: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
TH: And how did you keep from catching the sharks on the hook and line and catch the tuna?
CB: Geez, I donâ€™t know about that. We never caught no shark. We just caught the tuna.
TH: Thatâ€™s interesting.
CB: Yeah, I think, if I remember right, we used butterfish for bait on a big hook. And thatâ€™s what we caught the tuna with.
TH: Okay, like, on a big hook? Did you have any lead on it?
CB: No just a hook and wire. And, you knowâ€”
TH: Wire leader.
CB: â€”and drifted out and the chum, straight. Yeah, and youâ€™d see the fish, when you can see them down there, you know, swimming back and forth.
TH: The tuna?
CB: The tuna, right, and the sharks too. But I donâ€™t know why we didnâ€™t catch the sharks. I canâ€™t answer that. I really donâ€™t know.
TH: So you did this for how long? How many years?
CB: I did this until I was 18, and then I went in the navy.
TH: Now, I mean, before we go on to the navy, you did this for about eight years, then. So you were making 100 dollars a week in 19â€”?
CB: Forty-three .
TH: Yes. So that was that was good money for anybody.
CB: It was. It was during a war, and the government gave usâ€”you know, fuel was allotted. You had to have stamps to get it. And the government let us have so much to take these people out because they were war workers. And that was their recreation. And thatâ€™s how come that we were able to have fuel to take them out.
TH: Stay in business.
TH: All right. Very interesting.
CB: And we had picture ID cards, which I donâ€™t have mine. I donâ€™t know what ever happened to mine. I wish I still did.
TH: Huh. Then you went into the navy. What year was that?
CB: Nineteen forty-seven.
TH: Okay, the war had kind ofâ€”was over.
CB: It was. Yeah. And we were in European occupation. We occupied Europe, the USS, until 1953.
TH: Okay. Now, where was yourâ€”? Were you on a ship?
CB: I was on the Charles H. Roan destroyer.
TH: Charles H. Roan?
CB: R-o-a-n, DD-853. I was on that for seven years.
TH: Huh. And what did you do on the destroyer?
CB: I was the boatswain's mateâ€”Iâ€™d maintain the ship anchored, all the things you do. You know, thereâ€™s tie the ship up or everything to work the ship.
TH: Okay. And mostly in the Mediterranean Sea?
CB: The Mediterranean, the Antarctic and, you knowâ€”
TH: The Antarctic Ocean thatâ€™s down south?
CB: Yeah, been there. Yeah. Weâ€™d go there and up in the north, too. Whatâ€™s that, the Arctic?
TH: The Arcticâ€™s in the north. The Antarcticâ€™s in the south.
CB: Iâ€™ve gotâ€”Iâ€™ve got a thing for going across the Equator in the Arcticâ€”I canâ€™t remember what theâ€”
TH: The Arctic Circle.
CB: Yeah, I forget what they called it, but we got, you know, a little medal for it.
TH: Okay, so you got out of the navy in what year?
CB: Nineteen fifty-four.
CB: First, I gotâ€”before I got out of the navy, I got married. And I had two girlâ€”two kids. And the reason we got out was because they wouldnâ€™t give me any shore duty, and I was a SEAL most all the time, and my wife would be home raising the kids. So we decided to get out.
TH: Okay. And where was your wife living?
CB: She was, at that point, when I was in the navy, she was living with my father and mother
TH: In New Jersey?
CB: And thenâ€”right. Yeah.
TH: So you got out and went home to New Jersey.
TH: Did you fish there and after you got out of the navy?
CB: The first winter I got home, I got outâ€”I got out of the navy in November. I went to work on deck on my father-in-lawâ€™s oyster schooner dredging oysters.
TH: Now, how long is an oyster schooner?
CB: Eighty-five foot.
TH: And he would go in the oceanâ€”
CB: In the Delaware Bay.
TH: On Delaware Bay.
TH: And he would pullâ€”he would drag for these oysters?
CB: With dredges, weâ€™d get like 300 bushel a day on his grounds that he had planted there. And weâ€™d take them into the shucking house and unload them and then got paid for them.
TH: And how deep a water would that be?
CB: Oh, shoot. Twenty feet?
TH: And how did he know his area?
CB: They were staked out. Everybody had their beds, their leases, and they were staked up on corners with stakes.
TH: Buoys, I guess.
CB: They were wooden stakes.
TH: So theyâ€™d have to be pretty long stakes.
CB: They was, yeah.
TH: And they would drag a net, or aâ€”?
CB: Noâ€”(both speaking at the same time) dredge with a chain bag.
TH: Explain that, please.
CB: Well, itâ€™s an arm dredge. The dredge had teeth, a tooth bar with teeth on it. And then, in the back, it had a chain bag. And then, youâ€”as you drug it across the bottom, itâ€™d fill up with whatever was there: oysters, shells, or whatever.
TH: And how bigâ€”how big is the area thatâ€™s his lease?
CB: Oh, God. Let me see. In a squareâ€”
CB: Approximately a quarter mile.
TH: Okay. And then, how longâ€”once you dredged it, how long before you could dredge it again?
CB: Well, and then, every spring in the Delaware Bay, there was the southwest line. Above that was state bottom. And thatâ€™sâ€”in the spring, in May, you could go up there and dredge these small oysters and bring them down and plant them on your bed and let them grow up.
TH: Okay, so you got the little ones out of the state waters, planted them on your bedâ€”
CB: And that would always haveâ€”it was in May, the month of May, you did that. And then, you had them on your bed. And then, as they grew up, you had, you had more than one bed, you know.
TH: Huh. So heâ€”maybe a quarter mile was his entire lease?
CB: That was one, but that was just one lease.
TH: Oh, that was one bed.
CB: Actually, he had 1,500 acres under lease.
TH: Okay, that makes more sense. And each one of those small beds would be a quarter mile, maybe?
CB: Right. Absolutely.
MB: Thereâ€™s some sidenotes here. In Jersey, you had to use sail.
TH: A what?
MB: A sail, right?
CB: Oh, no. This wasâ€”you did have to use sail, up â€˜til the war started. Then, they let you have an engine.
MB: Okay, I stand corrected. Previous to the war, they would useâ€”they were dredging under sail.
CB: They had to.
MB: And itâ€™s an interesting sidenote that the man heâ€™s talking about, his father-in-lawâ€”
TH: Whose name was?
CB: Ed Riggin.
TH: Ed Riggin?
MB: They would have schooner races out to the bed every year. And, you know, itâ€™s just a part of history, that this was a big deal that was taking place at the timeâ€”pretty, pretty pictures from that time.
CB: Yeah, and I wouldâ€”the J. & E. Riggin was a schooner. The last race that they had was in 1929, and she won that race. The J. & E. Riggin, right, today is in Maine, carrying passengers for charter on cruises.
TH: It was 80-some feet long?
CB: Yes. And sheâ€™s there. Theyâ€”the people that bought herâ€”I donâ€™t know how many years ago, but they rebuilt her. And now, sheâ€™s in their trade up in Maine. She carriesâ€”
TH: Charter trade. (both speaking at the same time; inaudible)
CB: Right. Right now, she is there.
TH: You wouldnâ€™t happen to have any pictures of this boat.
CB: Oh, geez. I do at home.
MB: We do have them, but I couldnâ€™t produce them for you.
TH: Well, Iâ€”not right now. But if you can dig them up, get them to me, thatâ€™d be great. Okay, so this is pretty interesting. We havenâ€™t even gotten into your Florida. So about how long did you work up there in New Jersey, before you came to Florida?
CB: See, wait a minute. That was 1954. And we didnâ€™t come to Florida â€˜til 1963.
MB: He was fishing in the wintertimes before we moved to Florida. He needs toâ€”because he started fishing around 1960 in the wintertimes. I was born in â€˜62, and heâ€™s going to tell you the story, but the fact of the matter is my mother told him we were moving here. And I wasnâ€™t even one year old yet. So finish the story, Dad.
CB: Oh, letâ€™s see. Where was we? We wasâ€”oh, golly. Where was we?
MB: You were in Fortescue crabbing, andâ€”
CB: Oh, yeah. And when Iâ€”I got out the navy, and, the first winter, I worked on deck. But, up there, everything was by the seasons, from winter to summer. So I would add to that. I used to oyster in the winter and clam. But we used tongs. And then, in the spring, weâ€™d net fish for shad and striped bass.
