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subfield code a F70-000052 USFLDC DOI0 245 James A. Reeves, II. 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 Reeves, James A., II.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/?f70.5
xml version 1.0 encoding UTF-8 transcript
text Terry Lee Howard (TH): My nameâ€™s Terry Howard. Today is October the 12th, 2018, weâ€™re at 473 Chamberlain Boulevard. Iâ€™m here today with Captain Jimmy Allen Reevesâ€”Jimmy Reeves. James Allen Reeseâ€”Reeves. Excuse me. R-e-e-v-e-s. And to begin with, Jimmy, do I have your permission to use this interview for publication, as in books, articles, et cetera.
James Reeves (JR): Yes.
TH: Do I have your permission to archive this interview at the University of South Florida Tampa Library Digital Archives?
TH: Okay. Would you please state your full name, and where and when you were born?
JR: James Allen Reeves II, at Fort Pierce, Florida, at February the NMCheck combo guide6th, 1966.
TH: Okay, Jimmy. And please give me a brief biography of yourself and include your first experience boating, fishing, andâ€”fishing, and commercial or charter fishing. So, from the beginning, when you first started fishing in the rivers, ponds, whatever.
JR: Yeah. A canal southwest of town (both talk)â€”where I grew up.
TH: Where did you grow up?
JR: I born and raised in Fort Pierce, and I was introduced to the whole fishing lifestyle by my father, and my grandfathers, and my uncles. And I grew up west of town inâ€”the first fishing that I remember doing was when I was a real small kid fishing for bass, and bream, and catfish. And then the Indian River, of course, and a lagoon hereâ€”for trout, redfish, snook, grouper snapper. Just about everything. And my whole family somehow pretty much seemed to be involved with fishing at one time or another throughout my life. And I just kind of grew into it, and I loved it.
TH: Now, the canalâ€™s west of town?
TH: And any lakes?
JR: Yeah. Ponds and reservoirs out west of town, in the groves. And in the ranches and stuff, farm ponds.
TH: Bass orâ€”?
JR: Bass, bream.
JR: In fact, weâ€™ve caught snook in Tarpon, in its canals.
TH: Oh yes?
JR: At Header Canalâ€”out where I live now. That canal you rode along, when you came up to see me yesterday? Weâ€™ve caught two, snook and NMChanged from snook in Tarpontarpon, in that canal there.
TH: Is that brackish water?
JR: No, freshwater.
TH: Just totally freshwater?
JR: I donâ€™t know why or how they get upâ€”they must get up through the St. Lucie River into lots. But it was recently we were catching that. You know, over the last five years, me and Christopher went out thereâ€”Bethâ€™s sonâ€”and we caught them.
TH: Huh. Beth is your wife?
TH: Okay. So, then, the Indian River Lagoon, did you have boat over here?
JR: Oh yeah. Weâ€”my grandfather always seemed to have boats over the city marina. Mainly recreational boats.
TH: Describe the recreational boats.
JR: Hmm. Sport fishing/ cruisers, like, big Chris-Crafts andâ€”I canâ€™t think ofâ€”Richardsonâ€™s.
TH: Okay. Wooden, lapstrake?
JR: Wooden I remember. He had a wooden lapstrake boat that sank at that dock because a torpedo wormNMFootnote added put a whole in the bottom.
TH: Whatâ€™s a torpedo worm.
JR: Torpedo worm is, itâ€™s kind of like an inverted barnacle, if you can imagine. (TH laughs) And they go in and they screw themselves in the wood. Just like a drill bit. They look like an auger bit.
TH: Huh. Iâ€™ve never heard of them.
JR: (both talk) Iâ€™m sure youâ€™ll see them whenâ€”say ifâ€”anybody whoâ€™s a wooden keel on their boats now, which there are still boats running around.
TH: I have one.
JR: You donâ€™t have holes in your keel?
TH: Uh-uh. I have a piece of tar paper down the bottom.
JR: That keeps them out. But if you get a worm in it, you take a little one of those little propane torches and acetone, you squirt acetone in the hole, and you take the little torch and heat him up until you hear him sizzle and pop. (JR makes popping sound; TH laughs)
TH: Holy cow.
JR: Now, Al Tyrrell and them guys, they also came up with a sprayâ€”wasp and hornet spray on their keel. And they claimed the worms climbed outâ€”crawled out. (TH laughs) But I dug them out and actually studied the shells. Itâ€™s pretty interesting that a little creature like that can survive in such conditions.
TH: And then say the name again.
JR: What? A torpedo worm?
TH: Torpedo worm.
JR: Thatâ€™s what theyâ€”Iâ€™m sure thereâ€™s a different name for them, but thatâ€™s what everybody around here called them. I remember torpedo worms.
TH: Okay. So, you NMFinished to fishedfished on yourâ€”did your grandfather take out in the ocean?
JR: Yeah. Weâ€™d go out, and weâ€™d Spanish mackerel fish. Not commercial. Heâ€™dâ€”
JR: Yeah, troll, and then with jigs and spoons and stuff. And heâ€™d smoke them at home. It was a big deal.
TH: Heâ€™d get onâ€”on their big mackerel runs.
JR: Anytime he went out the inlet, it seemed like when he took me, we didâ€”never had a bad day.
TH: So this was the 1960s-70s?
JR: Nineteen seventies, I would say.
JR: I was born in â€™66, and when I was doing it with him I was probablyâ€”God, I guess maybe 9-10 years old.
TH: Thatâ€™s pretty cool. And youâ€”so, you fished with him for how long? And with your father?
JR: Oh yeah.
TH: Did your father have a commercial boat?
TH: When did he get a commercial boat?
JR: Um. Probably when I was in the ninth grade. I was probably aboutâ€”I donâ€™tâ€”even before that, I guess. In grade school I rememberâ€“â€“ heâ€™d always had commercial fishing boats throughout my life, on and off.
TH: Fromâ€”in Fort Pierce?
JR: In Fort Pierce.
TH: And was he a troll boat always?
JR: Yeah, mostly troll boat. But he did do a little bottom fishing. I remember going bottom fishing on boats. Even when my uncles were involved with. And we caught snapper and grouper and stuff.
TH: This is all hook and line?
JR: Yeah, hook and line. And I fished with Billy Minuet(??), he was into bottom fishing pretty big time, and his step dad, Bobby Fifer. I was docked over at their dockingâ€”inlet, when I was young. When I was in high school. And Iâ€™d go bottom fishing with those guys.
TH: Did you have your own boat when you were in high school?
TH: A commercial boat?
JR: Yeah. Yeah. When I was aâ€”about a junior in high school, I had a 24 [foot] Stapleton to playboy. Remember, I bought it from Eddie Black.
TH: I remember the playboyâ€”
JR: After it blew up at the fuel dock.
TH: So, tell me, this is a 24 foot Stapleton with a gasoline engine, and it belonged toâ€”
JR: Eddie Black. But I think it belonged toâ€”I want to sayâ€”I canâ€™t remember the guyâ€™s name. It wasnâ€™t Sherwin Marot. I donâ€™t think.
TH: Well, did Wild Bill buy that boat later?
JR: No. Wild Bill had a 24 foot Stapleton, too, that he sold toâ€”I donâ€™t know who Bill bought his boat from. But he sold that 24 foot Stapleton to AJ Brown. No, AJ Brown was fishing that boat for him.
JR: And then I donâ€™t know who Wild Bill ever sold that boat to. But I sold my 24 foot Stapleton to AJâ€”the one he infamously hit the Jetty with.
TH: He ran into the Jetty?
TH: So, you, in high school, in ninth grade, you had your own commercial fishing boat?
TH: Cool. And you had a gasâ€”what was the engine? How was the power?