TH: Shad would beâ€”thatâ€™s not menhaden. Is it different?
CB: No, thatâ€™s shad. Shad is not a menhaden, no.
CB: And then, in the first of May, we would start crabbing. And that went on â€˜til, like, October.
TH: Now, did you have your own boat by this time?
CB: Oh, yeah. I had my own boat.
TH: What kind of boat? Could you describe it?
CB: Just a 30-foot boat.
MB: Okay, sidenote, this turns into the story of how he got nicknamed Flash. So let him tell you about his boat. (laughs)
CB: Anyway, the boat was a government haul, a 30-foot government haul. You rebuild it, and made a fishing boat out of it. And then, are we coming to Florida yet, or are we stillâ€”?
TH: No, youâ€™re still at the boat up there, I guess.
CB: Right. Well, the first year that I brought the boat downâ€”
TH: Now, you were crabbing from this boat?
TH: And what else? And dragging or clamming?
CB: No, all I did on that boat was I used it for crabbing. But I had a garvey, which I used for oystering in the cricks [creeks] for tonging oysters.
TH: A garvey, would that be a more open boat?
CB: Yes, itâ€™s just a square-bow boatâ€”
CB: Flat-bottom, square-bow boat.
TH: Okay. And then the other one was a government haul.
CB: A 30-foot government haul.
TH: Is that a brand, government haul? Or is thatâ€”
TH: â€”from the US government and the navy.
CB: The navy.
TH: The navy.
CB: It was in the, yeah.
TH: About how long was that boat?
TH: And it had a diesel [engine]?
CB: No, I had a Chrysler Crown, 6 cylinder Chrysler Crown in it. It wasnâ€™tâ€”she wasnâ€™t very fast, but it got me there.
TH: And that, and you ran crab traps with that.
CB: Right. Yeah, during that season.
TH: And then you brought it to Florida?
CB: Well, the first year, I brought it to Florida. At firstâ€”I knew this guy, Leonard McVey from Cape May. I knew every winter, he came to Florida, and he king fished down there, which I didnâ€™t ever know what a kingfish looked like. But, every winter, he came to Florida, like, to Fort Pierce, and he fished.
TH: Leonard McVey.
TH: Iâ€™ve heard that name.
CB: So me and my friend, he was a crabber too. And we decided to come down here and try it. And so, the first year, we came, and we wound up in Fort Pierce, Florida, fishing for Charlieâ€™s Seafood. And I fished there that winter. I brought my family down, and then, in the spring, we went back. And soâ€”
TH: Where did you stay?
CB: I rented a place on the Old Dixie Highway, north of Fort Pierce.
TH: A motor court?
CB: No, it was a house. We lived in the upstairs apartment, over these people that we became friends withâ€”my wife did.
CB: But where were we, then?
TH: So you were going back and forth for a couple years.
CB: Right. And then, we decided toâ€”we decided we wantedâ€”especially my wife, she loved warm weather, didnâ€™t she, Mason? (laughing) She said, â€œWeâ€™re moving to Florida.â€ And so, we did. And we left. And I had an, I think it was aâ€”what was it? A 1959 Chevrolet station wagon. I forget. But the floorboards was rusted out from underneath of it, was going in and out of Fortescue. Every full moon tide, the saltwater would come over the road. And I had plywood, so the kids couldnâ€™t fall out on the road. (all laugh) And we were towing a trash trailer with our stuff in it, and we came to Florida.
MB: So now, the sidenote here is Charlieâ€™s Seafood would have been owned by Charlie Lowe, which was Steve Loweâ€™s father.
CB: Right. Steve Loweâ€™s father.
MB: The other part of thisâ€“
TH: That was, it was located on the causeway, in the south causeway in Fort Pierce, when he first began fishing for him.
TH: I might have a picture of that.
MB: Right. And then, the other thing that he might want to talk about is, the fishermen just took him in, and everybody that lived there at the time. The culture was just a genuine, gentleman, Southern culture.
CB: Yeah. Well, the guys, I mean, they was all friendly with me. And they showed me anything I needed to know. Steve Lowe and I wound up fishing a lot. When there wasnâ€™t many kingfish, I would bottom fish with Steve.
TH: For snapper and yellowtailâ€”?
CB: Snapper and grouper. We used to we used to catch a lot of snapper, and we got 35 cents a pound for them. That was for chicken snapper. South snappers, we got 20 cents a pound; we had to cut their heads off. Thatâ€™s what we got back then. But we caught a lot of them. And grouper, most of the time, couldnâ€™t sell them. The only people that ate grouper back then was the fisherman, or else we did. Not â€˜til the people got educated to eating them. Now theyâ€™re just expensive as anything, you know.
TH: And you used to be able to sell snook, too, back then.
CB: Yes, but then theyâ€”remember people used to fish off of the bridge and catch snook and sell them in Simonâ€™s Restaurant.
TH: I remember.
CB: You remember Simonâ€™s Restaurant?
TH: I do.
TH: I do.
TH: Let me stop. Steve Lowe has a chapter in my first book, Great Kingfish Captains in Fort Pierce. And his story is there. I want to say one thing. I came to Fort Pierce in 1971, and I was walking the docks, and I met twoâ€”they were charter fishermen in New Jersey. And they came down here every winterâ€”
TH: To Fort Pierce.
CB: They used to do that, yeah.
TH: And, I guess, there were more. There were several boats that did that.
CB: Absolutely. Yeah.
TH: And they stayed lived on their boat. They had a big, you know, a charter boat with room enough to live on. And they would come down; they were partners and came down on the same boat, and they fished the kingfish run down here.
CB: They did, absolutely. And they had to pay money for their license, but I donâ€™t know how much it was. I canâ€™t remember, but they came every winter. And, I remember, one of them was a guy who was a sword fisherman, him and his wife. They had a swordfish boat, you know, with a big mast, and they used to harpoon swordfish up out of Rhode Island in the summer.
TH: Iâ€™d heard that. Okay.
CB: Yeah. And the funny thing about it, him and herâ€”he had a sickness, he couldnâ€™t sleep at night. And eventually, he had a heart attack, and that killed him. And when it did, he was up atâ€”they were sword fishing [sic], and he was up. And his wife was rowing the boat, and he was up in the crowâ€™s nest looking for swordfish. And he had a heart attack. And he died up there, and other boats come toâ€”but she couldnâ€™t get him down. But she couldnâ€™t get him down. She had to have help. But that was the end ofâ€”
TH: Their fishing.
TH: Thatâ€™s sad.
TH: So letâ€™s get back to Fort Pierce. So youâ€™re down here now. Your wife brought you down, said, Youâ€™ve got to move and stay.
TH: Now, letâ€™s go back to why they call you Flash.
CB: All right. This boat I had, this government haul had this Chrysler engine in it. But itâ€™d only do about eight knots wide open. So when weâ€™d be outâ€”the kingfish, the whole fleet, weâ€™d be out. If we went out east of the inlet, and the fish wasnâ€™t there, if somebody found the fish on the northeast grounds, all the whole fleet would take off and run up there. But they would all be there fishing, and I would come chugging along about a half hour later to get there, andâ€”we used to have CB radios, and Steve says, â€œHere comes Flash!â€ Because I was so, just, the opposite.
TH: I understand. Steve Lowe gave you that name.
CB: He gave me that name, and it stuck with me through the whole years that I was fishing.
TH: Well, Iâ€™ve heard lots, lots of things about you. But itâ€™s really an honor for me to meet you, Flash.
MB: Sidenote, he cemented that name and sealed it into history when he signed something at a fish house party, â€œFlash.â€ They were kind of, well, off to the races drinking at the time. (laughs)
CB: Well, the thing of it is, when the fish house made my check out, it was to Flash Bowen. It was, yeah.
TH: So now your checks were made out to Flash. (laughing)
TH: Now, Steve used to say that the person that caught the most fish every day had to buyâ€”
CB: Buy the bottle.
TH: Bottle of rum.
TH: And theyâ€™d pass it around â€˜til it was gone.
CB: Right. That was true.
TH: Okay. Then youâ€™re the only other person that was there for that that Iâ€™ve talked to.
CB: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
TH: Except forâ€”
CB: Al Tyrrell was there.
TH: And Roger Farlow.
CB: Roger Farlow.
TH: And Bill Farlow.
CB: Tony Stormont.
TH: Iâ€™ve heard of him.
CB: Well, he was a good friend of Steveâ€™s, too. He was from Boynton.
CB: And, you know, when weâ€™d fish at Jupiter, of course, we was always there with them. But they would come up, and fish with us, too.
TH: Youâ€™d follow the fish.
CB: Right, we followed the fish. But, back in the early days, like in the â€˜60s, the water would get cold, like at Fort Pierce. And if you were going to catch kingfish, you had to go to Jupiter. Because you werenâ€™t catching no kingfish in the winter in Fort [Pierce]. The water wouldâ€™ve got too cold. And about, then, in March, the fish would start coming back north again. And then you could come back home.
TH: So what was your range of fishing from, say, Jupiter to Fort Pierce and then Sebastian?
CB: I would say my range of fishing was fromâ€”
TH: In this â€˜60s.
MB: Okay, can Iâ€”
CB: Iâ€™m trying to think.
MB: The sidenote here would be, youâ€™ve got to remember Steveâ€™s range because they got all the way up off of St. Augustine. Now, king mackerel fishing, they didnâ€™t fish up there that much, but they did bottom fish.
MB: They knew kingfish were there.
CB: Yeah, but weâ€”Iâ€™m just trying to figure out how far south we went.
TH: Did you go to make any trips to the Keys?
CB: No, I didnâ€™t go to the Keys. Some boats did. But I fished as far north asâ€”in the summertimeâ€”king fishing as far north as South Carolina.
TH: You went all the way to the Carolinas.
TH: And how far offshore would you have to go for kingfish in Carolina?
CB: Sometimes 40, 50 miles.
TH: At eight knots?
CB: Yeah, but, I meanâ€”
MB: He had a different boat now. Youâ€™re talking, heâ€”donâ€™t forget, as time goes, by heâ€™s buying new boats. He bought Steveâ€™s first boat, which was the Chantry.
CB: And Steve got the largeâ€”he built it, got a boat. He built up for Lora, and thatâ€™s the boat we did a lot of fishing, bottom fishing, in. Out of Fort Pierce, weâ€™d fish as far north as St. Augustine.
TH: Bottom fishing.
CB: Snapper fishing, yeah.
TH: Did you ever go on one of those big snapper boats?
CB: I went on a swordfish boat.
TH: You did some swordfishing.
MB: One thing, for posterity, at this point, the boats arenâ€™t slow. Steveâ€™s running around 18 or 20 knots in the Chantry, the boat that he buys from Steve. In fact, they used to have races and brag about how fast the boats were.
TH: They had V8 engines.
MB: V8 engines. And gas was cheap.
CB: V8 ship, yeah.
MB: Iâ€™llâ€”thatâ€™s one of the things that, as time has gone by, fishermen from my generation on donâ€™t realize what these guys did and how far they went and all the things that they accomplished. Itâ€™s truly incredible.
CB: But we didnâ€™t haveâ€”we just had a compass and a fathometer.
MB: But, now, Steve had the goods. Donâ€™t forget about that.
CB: He had the goods? What, a fathometer?
MB: He had that firstâ€”
MB: LORAN thing that theâ€”
CB: It was known as Loran-A; itâ€™d only give you one way.
MB: (laughs) Right? Well, I remember you getting that. But Steve had something even before that, didnâ€™t he? It was a military thing.
CB: It was a LORAN, but it would only give usâ€”I forget which leg. I canâ€™t remember. But we couldnâ€™t get a cross-bearing. We used a fathometer for the crossâ€”
CB: You know, in fact, I think it was better with the fathometers back then because we learnt the bottom, what it looked like. We could tell where we was at by what the rock looked like.
TH: On the bottom. Did you ever use one of those sounding lines with the paravane in them?
CB: Yeah, but to think of it, I was just thinking about how itâ€™sâ€”
TH: A Coke bottle and anchor.
CB: I was thinking about how Tyrrell didnâ€™tâ€”how he found the reef looking for turtles. Because theâ€”
TH: The turtlesâ€”
CB: â€”the turtles may be over the reef because thatâ€™s where they fed. (TH and CB laugh)
TH: I have had a lot of good fishing around turtles. I donâ€™t know about you guys, but I have.
TH: And it makes sense.
MB: That was the cutting technology back in the day. But, Terry, remember: some of these trips, Steve and him and a few others would leave Fort Pierce and end up off of St. Augustine. Weâ€™re not talking about a short trip.
CB: Oh, no.
TH: Like how many days?
CB: Two or three days.
TH: And you [had] no cell phones, no radios?
CB: All we had was the CBs.
TH: Oh, you did have CBs?
CB: Yes, we had CBs.
TH: Okay. Well, weâ€™re talking about a lot of things. But so youâ€™re down here in Florida and king fishing. And one thing thatâ€”well, letâ€™s go by the script here. Thatâ€™s pretty much your biography and your fishing, getting started, why and when you moved to Fort Pierce. Weâ€™ve covered that. Type of fish youâ€™d target. So mostly king mackerel. Did you get inâ€”? Did you ever troll mackerel very much? Just Spanish mackerel?
CB: No, no, no, no.
TH: Net boats usuallyâ€”
CB: Net boats used to catch them all the time. But no, no, we didnâ€™t. Like I say, our main fish was king mackerel. And thenâ€”
TH: Bottom fishing.
CB: We fished, you know, grouperâ€”
TH: Grouper and snapper.
TH: Now, Roger Farlow told me, down in Jupiter, they would catch yellowtail.
CB: Yes, but Roger wouldnâ€™tâ€”heâ€™s dead.
TH: I know.
CB: When did you talk to him? (laughing) You ainâ€™t been talking to him, have you?
TH: But heâ€™s in my first book. He has a chapter in my first book. I interviewed him.
CB: Roger was a goodâ€”Roger was the best scrap fisherman in the fleet.
MB: Scrap? Scrap.
CB: In other words, when a fish was hard to catch, he would catch the most on his jerk boat. He was aâ€”
TH: He and Tommy McHale.
CB: Yeah. Well, Tommy was always getting bites, but he never said he was catching anything. But he would come in with a boatload of fish. (laughing)
TH: Iâ€™m familiar with that.
CB: (laughing) Were you familiar with that?
TH: I am familiar.
CB: He said, â€œIâ€™ll tell you, Iâ€™m getting bites.â€ (laughs)
TH: Okay, and the bait you used early on? All Iâ€™ve heard isâ€”
TH: Mullet. Later on, they started usingâ€”
CB: You know that, at Fort Pierce, we always used mullet. And so, when Elmer Stokes and a couple other guys at Sebastian were net fishing. Well, they started king fishing. And they used pogies. And so, we got together with them, and we started using pogies. And so, finally, actually, I guess, pogies are the main [bait], more than mullet now.
TH: Oh, itâ€™s just back and forth, whatever is available. But a lot of people like the yellowtail and the pogies.
CB: Youâ€™re right.
TH: Well, the pogies are manhaden.
CB: Right, menhaden.
TH: Thatâ€™s what theyâ€™re known for. Thatâ€™s what they bring.
TH: Okay, so thatâ€™s the main bait. And what kind of spoons? A lot of times, if you can get them on spoons, you didnâ€™t use bait.
CB: I used drum spoons, three and a half drum spoons.
TH: Okay. I use those today, myself. Thatâ€™s all I use.
CB: Yeah. Well, you know, as a matter of fact, back in the â€˜60s, in the wintertime, we didnâ€™t ever used use bait. We used spoons and a jerk bug. That was it. It was later years that we started using bait in the winter.
TH: Okay. All right. Soâ€”
CB: And Al Tyrrell was one of the first ones that insisted on using bait in the winter.
TH: He started using bait?
CB: Yes, he did. (laughs)
TH: Interesting. Now, one thing that Roger told me, Roger Farlow and Steve Lowe, they said that there were timesâ€”and it was oftenâ€”that, first, they could troll straight out from the Fort Pierce inlet and straight back in and load the boat, without ever circling. Do you recall any times like that?
CB: No. Not, notâ€”I mean, no. I donâ€™t know where the hell they got that. Straight out and straight back.