JR: Uh, 318 Chrysler. It came with a 318 Chrysler, and thenâ€”
TH: Was it raw water cooled?
JR: Um, you know, I think the first motor was.
TH: Thatâ€™s the same one I had on my boat.
JR: Yeah, a 3â€”probably. It was probably the sister ship to your boat.
TH: A 318 Chrysler.
JR: But I upgraded it to a 36â€”I bought a new motor for it, for, like, $4500. And I put a brand-new gas motor in it.
TH: Probably ran pretty good. (TH laughs)
JR: Took it to the Bahamas.
TH: Oh, really.
TH: What age? Whenâ€”
JR: Well, this was in 1985, when I met my first wife. We were going out and we decided just to make a little skip over to the Bahamas, and we ended up staying there for about two months on my kingfish boat.
TH: Two months?
TH: Do you have pictures of that?
JR: Um, yeah. I do have pictures of someâ€”yep, I did take photographs. And my ma had them blown up.
TH: I would like to have one or two of those.
TH: Thatâ€™sâ€”thatâ€™s NMWeird format issuesfun. Thatâ€™s like a dream trip.
JR: Yeah, Iâ€™ll have to look for them.
TH: Okay. So, you started off with a 24 foot Stapleton, thatâ€”
JR: Actually, I started off with aâ€”probablyâ€”fishing boats, I started off with like a 22 foot outboard boat, called a Fiber Craft. I forgot about that. A light blue lapstrake fiberglass boat, with a 140 Johnson outboard on it.
TH: And you commercial fished that?
JR: Commercial fished it. Actually, me and my dad commercial fished that boat, then he had aâ€”then he got a 26 [foot] Stapleton from my uncle inâ€”
TH: From your uncle orâ€”
JR: I just took over the 22 [foot] as my own. He just kind of gave me my own boatâ€”my dad did.
TH: The outboard?
JR: A 22 [foot] outboard.
JR: Then he took the 26 [foot], then I bought the 24 [foot], then I ended up with a 26 [foot]
TH: Stapletons are made in Miami.
JR: Um. I think they still build them.
TH: Do they?
TH: Okay. Itâ€™s a popular commercial boat for this area. A lot of people had them.
TH: So, you have some other talents. Do youâ€”what land jobs have you done?
JR: Property management, community association managing for US where you manage a small community, so to speak. Like aâ€”
JR: Condominiums, NMTypohomeownersâ€™ associations, that sort of thing.
TH: But, mostly, youâ€™ve always been a king fisherman?
JR: Yeah. NMDecided to keep in yep for â€œflavorâ€Yep.
TH: Okay. And so, describe why and when you moved to Florida? You were born NMAdded the word herehere?
TH: What type of fish do you target mostly.
JR: Mainly king mackerel.
TH: And how about mackerelâ€”Spanish mackerel?
JR: Spanish, kingâ€”Spanishâ€”king and, king and Spanish mackerel.
TH: Okay. And you donâ€™t do much bottom fishing anymore?
TH: Okay. Bycatch? What kind of bycatch do you have as a kingfishâ€”
JR: Once in a while, if Iâ€™m lucky, Iâ€™ll snag a grouper or a cobia, dolphin, wahoo. The only bycatchâ€”I wouldnâ€™t say any of that is bycatch because none of us actually throw back. Itâ€™s actually salable fish. Only fish we really return alive are sailfish, which are rare to catch.
TH: Okay. And then, of course, thereâ€™s bonita and barracuda. Where do you mostly fish? Here?
JR: Yeah, right out here in the Atlantic, between Cape Canaveral and Palm Beach.
TH: Okay. Now, you used to travel more.
TH: You donâ€™t travel much anymore.
TH: Describe the procedure and method involved with the type of fishing you do, and describe it as though youâ€™re describing it to someone that has no idea how to king fish.