TH: He could just troll in a straight line. There was a few times when the fish were so thick that he could catch it. Now, the other thing is, have you fished when the old paper recorder showed solid black in your entire circle?
TH: And I was talking to Bill Farlowâ€”not Bill Farlow, Billy Baird.
CB: Bill Baird, yeah.
TH: He said they used toâ€”there were times when they put their boat in a circle. And, especially, he talked about, especially up off Sebastian, where they didnâ€™t even stay on a spot. They just drifted with their circle, and it was solid black, and they caught fish as fast as they could.
CB: Well, we used to have 3 and 400-pound circles with spoons. And youâ€™d catch 3 or 400 pounds, they stopped biting, and you moved another couple hundred yards and get them in another circle. Yes, we did that.
TH: And, like, what would be your biggest catch by yourself, out there?
CB: I think 3,200.
TH: Thatâ€™s about what Bill Farlow said, and that was he and his brother. And you just, when you catch 3,200, theyâ€™re just biting one after another.
CB: Oh, yeah. Fast as you can pull them on short spoons.
TH: Short spoons. Describe what youâ€™re talking about.
CB: Ten and 12. And we used to useâ€”
TH: Wait, 10 and 12 feet behind the paravane?
CB: Well, actually, on the stern, we used cannon balls.
CB: We had them 10 to 12 feet. And then, on the outriggers, weâ€™d have a paravane and probably 15 and 20.
TH: Twenty feet behind the paravane? Wait, letâ€™sâ€”for somebody that doesnâ€™t know anything about king fishing. You have outriggers, and you have the outriggers are attached to a cable.
TH: Is that correct?
TH: And how long, when the fishâ€”in the day, when you were catching fish like youâ€™re talking about, how long would the cables be? The cables wouldâ€™veâ€”
CB: Twelve, 15 feet.
TH: And they would go to paravanes.
CB: To a paravane, and then you have, like, 20 feet behind the paravane.
TH: A paravane is a planer.
CB: Itâ€™s a planer, right.
TH: And about 20 feet behind us.
CB: And then, on this corner of your stern, youâ€™d have a cannonball on each corner. And youâ€™d have, like 10 and 12â€”10 feet to the cannonball and 12 feet behind it to a spoon, and when youâ€”
TH: So you would have four spoons out there?
CB: Thatâ€™s right. But when you were circling, catching fish, you were just pulling these cannonballs and dragging fish on the others. Until the fish, when he died on that outrigger, heâ€™d come just to the surface. Youâ€™d pull him in and throw it.
TH: So that was the procedure.
TH: You just keep working the cannonballs and lift it out, onceâ€”outsideâ€”when itâ€™s dragged.
CB: Yeah because, as fast as you pulled one, there was one on the other one. I mean, you just went from one to one, back and forth, back and forth as hard as you could pull them. And the faster you pulled them, the longer the fish would stay with you. I mean, they would jump right at the spoon, right here behind the stern. You know, fish were jumping. (inaudible) things Iâ€™ve caughtâ€”
TH: So if you just hung a spoon over the side when theyâ€™re biting like thatâ€”
CB: They would be jumping at them when they were behind your boat. If I had toâ€”I caught two fish on one spoon. One fish, he swallowed the spoon; it come out his gill, and another fish got on the hook.
TH: Iâ€™ve never heard of that.
CB: Yeah, that was the only time it ever happened, but once. But it did happen.
MB: As a sidenote, and Iâ€™m just saying this because Iâ€™m proud of my father. In fact, we were talking about big catches and big years, and let him tell you aboutâ€”because Charlie Lowe would keep track of who caught what. And I just found it interesting. He might want to tell you that.
CB: Well, this just happened one year. Charlie Lowe wanted, more or less, a contest between us fishermen. So he kept each of ourâ€”how many pounds we caught. And Steve won it with 90-some thousand. And BC Davis was a little behind him, and I was a little behind him. Iâ€™d come in third, with 80-some thousand pounds a year.
MB: Hook and line.
CB: Hook and line.
MB: (laughing) Eighty-five thousand pounds.
TH: Thatâ€™s a lot of fish to pull.
CB: Yeah. But, you know, it is. But we used to get 12 cents a pound.
TH: So you had to get a whole lot of fish.
CB: 12, thatâ€™s right. If youâ€”
TH: You, youâ€”
CB: You know, 12 cents a pound. Thatâ€™s what we got in the winter time.
TH: So letâ€™s just fast-forward. Today, how much cable do you use? And then, on your paravaneâ€”to your paravanes, and then how much line to your paravanes to do you pull today?
CB: You tell him because heâ€™s fishing, and I ainâ€™t.
MB: You use as much as you got to. (laughs)
CB: Yeah, thatâ€™s right.
MB: But I will say this. We have our moments where we can shorten up, in the winter time. I mean, some people think that youâ€™ve got to fish big, long lines all the time. But we will shorten them up, and we will catch them very quickly because thatâ€™s the way he taught me. Thatâ€™s the way I taught my son. And itâ€™s the way I enjoy to fish.
TH: When you say, â€œShorten up,â€ how short do you shorten them?
TH: I mean, when theyâ€™re really biting well, I guess.
MB: Well, Iâ€™m not the long line guy. So, normally, if Iâ€™ve got a fishing cable longer than 40 feet, I feel like Iâ€™m being punished. That would be the longest cable. But I will fish longer, if I need to. And thenâ€”
TH: The cable? Forty to the paravane?
MB: To the paravane.
TH: And then how much line behind that?
MB: Well, it depends on time of year. Summertime, Iâ€™m going to be fishing around 100 feet behind the paravane. In the wintertime, we will get it down to 65 feet.
CB: Yeah, but you donâ€™t fish no 40-foot cable all the time. In the winterâ€”
MB: In the winter time, me and you are trying to catch them on the bug. And we ainâ€™t even got that inside cable in. But it would be 40-footer.
CB: Yeah, but the outside is, what, 20-foot?
MB: Twenty, yeah.
CB: You have a 20 foot cable, yeah.
TH: On the outside.
TH: So then, you keep outside line out there when youâ€™re bug fishing?
CB: Yes, because there are two of us. So youâ€™d be tangled up the whole time.
TH: Got you.
TH: All right. So letâ€™s see, soâ€”
CB: But I would tell you, Bill Farlowâ€”one time, I said, â€œBillâ€â€”because heâ€™s the best bug fisherman, right?
TH: Bug fisherman?
CB: Jerk bug. He was. And I asked him about the jerk bug. And he said, â€œYou know as much about this bug as I do, but I know when to use it. I know when to do this and when to do that. And thatâ€™s what youâ€™ve got to learn.â€ I mean, I knew about the bugs, all of that. But I didnâ€™t know when to use it to catch the fish like he did. I learned later, butâ€”
TH: Well, when do you use the bug? How do you know when to use it?
CB: When the fish will bite it. (MB and TH laugh)
CB: Youâ€™ve got to bring it. Find out where theyâ€™ll bite it.
TH: Oh, you mean on the depth.
CB: No. When you put it out, youâ€™ve got it at 50 feet, 100 feet, wherever; theyâ€™ll bite it. You could get them as short as you can.
TH: Interesting. But how do you know when theyâ€™re going bite the bug and not the paravane?
CB: Well, usually, you need clear water. When the water is real clear.
TH: Clear water works better for the bug?
CB: But me and Ronnie Baird, one time, we was out on (inaudible) just the two of us. And the water looked like the Mississippi River. And you wouldâ€™ve sworn that you ainâ€™t catching no fish on the bug there. And Iâ€™ll be damned if we didnâ€™t kill them fish on like a 120-foot jerk line in that muddy water. Who knows? But that was one time. That was only once.
TH: That doesnâ€™t happen often.
CB: No, it donâ€™t happen often.
TH: Okay. So youâ€™ve talked about the procedures, the type of fish, how to fish. And how has fishing changed? What factors have changed fishing? And how has it changed in your lifetime?
CB: I donâ€™t think itâ€™s changed much, except they fish longer behind the boat than they used to.
TH: Longer lines?
TH: How about the supply of fish?
CB: Well, itâ€™s hard to say because weâ€™re only allowed to catch so many now. Back in the â€™60s, the net boatsâ€”the state of Florida produced ten million pounds of kingfish a year. The net boats caught seven million pounds, the hook and line boats caught three million pounds. That was in the â€™60s. I donâ€™t know what theyâ€™re doing now because youâ€™reâ€”what do you call it? Youâ€™ve got theâ€”
CB: Quotas, yeah. Youâ€™re on a quota. Back then, we could just catch all we wanted to.
TH: When you started fishing, what kind of regulations wereâ€”?
CB: I didnâ€™t think there was any.
TH: I didnâ€™t either.
CB: (laughing) I donâ€™t know. If there was, I donâ€™t remember what they was.
MB: Talking about quantities of fish, and, in the wintertime, they certainly had quantities for him to use spoons the way they did. But the one thing, which should be remembered, they fished in the summertime too. And the summertime was like our summertimes. There was picky-scrappy. It wasnâ€™t like you were going to go catch 3,000 in the summertimes. So tell them the difference between seasons and quantities that you might see through that.
CB: Now, letâ€™s get this in there.
CB: Back when we were first fishing, in the â€™60s, here, most king fishermen did not fish in the summer. They, like Frankie Bragg, they did electrical work, they carpentered. But they didnâ€™t fish in the summer. There was only a few of us, like Steve and us there at Fort Pierce. There was only three or four of us that fished in the summer. And the difference inâ€”like, we got 12 cents a pound in the winter. In the summer, weâ€™d get like 24 cents.
TH: So almost double. They wereâ€”you got better paid for the fish in the summer, per pound.
MB: And tell them about how much you would catch.
CB: Weâ€™d get seven [hundred] or 800 pounds, but in the summertime. It wasnâ€™tâ€”
TH: Youâ€™d catch fewer fish, and theyâ€™d be worth more.
CB: Way fewer, way fewer than you did in the winter. Yeah.
MB: What aboutâ€”
TH: But, every day, would you get four [hundred] or 500 pounds?
CB: Yes. Well, mostly, but todayâ€”but when you didnâ€™t, then, the next day, weâ€™d go snapper fishing. You know what Iâ€™m saying? We could do anything we wanted to. We didnâ€™t have to have a license for everything. If our kingfish got sly, weâ€™d go snapper and grouper fishing.
MB: Tell him, as a sidenote, because I donâ€™t think that people appreciate this either. They would run out of Fort Pierce in the summertime. Okay, now, youâ€™ve got to remember, theyâ€™re going 15, 16 knots. And they would run up and fish off of Sebastian and run all the way back.
CB: Oh, yeah.
MB: I mean, they had buoys.
MB: If you ran across fish, you threw the buoy. I mean, these were things that took place back in those days.
TH: Instead of havingâ€”letâ€™s describe this. Instead of having, like, today, we have an environment machine. You can mark where you fished the day before, and itâ€™ll track right to that spot. Back in the day, youâ€™d throw a buoy. And sometimes, did you ever leave a buoy and try and find it the next day?
CN: Yeah. Weâ€™d just see the Clorox jug with a 100-poundâ€”or 100-foot line on it with a sash weight. And then, youâ€™dâ€”you know, we didnâ€™t have these machines that you could stay in one place. But that buoy always stayed in one place.
TH: And if you caught two or three fish on a line, youâ€™d throw the buoy, or if you had a good mark.
CB: Right. But I canâ€™t ever remember leaving a buoy. I mean, we picked it up. I didnâ€™t leave it there. The bottom fishing boat, there was a bottom fishing boat that missed Sebastian. He was on the south end of that bar. He had buoys all over that south end of the bar. He was out there every day with his party, bottom fishing.
TH: From one buoy to the next.
TH: Okay. So I guess what Iâ€™m looking for is change in fish populations and fisheries during your time on the water. I guess, what impact did the nets have on kingfish, the huge populations of kingfish?
CB: Well, back when we were, like, in the â€™60s and the â€™70s, the net boats used to fish inshore, over on the west coast. They had a run of fishâ€”
CB: Kingfish. As the fish were offshore, they kept getting deeper nets. And so, theyâ€™d come around on the east coastâ€”the kingfishâ€”
TH: And theyâ€™d run out of kingfish on the west coast right.
TH: Is that right or not?
CB: Well, they hurt them, as far as we were concerned. But then, when the fishâ€”we had, like, a pact between the net fishermen and liners [line fishermen] that they would stay inshore, and they wouldnâ€™t fish on our offshore bar. But they broke that pact, and they got nets that would fish bottom all the way on the offshore bar, in 80 foot [sic] of water. But when they did that, it killed us. I mean, that really hurt us bad. But I donâ€™t know how that happened, that they stoppedâ€”
TH: Nineteen ninety-four. Yeah, â€™94 was the net ban. Someâ€”
CB: Yeah, but the net ban wasâ€”
MB: This happened before that.
TH: I think, before that, they outlawed circle nets for kingfish.
CB: There was something here becauseâ€”I donâ€™t remember, but they stopped them. But we canâ€™t compete with nets on the same ground, the hook-and-liners. Thereâ€™s no way.
MB: As a sidenote to this, I provided data to the federal fisheries, and I was able to use his data because I had his data from the â€™60s and â€™70s.
TH: Did he keep logs?
MB: Iâ€™ve got it. Iâ€™ve got it all. I think it was 1972. I get to a year where heâ€™s caught like 40 [thousand] or 50,000 less than heâ€™d been catching. And I said to him, what happened? And this is what happened. Now, youâ€™ve got to remember, at this point, this was a Fort Pierce thing. It kind of progressed up the coast in later years. But this isâ€”
TH: When you say, â€œthis?â€
MB: When they started setting those fish, it took the hook-and-line fisherman right out of it. And the fishermenâ€”
CB: When they went to the offshore bar, that wasâ€”
MB: And that was also the starting of the laws that were passed. I canâ€™t remember what year it was. At this point, the National Marine Fisheries [Service] is not in the game until the â€™80s, Iâ€™m pretty sure. And whatever regulations they came up with, they viewed the hook-and-line fishery as the historical fishery.
TH: For kingfish?
MB: Right. In that area, in our area. And thatâ€™s where we end up having a lot of the laws come from that. You know, Iâ€™m not sure. He was there during the whole time. I was too young to really fill in the specifics, but thatâ€™s what took place.
TH: Okay. Do you think, and Iâ€™m talking to Mason now, that the huge school of fish that was targeted by theâ€”weâ€™re talking about the circle nets and the airplanesâ€”has come back?
MB: The schools to his day and age?
MB: I donâ€™t think that. And I also think that, if you take a step back, and you view everything as a whole, it is unreasonable to think they ever will. Because, environmentally, youâ€™re silly if you think that we havenâ€™t had changes in the environment to allow it to happen. You had the perfect of conditions then. And now, you have conditions that are changing, even as we speak.
TH: Youâ€™re talking about water conditions?
MB: Water conditions.
CB: Climate. I mean, so, the quantity of fish, Terry, you actually cannot come up with a reasonable number as to what we have presently. Because, letâ€™s face it: in the wintertime now, the water stays warmer farther and farther north, which is where youâ€™re going to find king mackerel in this warmer water that were historically pushed south because of the cold weather. Once you get north of Daytona, itâ€™s a completely different ocean. You can be 60 or 70 miles offshore and only be in 90 foot [sic] of water. Youâ€™re not fishing in a 30-foot boat in the wintertime out of St. Augustine or Jacksonville.
So every dynamic changes. If the fishery has changed because of the environment, every other dynamic changes, as well. Okay, so we know thereâ€™s fish up there because the bottom fishing boats catch them. Bottom fishing boats are bottom fishing boats. Theyâ€™re not kingfish boats. If a bottom fishing boat comes in with 3,000 pounds, Iâ€™m telling you, you and I would put a smack down on some kingfish. But how many people are fishing there in the wintertime to really determine what could be there or what may not be there? Do you follow my reasoning? Certainly, this area that we know, we know it, you see it, I see it. We know that youâ€™re not looking at the quantity of fish that he fished. I mean, thatâ€™s just the way it is.
CB: But, like, somebody asked Terrell Hayes that, one time, and he said, â€œThere ainâ€™t nothing as much as there used to be.â€ I mean, gold, anything you want to name it. There just ainâ€™t nothing as much as there used to be.
TH: The environment and man-made factors. What do you see as the greatest threat to sustainable fish populations today?