JR: Okay. The way we fishâ€”commercial king mackerel fishing, the troll fishery, isâ€”youâ€™ve got toâ€”in my boat anywayâ€”I got three lines. Two hand lines on out-rivers. You fish a NMPlanar not planerplanar on each one, to take it down to a desired depth. Of course, youâ€™ve got to figure in the angles. Your paravane cable runs into the waterâ€”your planar cable rather, and then youâ€™ve got an electric reel.
TH: Now, for your cablesâ€”I mean, describeâ€”the cable is what is hooked to the paravaneâ€”
JR: Itâ€™s NMOdd formattingactuallyâ€”
TH: â€”and the NMMissing space insertedplanar.
JR: Aligned to planar. And off the back of the planar runs your liter, I call it. And itâ€™sâ€”with the heavy duties, bobbins, snaps, swivel. You fish anywhere from 60 to 100 feet behind that planar, with your bait or your spoon or whatever youâ€™re going to put on there.
TH: And you used to useâ€”do you still use wire?
JR: No, Iâ€™ve pretty much gone to mono[NMMinnow to monofilament]. But occasionally, Iâ€™ll dabble with wire again. You know, I NMInaudible to fishfish wire on my boat line, which is an electric reel on the center, but youâ€™ve got three lines.
TH: The electric reel, and then two outlands?
JR: Electric reel and two outriggers.
TH: Two outriggers.
JR: And, actually, when the fish are biting, and in particular, when Iâ€™m fishing by myself and I donâ€™t have anybody out fishing with me or helping me, Iâ€™ll have two lines. One outrigger and Â NMInserted mymy bowline.
JR: And I find itâ€™s just more efficient and faster, rather than dealing with three lines just to fish for two, when the fish are actually biting and youâ€™re alone.
TH: How has fishing changed during your time on the water? NMChanged from specialEspecially fishing methods? And also, before we get into that, describe the bait you use.
JR: Before that? Okay, before the methods, the baits. Years ago, when we were allowed to use the gill nets, in a lagoon, we fished with menhaden NMDelete andpogies. And now, we fish with mostlyâ€”as far as natural bait goes, we fish with aâ€”with mullet. Silver mullet are the preferred bait, unless youâ€™re lucky enough to be able to cast net the pogies andâ€”yeah, mostly silver mullet and bonita.
TH: And when you donâ€™t have bait?
JR: Weâ€™ll fish with spoons and aâ€”we call it a bear NMDelete ??bug, which just is a hook with nylon hair tied in it, and you jerk it. I guess itâ€™s supposed to mimic a shrimp or a squid in the waterâ€”a small bait fish.
TH: How has fishing changed during your time in the water? What changes have you seen?
JR: Hmm. Most changes that has affected us, has been the fish house. The fish house that I sell to, now NMTheir/theyâ€™retheyâ€™re inland so we no longer have the commeans [sic] of selling our fish from dock. We actually have to have them meet us down at the dock. But itâ€™s a minor inconvenience, but nothing major. Changes? God, I canâ€™t think of any dramatic changes offhand, you know, other than guys are travelling more nowâ€”the younger guys. But back in the day, when I was young, you know, I was more prone to travel too.
TH: By travelling, you mean if the fish are biting into Cape Canaveral?
TH: You go to Cape Canaveral and their biting.
JR: Exacâ€”you know, you go toward theirâ€”seems to be the most fish.
TH: And how do you find out about that?
JR: Just throughâ€”weâ€™re usually word of mouth. Friends calling friends.
TH: Other fishermen up on the other coast?
JR: Other fishermen.
TH: Now, how about the fish populations? Have you noticed changes in fish populations or fisheries during your time on the water?
JR: Um, yeah, Iâ€™ve noticed fluctuations, but itâ€™s hard to attribute what theirâ€”what actually causes them. I think water temperature, it has a lot to do with it. But, yeah, it has highs and low.