CB: You know, thatâ€™sâ€”thatâ€™s whatâ€”
TH: Well, if you wereâ€”and this is your opinion. What do you think isâ€”letâ€™s see. What factors are the greatest threat to, like, kingfish today?
CB: Iâ€™d say the environment or the pollution or what, you know.
TH: Water quality?
TH: Okay. And weather conditions that change. I mean, I want you to answer. I donâ€™t want to tell you the answer.
CB: Well, I donâ€™t think the weather is going to affect the fish. I mean, theyâ€™re in the ocean, but I donâ€™t think that itâ€™s cold weather or whatever. What would affectâ€”you know.
MB: Okay, now, donâ€™t confuse two different subjects. Okay, so, one would be how many fish you can catch, and weather would affect that.
CB: Oh, as far as your catching them, the weatherâ€™s going to affect me because I canâ€™t fish when itâ€™s that rough. That part of it. But I guess the weather would affect you that way, yeah.
TH: All right. Well, we didnâ€™t even touch on the drift nets, okay. And you probably didnâ€™t have that problem up here like we did in Fort Pierce.
MB: No, he wasâ€”there wereâ€”I mean, so myâ€”see, Iâ€™m onlyâ€”Iâ€™m the young buck. Iâ€™m 56. So when this is all happeningâ€”okay, when the first trouble started between the hook-and-line fisherman and net fisherman, I was only 10 [or] 12 years old, maybe even younger. And then, when the drift nets came, Iâ€™m just a teenager. So I canâ€™t really tell you the specifics, other than hearing him talk about it.
CB: Thatâ€™s right. Because the thing of it is, there was always nets, even back in the â€™60s. But they was way inshore. They didnâ€™t come off [shore]. They didnâ€™t bother us. But when they moved off onto our grounds, I mean, thatâ€™s what hurt us.
TH: Have you ever caught fish, like, say it were inâ€”? I donâ€™t know how long ago you moved up here from Fort Pierce.
CB: Nineteen seventy-six.
TH: Well, okay. I guess what Iâ€™m leading up toâ€”I know times when we caught fish at the Northeast grounds, big fish.
TH: And weâ€™d come out, and thereâ€™d be a line of net boats on their way out to where they heard we caught them, and theyâ€™d put their drift nets out. The next day, youâ€™d have to go miles out of the way to get around the drift nets, even to get back there. And when you did, there was nothing there.
CB: Right. I can understand that. But see, I was up here.
TH: You were in Sebastian. That was a Fort Pierce phenomenon.
CB: And that was in the summer?
TH: I donâ€™t even know.
CB: I canâ€™t reâ€”
TH: I think it was year-round. If we caught them, they set them.
CB: Who had all them drift nets?
TH: Well, in 1994, there wasâ€”they gotâ€”mostly, it was recreational fishermen that pushed for an amendment to the constitution to do away with net fishing in the state of Florida. And it was recreational fishermen that got tired of seeing all theseâ€”with those long drift nets, there was all kinds of bycatch. I mean, Iâ€™ve seen perfectly good sailfish, belly up, floating out in the ocean after a night of those driftnets. So theyâ€™d catch everything. But, anyway, Iâ€™m talking. I want to hear your story.
CB: Yeah, but the thing of itâ€”Iâ€™m just talking about those because Iâ€™m not remembering because I wasnâ€™t down there with you and them driftnets. But thing of it is, when they banned the nets, actually, they banned the nets in the river.
TH: I know. They got all the net fishermen. The small-net fishermen, most fishermen had nothing against that.
CB: Right. But anyway, at that same time is when then banned them driftnets, right? Okay. Because I forgot that, Iâ€™ll be honest with you.
TH: Yeah, and then there was the state waters and federal waters, and thatâ€™s a whole different ballgame. And Iâ€”what is it? Three miles out is theâ€”andâ€”
CB: Right. So, you know.
MB: There wasâ€”okay, again, Iâ€™m going to be vague. But Iâ€™ll tell you that I knowâ€”Iâ€™m 90 percent sure. I canâ€™t tell you the rulings and I canâ€™t tell you the year; they had stopped the driftnets before the net ban. And the sidenote here, though, is, the reason he wasnâ€™t around as much, when youâ€™re talking aboutâ€”and this is probably when youâ€™re starting to get into fishery. And you didnâ€™t meet him at this point because, now, king mackerel fishing for him starts to become more of a northward thing, where these fish have not been. So he going up to the Carolinas; heâ€™s staying in Daytona; heâ€™s doing these things. Heâ€™s not coming south as much.
CB: Yeah, at one period, for six years, I never left New Smyrna, to come south. I fished there all year round.
TH: You andâ€”letâ€™s see, you and Al Tyrrell?
CB: Al, yeah.
TH: And Tris Colket?
CB: Tris, yeah.
TH: Tris was going to come, wanted to come up today with me just to see you.
CB: Well, Tris, he was shark fishing out ofâ€”
TH: But before that, he king fished, right?
CB: Oh yeah. But I remember, some period of time, I learned of that years ago. As I was king fishing out on New Smyrna, he was shark fishing there.
TH: Yeah, he caught a lot. He fished there for quite a while, shark fishing.
TH: Okay, letâ€™s get on to larger commercial fishing. Corporations, they probably havenâ€™t affected you much. That would be over in the west coast [of Florida].
CB: Not yet. Not here. But it could. If they had put in these catch shares, which they did, like, in New England. After a while, there would be no more independent fishermen.
TH: Corporations would buy upâ€”
CB: Corporations own everything. And because it saysâ€”if I remember right, didnâ€™t it say in that, if it fails, if these fishermen donâ€™t catch this much fish, the corporations will take it over?
MB: I donâ€™t recall reading that. I was in the middle of all of what youâ€™re talking about. And the Environmental Defense Fund, which has nothing to do with the environment, part of their manifesto was catch shares management was a fleet reduction management system.
CB: They get rid of them.
MB: Right. So, basically, the big dog eats the little dog until thereâ€™sâ€”
CB: None of us are left.
TH: Yeah. We donâ€™t want that. (TH laughs)
CB: And itâ€™s veryâ€”just like the reason Iâ€™d first come to Florida. This was the only place left, other than maybe Alaska, that you could make a living hook-and-line fishing. With just a hook and line, like they did 1,000 years ago. Think of it. I mean, weâ€™re fishing the way we have for thousands of years.
TH: Itâ€™s a cool thing. Okay, now, letâ€™s get a little bit away from the fishery. And describe and detail major weather occurrences youâ€™ve experienced on the water, on the ocean. Storms, lightning, high winds, seas, waterspouts.
CB: (CB laughs) For one thing, I can take the wind. But what I donâ€™t like is lightning. And when Iâ€™m anchored up at night, and then lightning sprawls, I get down in the cabinet and put a blanket over my head. (CB laughs) Because I donâ€™t like that lightning. And Iâ€™ve had it striking all around the boat.
TH: Have you ever had your boat hit by lightning?
CB: No, but Iâ€™ve been near other boats that did. When we were coming in from offshoreâ€”I was king fishing atâ€”I think it was at Fort Pierce. I canâ€™t remember the guy, but lightning hit his boat.
TH: Al Tyrell?
CB: It went down through his radio and burned his radio up. And I come up. I was coming, and I come up alongside of him, and he couldnâ€™t hear because of theâ€”
TH: The thunderclap?
CB: Yeah. It was a while before he could hear again.
MB: Who was it, dad? Do you remember?
CB: Jesus, I wish I could.
MB: Was it Al orâ€”?
CB: I canâ€™tâ€”I justâ€”
TH: Moby came up on Al when he got hit by the lightning.
MB: Jack Banana or somebody like that?
CB: Somebody like that, but I just canâ€™t remember.
TH: So youâ€™re more frightened of lightning than anything else?
CB: Yep. Right. Youâ€™re absolutely right.
TH: What was the worst storm youâ€™ve ever been in?
CB: In the navy or theâ€”Iâ€™ve in aâ€”(both)
TH: No, both.