TH: The nets were outlawed in Florida, in what? 1994?
JR: I got into fishing right at the end ofâ€”it seemed like the fish were in trouble. And it was right at the end of the heyday for the roller-NMChanged from roll or rigrig net boats with the runaround nets. And Iâ€”thatâ€™s when I was first really getting involved in commercial king fishing.
TH: And so, did they affect the population of fish?
TH: I mean, did you notice, going out with your father and grandfather?
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah.
TH: For the nets, were the population of fish and the schoolsâ€”
JR: There seemed to be more fish back then, when I was kid going out with grandfather. Particularly, the Spanish mackerel. God, it just seemed like you could, you know, walk on Spanish mackerel from the North Jetty to Vero. And birds and boats, and, you know, you had a whole fleet of small net boats. And itâ€”I mean, it wasâ€”yeah, there were more fish back then, you know, when my grandfather was alive, I would say.
TH: Okay. Way back, and I guess it would be the â€™50s and â€™60sâ€”late â€™50s and early 1960s, Roger Farlow told of leaving the Fort Pierce Inlet and trolling in a straight line, and then turning around and trolling back, and having well over a thousand pounds or couple thousand pounds of fish.
JR: I have stories like that, yeah.
TH: Youâ€™ve heard stories?
JR: From old timers, yeah.
TH: Have you ever experienced any fishing like that?
JR: Um, no. (JR laughs) Nothing like that.
TH: I talked to Flash yesterday, and he said he doesnâ€™t remember anything like that. But they do remember putting their boats in circles. Billy Baird said you could put your boat in a circle and not even stay in one spot, just drift with the tide and it would stay black on your recorder the whole time.
JR: Iâ€™ve seen that a few times here, but nothing really dramatic, you know.
JR: You could get on a wad of fish and let it go with the tide. And I donâ€™t know whether itâ€™s the fish staying under your boat, and following you or you just happenstanceâ€”drifting along with the fish as they move.
TH: Interesting. So, what specific causes for changes in the fish, to go, you know, back to that? Do youâ€”what environmental causes have you seen? You mentioned water temperature.
JR: Yeah, you know, the thing that I would most concerned about as far someâ€”an environmental factor that you canâ€™t reallyâ€”I donâ€™t think we could solve easily, is that global warming and the, you know, ocean acidification and stuff like that. I mean, itâ€™s relatively easy for them to control overfishing.
JR: I mean, you saidâ€” (both talk)
TH: Whoâ€™s they?
JR: National Marine Fisheries Service and NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] and the government.
TH: Are they doing a fairlyâ€”
JR: I would say so, you know. They seem to be trying hard.
JR: Iâ€™ve gone to several of the meetings, and yeah.
TH: Now, they talked yesterday about movement to give everybody catch limitsâ€”specific individual.
TH: IFQs? And theâ€”most king fishermen are against that becauseâ€”why would that be?
JR: I would say itâ€™s the fairness of the situation, whereâ€”how are you going to divvy up the pie, so to speak.
TH: NMChanged footnote font to Times New Roman 10Okay.
JR: And whoâ€™s going to get what? And whoâ€™s going to qualify? Iâ€™m just afraid it would create a big mess.
TH: Mason mentioned thatâ€”I spoke with him yesterdayâ€”that, that would bring in more corporations. Buying up theâ€”can you explain that? And it does seem that in the Gulf of Mexicoâ€”(both talk)
JR: Um. The way I see it is, itâ€™s no longer going to be the best fishermen catching the fish. Itâ€™s going to be the fishermen who put the most money out, who are going to be allowed to catch the fish. Itâ€™s basicallyâ€”sounds to me like privatization of a public resource.
TH: Can you be more specific, so somebody that doesnâ€™t knowâ€”
JR: You actuallyâ€”an IFQâ€”youâ€™re allotted a portion of the quota to fish yourself.
TH: And on EEZ?