CB: â€”Iâ€™ve been in a hurricane in the navy. And that was really bad. I think that was in 1950. But, anyway, I donâ€™t know. Iâ€™ve been in some storms. But, actually, the squall is the worst, because we donâ€™t go out in storms. I mean, if thereâ€™s a storm, weâ€™re not going out. But if weâ€™re out there, and a squall comes, like when I was tile fishing, and Mason was with me, we just set the line over, and were on the line. And the squall comes out of theâ€”where was it? Out of theâ€”
CB: And it blowed [sic] so hard that the sea started breaking over the side of the boat, into the boat. And Iâ€™m sideways to it. And, as long as Iâ€™m on that line, I canâ€™t do anything. And we were just getting ready for him to cut that cable, when the wind died down because I was wanting to get around and put balance on. Because it wasâ€”if it kept going on the side like it was, weâ€™d of sunkâ€”itâ€™d sunk us.
TH: And that was one of the worst situations?
CB: Yeah. And another time, we were allâ€”actually, we wereâ€”the whole fleet, we were at Fort Pierce, off on that offshore byâ€”was it 12A or 12? 12A, wasnâ€™t it?
TH: Southeast of the inletâ€™s 12A Buoy.
CB: Yeah, 12A. Well, north of that, the whole fleet, the fish were biting like hell. And I forget, at like, twelveâ€”noon time or somethingâ€”here come this northwestern, a front. And it blowed 45 miles an hour. And so, the whole started in. But it took us likeâ€”like me, I think, over an hour because the seas were just going right into it. The seas were breaking over the bow, butâ€”
TH: You were in that storm? That was a famousâ€”thatâ€™s the one Al Tyrell was stuck all night in.
CB: Well, then it mightâ€™ve been, because it was bad â€˜til you got all the way under the land, you know.
TH: And everybody made it in?
CB: I believe so. And I canâ€™t remember anybody drowning.
TH: Okay. So, your biggest fish catch was, you said, 5,200 pounds?
CB: Thirty-two hundred.
TH: Thirty-two hundred pounds. How about your biggest fish?
CB: Fifty-four pounds.
CB: Kingfish, yeah. And I remember that. Itâ€™s been awhile back. But I caught that fish when Kenny Wen and his brotherâ€”they were with me that day.
TH: Thatâ€™s a big fish.
CB: Big fish, yeah.
TH: Did you gap him?
MB: You donâ€™t forget the big ones.
CB: Yeah. But you had to gap him, yeah.
MB: Sometimes they get bigger.
CB: Yeah. But thatâ€™s as big a fish as Iâ€™ve caught, was a 54-pound.
TH: Okay. The next question, think about this, strange occurrences youâ€™ve experienced on the water: something weird, odd lights, empty boats, rafts, rogue waves?
CB: Well, yeah, weâ€”when that Cuban thing, we always had them damn rafts and shit coming up there. The only other thing, like, at night, I was up off Jacksonville at night. And all of a sudden, these lights come on, and planes started flying over me. It was the navy who was out there, trying to send out an aircraft carrier. And they gotâ€”you know, it kind of scared you. (both laugh)
TH: Iâ€™ve heard of that out there. Steve Lowe talked about that one time.
CB: Did he? Yeah, did he tell you about that? Yeah.
TH: Okay, but any other strange occurrences youâ€™ve heard about? Ronnie Baird seeing the strange lights, you ever hear of that story?
CB: Yeah, but I donâ€™t know what to do withâ€”he wasnâ€™t drunk was he?
TH: I donâ€™t think so. I donâ€™t know. (all laugh) I donâ€™t know.
CB: I donâ€™t know, me and Ronnie used to do a lot of drinking. (CB laughs)
TH: Just any other strange occurrences you can think of?
CB: Gee, I donâ€™t know. I canâ€™t. Can you, Mason?
MB: I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ve ever had anything that heâ€™s looking for happen to me. I mean, the military exercises, we have definitely seen.
MB: When they were coming up with those Tomahawk cruise missiles, that was like, What is going on with that? And then Iâ€”
TH: What, did you see the cruise missiles come up out of the water?
MB: Well, they fly horizontally when you see them fly. We had never seen that before. It was, like, at night time, and youâ€™re watching it, you are thinking youâ€™re seeing an alien. Thereâ€™s no doubt. (all laugh)
CB. Well, yeah. Oh, I know. A kind of a scary thing is youâ€™re anchored up at night. Well, and I hear this noise, and I get up there. And thereâ€™s a ship past me, about 50 yards away. And his wheelsâ€”you couldâ€”his wheels. They wereâ€”(inaudible; whooshing sounds). I mean thatâ€™s how close he comed [sic] at me.
TH: Getting run over?
CB: Yeah. Yep, that wasâ€”that was a little scary.
TH: Those situations with those things. Okay. Finally, drug, alcohol, people-smuggling stories?
CB: Well, nowâ€”yeah, we used toâ€”the whole fleet, we was running out of Sebastian, and got there [and] thereâ€™s all this hereâ€”
CB: â€”bails. And, Gene Hayes, he stopped, and he pulled this bail apart, and he calls the Coast Guard. Well, he was there all day. The Coast Guard had him tied up. He missed a whole dayâ€™s fishing. So, after that, we never called the Coast Guard no more. (CB laughs) Weâ€™d just let it go.
TH: Kept on going?
CB: Yeah. But that happened to me when I was kid, in the â€™40s, on that boat up at Manasquan. Well, the Germans were shootâ€”sinking our ships, our freighters. And we would run across bodies, you know. And the first time weâ€™d done that, the Coast Guard, or whoever was in charge, put a radio on all of our boats. That, if weâ€™d seen a sub or something, we could call. But we couldnâ€™t break radio silence other than that. So, we come across this body floating in this oil. There used to be oil everywhere from the sunken ships. And so, theâ€”we got aâ€”it was calm, and we alongside this, and I grabbed his arm, and, just, his skin come right apart.
And so, anyway, we called the Coast Guard, or Buzzy did. But we didnâ€™t put the body in theâ€”hell, you couldnâ€™t get it in there without tearing it up. Anyway, we waited there, for two or three hours, for the Coast Guard to come, and they got him. But after that, when weâ€™d seen a body, we never called the Coast Guard. We just kept going.
TH: Did you ever see any live people or did youâ€”
CB: No live. All dead. Yep.
TH: That was from the Germans, before we got into World War II, pretty much?
CB: It was in ourâ€”like, â€™43. No, we were in the war.
TH: Oh, okay.
CB: Yeah, but they were shooting. They were sinking the hell out of our tankers. I think, God, the first two years, I think, they sank like 4,500 ships, tankers, and stuff. We out-built them. We was building them faster than they could sink them.
MB: Terry, I mean, this is a somber subject, but to change it. One of the things we were talking about earlier, and I think this very interesting. When heâ€™s fishing in the early yearsâ€”down there, you were talking about inlets, inlet stories. And one of them is pretty humorous, going to Sebastian. But the other thing is a lot people donâ€™t know that a lot of these inlets did not have rocks. They were passes and were very, very dangerous. And he might want toâ€”maybe you might want to ask him about some of those things.
CB: Oh yeah, going out the inlet, especially Jupiter. And Boynton is a drain, just a drainage ditch. But Jupiter, Iâ€™d come in there, I was coming in from fishing, and there was a ground sea on it, and itâ€™s breaking bad in Jupiter Inlet. Well, a boat went in ahead of me but their spray isâ€”anyway, I come across the bar, and I get in there. And I pass this guy, which, he was in the water, but I didnâ€™t see him. It was him, and there was two of them on this boat, I guess, and he sunk in the sea. And his fatherâ€”
TH: Right at the inlet.
CB: Right there in that surf. His father had a heart attack and died in his arms. And so, I didnâ€™tâ€”I didnâ€™t see them on the way by, anyway. And people on the rock pile were waving and hollering, and I turned around inside, where there ainâ€™t no surf there. And I look back, and I went back, and I picked him up. But his father was dead. And Iâ€™ll never forget the guy. I canâ€™t remember; I donâ€™t even remember his name. But he said, â€œWhy didnâ€™t you stop?â€ Hell, I couldnâ€™t stop coming through that surf.
CB: If Iâ€™d seen him, I couldnâ€™t have stopped. But I was thinking myself.
MB: Tell him about the different inlets. I mean, there was no jetties up in Daytona. There was noâ€”
CB: No, no. In the inlet in [Daytona], shrimp boats used to sink up there in that inlet.
TH: Would it be like sandbars that drifted or changed?
CB: Every time you went out, if the channel was out here, when youâ€™d come back in, it would be in a different place. And the buoy would be up here on (inaudible; laughing) the channel buoy, you know. And that was a bad inlet.