JR: Well, thatâ€™s the Exclusive Economic Zone or whatever. Thatâ€™s called aâ€”they called that L-A-P. LAP programsâ€”IFQ. Catch shares is the newest thing. But the thing it does, it actually gives one guy a right to catch more than another guy. And despite the fact we probably invested in these permits that are all worth the same now. So, I mean, you getting hit with worthless permits. Actually, one guy can consolidate, you know, the quota, just like youâ€™ve mentioned. You know, a corporation could come in.
TH: And buy the biggestâ€”
TH: â€”licenses that have the biggest quotaâ€”biggest share of quota.
JR: NMChanged footnote font to Times New Roman 10Yeah.
TH: So, basically, the way they would set it up is the fishermen who have the largest catch history would get the largest part of the quota, and the ones with the smaller catch history would get a much smaller chunk of the quota for the EEZ.
JR: How do you determine catch history?
TH: Yeah. I donâ€™t know.
JR: You know, thatâ€™s the thing. If somebody whoâ€™s fished for 50 years and hasnâ€™t caught very much in the last 10 years, because of their age and such, you know, how are they going to go about divvying up the quota? That was one of my questions I had. And nobody really had any answers. I know it didnâ€™t sound like all a bed of rosesâ€”speaking NMChanged from ofto other fishermen who were involved in it.
TH: So, as it stands now, at least in our EEZ, which isâ€”
JR: The way weâ€™re fishing now, I think, is the way to go. Weâ€™re on a 50 fish limit now.
TH: In theâ€”(both talk)
JR: Evenâ€”thereâ€™s talk of raising it up to, you know, a thousand pounds. Iâ€™ve heard a rumor of that, which would be fine. A thousand-pound trip limit a day for here. But the 50 head has served us up to this point pretty well, I think.
TH: Okay, I do too.
JR: I mean, it maintains the prices of fish.
TH: Okay. Fishing methods during our time on the water in general? Have they changed much since you first started?
JR: No, not really.
TH: Yeah, thatâ€™s what we were talking about yesterday.
JR: Not really. We refined a little bit here and there with the tackle. And there are differentâ€”
TH: Basically, the same?
JR: Basically, itâ€™s the same. I mean, itâ€™s the same asâ€“â€“ in fact, some of the tackle you buy now isnâ€™t the same, and itâ€™s disappointing. You remember, it would use to be better back when you first started fishing.
TH: Okay. Okay, weâ€™re getting to NMAdded tothe fun stuff then. Methods? Weâ€™ve covered methods. And changes? Commercial fishing corporations, have they affected our fishing here or your fishing?
JR: No, not inâ€”NMDelete space after em dash and delete ??our mackerel fishery on the East Coast? No. Yeah.
TH: Okay. Discuss, describe, detail major weather occurrences youâ€™ve experienced on the water. Storms, lightning, high winds, seas, water spouts? Or maybe you were on the water when somebody else was hit by lightning or something.
JR: I was out there when Tommy McHale had his canopy ripped off at the sea buoy by a water spout.
TH: That was right at the sea buoy?
JR: Yeah, just off of the sea buoy. Probably less than a mile.
TH: Can you describe that?
JR: His story was, when he got in, his canopy which is, is like a shell on the back of your boat. A top on the back of your boat as sunshade, but his was heavy plywood. The twister hit him, or the waterspout, NMChanged and to hadhad actually NMDelete sic. Had run is correct grammar.run the canopy off and caused it to fall down in his boat, which causes electric reels to turn on. Two big Bombay motors operated as electric reels, and they turned on easilyâ€”(both talk)
TH: They used World War II NMIncorrect footnote was here. Bombay Clipper was a type/brand of boat in the 70s and 80sBombay (both talk)
JR: Yes. And it absolutelyâ€”he said it was unbelievable what was going on on the boat. Complete pandemonium. He said he thought he was a goner. And yeah, Iâ€™ve been through, you know, storms where it blew 30 or 40 knots and we had the lightning strikes and theâ€”struck just galesâ€”summertime.