TH: Which inlet was that?
CB: New Smyrna.
MB: What about Port of St. Lucie? Salerno [is] closer to his own.
TH: Thatâ€™d be St. Lucie Inlet?
CB: Well, that was a bad inlet, too. But I donâ€™t think itâ€™s as bad as Jupiter.
MB: Right. I think that you guys got in arguments all the time about which was the worst, right?
CB: Yeah, we used to do that when we was drinking too much. You know, you remember when you drank too much? (CB laughs)
TH: Still remember. (all laugh) But the Jupiter inlet has a sand bar thatâ€™s right in the mouth of it from time to time.
TH: And I remember, one time, I fished down there, and we had to come up the beach and cut in.
CB: Right. Yep. Because thatâ€™s happened. Thatâ€™s because it changes.
TH: Because it changes, yeah.
CB: I remember, like, one time Iâ€™d come across that bar in Jupiter, and, when it let me down, I hit bottom. But I drug on in; it didnâ€™t really hurt anything.
TH: A lot of boats, thatâ€™ll do them in.
CB: Yeah. Another time going out, though, that was with the Chantry, there was a swell on. And swell ons, about every third one, you watch for a break. And I was sitting there and waiting and waiting. It looked like I had a break, and I took off. Man, one caught me, and it busted the window out of my cabin, and I was knee-deep in water. But I got through.
MB: All to make a dayâ€™s pay.
CB: Yeah. (TH laughs) And I went on down and went fishing that day, but the thing of it is, it wasâ€”there was a guy standing on a bank there, when that happened to me. And he said, he thought I was goingâ€”the boat went up like thisâ€”he thought I was going to go backwards, flip backwards.
TH: Flip over backwards.
TH: That was the Fort Pierce Inlet?
CB: That was Jupiter.
TH: Jupiter Inlet?
MB: Terry, as a sidenote, growing up, I fished with him any chance that I got because I loved it. And I would fall asleep in the bunk in that Chantry, and I can tell you what itâ€™s like to get tossed out of the rack when heâ€™s underway. But we loved it, so we spent a lot of time together.
CB: Yeah, he was living when he could just see (inaudible). But you know Kenny Griffin?
TH: Iâ€™ve heard a lot about him. He was the one that Alâ€”no, that Steve Lowe was competing with, one day, to see who could catch the most in one day.
CB: Right. Yeah, and Steve beat him by 100 pounds I think.
TH: It was like 5,000 pounds or something.
CB: Four thousand [or] 4,100. And that was up at New Smyrna. We was fishing during the wintertime, and Charlie Lowe was picking the fish up.
TH: Ah, Steve told me it was out at Fort Pierce.
CB: No, it wasnâ€™t. The time I was remembering was at Daytona.
TH: What wasâ€”? And they were going to see whoâ€™s the best fisherman, and theyâ€”?
CB: The whole fleet was catching fish, butâ€”
TH: They wanted to see which oneâ€”?
CB: Back when there was plenty of fish, we used to say, â€œAll good fishermen quit at two oâ€™clock.â€ Weâ€™d leave the fish biting, then you go in with plenty of fish. But, Kenny Griffin wasâ€”he didnâ€™t do that. He would always stay â€˜til dark or damn near dark. And so, the guys were arguing who could catch the most fish. Well, they hadâ€”so, Steve hadâ€”he went this day; he stayed with him, and they both came in late. But thatâ€™s what they had, and he beat him by 100 pounds. Now, thatâ€™s what I remember.
TH: Okay. (MB laughs) Itâ€™s close enough.
CB: Yeah. And Ray Lowe, he wasâ€”heâ€™s still aliveâ€”heâ€™s Steveâ€™s brother. He packed the fish in the fish house.
TH: Heâ€™s aâ€”what is he? Pompano fishing now, in the river?
CB: But you know, there was a guy, Iâ€™d just like to know how many millions of pounds that guy has packed of kingfish?
TH: I should probably go interview him. Heâ€™s not a king fisherman, but heâ€™s probablyâ€”
CB: No, but he couldâ€”Iâ€™ll guarantee you. There was him and a guy named Walter, a kid of screwy guy (MB laughs) and worked in the fish house, right? Well, we had days that they unloaded 20,000 pounds of kingfish and thatâ€”
TH: They had to weigh them up and pack them.
CB: We unloaded on a scale. The scale went up intoâ€”I mean, on a conveyer. And it went up into a scale, and theyâ€™d write them down and dump them in vats. And with that full, theyâ€™d put them in the cooler. And then, that night, or early the next morning, they would pack them in boxes. But, Jimmy Bussey, here at the cape, he must have six or seven guys working on that fish house. And Iâ€™ll guarantee you Ray Lowe and Walter could pack more fish in less time than all of them six guys. (MB laughs) I mean, honest.
MB: He would probably say that to Jimâ€™s face, just soâ€”
CB: I did tell him that. (TH laughs) I told him that. I said, â€œYouâ€”â€ No, because the way they unload. If a boat unloads on the conveyer, and it goes into a scale, and then a vat, then bam. Itâ€™s done. But it ainâ€™t easy at Jimâ€™s. Youâ€™re unloadingâ€”what are you unloading to a thing on the dock? (MB and TH laugh) And all this bullshit, you know.
TH: Well, things have changed.
CB: I told him that.
MB: Yeah. Oh, you speak your mind. There ainâ€™t no doubt.
TH: Now, tell me, any humorous stories? You saidâ€”you know, that you could think of, offhand?
MB: Tell himâ€”youâ€™ve got it. Tell him about when theyâ€”what was the guyâ€™s name that ran in and out the inlet, and then busted hisâ€”?
CB: That was Harold Covar. Now this wasâ€”where was this?
CB: Sebastian, yeah. It was a ground sea on. And so, Haroldâ€”do you rememberâ€”you remember Harold Covar? Youâ€™ve heard of him?
TH: Iâ€™ve heard of his name. Iâ€™ve heard his name.
CB: But he had aâ€”his boatâ€”it wasnâ€™t big. But he was king fisherman way back in the â€™60s. And, in fact, one day, when we were down and fishing off of Jupiter, he fell overboard. And the boat was in a circle. But the boat wasâ€”the valve wasnâ€™t high on it. And when the boat come around, he got a hold somehow and got back in the boat.
TH: He got a hold of the bow?
CB: Yeah. The boatâ€™s just trolling. Yes he did, and he got back in that boat. But up here at the inlet, he comes in from offshore, and there are five or six boats waiting at the inlet for the tide to change.
TH: This is Sebastian?
CB: Itâ€™s Sebastian. And soâ€”
TH: Now, the tide was going out, and it was really nasty, so they wanted to wait untilâ€”(both talk; inaudible)
CB: Right. Got a little nasty so theyâ€™re waiting for it to change.
TH: To go in? Butâ€”
CB: And so, he comes in. He said, â€œThis is how you do it.â€ And he ran in, he comes back out, and runs back in again. And one time, he got his window busted out, but, he said, â€œThis is how you do it.â€ (CB and MB laugh) And then the guys are out there waiting in bigger boats, way bigger boats, than his.
MB: Oh, golly.
CB: He finally died of cancer.
TH: His name was? Say it again.
CB: Harold Covar.
CB: K-o-b-a-r [sic]. And he was a good friend with Bill Farlow and Tony Stormont. He was with them all the time andâ€”
TH: Iâ€™ve heard his name. His name is probably in one of my first books.
CB: Right. Oh, Harold. He was something else. And he had a pickup truck with a, just, a thing on it, and thatâ€™s it. When he coming up to Fort Pierce, he slept in that truck.
TH: Topper. Well, is there anything else youâ€™d like to add about your life as a fisherman?
CB: Well, fishing is something that youâ€™ve got to love to do it, or wouldnâ€™t do it. (CB laughs) When you think about it, with all you go through, itâ€™s feast or famine. And I had a wife that was great because she never complained, whether we had plenty or had a little bit. It was justâ€”thatâ€™s the way life was. But we was all happy, wasnâ€™t we, Mason?
MB: Yes, we were.
CB: Yeah, absolutely.
TH: So you wouldnâ€™t trade it?
CB: No, I wouldnâ€™t have done no different. No. No, I wasâ€”I did my own thing.