JR: And, you know, once in a while up north, when you get hit by or when a front comes down and you kind of figure it wrong, the weather, and you end up stuck in it.
JR: The weather forecasting is much better now, it seems like, then it was when I first started fishing.
TH: Well, describe, like, the worst seas youâ€™ve been in.
JR: King fishing? I guess, four to six foot, whitecap-NMWhitecaps are the sea foam on cresting wavesy, you know, nasty stuff. And I sword fished years ago, too. And God, the worst seas Iâ€™ve ever actually been in was in the Gulf Stream, probably at 14 to 18 foot seas. And that was long line fishing for swordfish or running a sport fish boat over there. I would say, out in the Gulf Stream, with an opposing wind and it filled the seas to probably to 8 to 10 feet.
TH: Did you ever have engine problems during any of those?
JR: No, Iâ€™ve had scares. But nothing major that I couldnâ€™t deâ€“â€“NMDeleted space herehandle, you know, on spot.
JR: But I doâ€”you know, Iâ€™ve heard of people. Tommy Faygo, he ran out of fuel and I had to turn around and go tow him in from the area where we were fishing NMChanged from inaudiblenorth of 12[buoy]. And he had threeâ€”there were three waterspouts just offshore of him, I mean, perfectâ€”it looked like blue pipes coming out of the sky. Like a dark black, blue pipe behind his boat. I wish I a videoâ€”and I was going towards him to get him, and weâ€”I towed him in the fuel NMAdded dockdockâ€”he had run out of fuel.
TH: Oh, my goodness.
JR: It was an exciting day. But we didnâ€™t actuallyâ€”you know, we saw that and all we didâ€”Iâ€™d get a little bit of wind out of it, but we were far enough away to not really be affected.
TH: Hm. Waterspoutsâ€”youâ€™ve been close to waterspoutsâ€”
TH: â€”high winds, lightning. You ever been hit by lightning? Struck by lightning?
JR: No, Iâ€™ve been very fortunate. Itâ€™s come close, you know, where it sounds like it boomed off of the water right near the boat. But Iâ€™ve never actually had struck where I took any damage or anything.
TH: And the strike and the boom comes at the same time? (TH laughs)
JR: Um-hm. Yeah.
TH: Okay, discuss the biggest fish youâ€™ve ever caught?
JR: Biggest kingfish?
TH: Any fish.
JR: Any fish? The biggest oneâ€”
TH: Or kingfish too.
JR: Probably kingfish. I caught several in the 40â€”in the 40 pounds. You know, the biggest fish I actually caught was probably, you know, marlin or a tuna fish or a swordfish when I was working in the long line boat when I was in my twenties.
TH: Was it your own long line boat?
JR: No. No. No, it was a boat owned here by guy inâ€”locally.
TH: Who was that?
JR: Jimmy Hardy owned itâ€”NMNot italicsthe Skidaway. And his family was from Savannah, Georgia.
TH: I was tied up next to that boat for years.
JR: Big gray, gigantic gray boat with those transomâ€”a funny transom on it?
TH: Yeah. NMNot italicsThe Skidaway, I know that. It was from New Jersey?
JR: No, it wasâ€”it said, â€œSavannah, Georgiaâ€ on the transom. But it was grey. A big gray boat.
TH: Was a good fisherman.
JR: It was just like aâ€”just like the Day Boat NMFound on google- http://dayboatseafood.net/[Seafood LLC] boat one of the swordfish boats over there.
TH: Okay. And biggest catch youâ€™ve ever had of kingfish.
JR: Eleven hundred pounds.
TH: Okay. Andâ€”
JR: Over at Basa Rock and Sebastian, probablyâ€”I was probably, I donâ€™t know, in my twenties.
TH: And biggest fish? You said you caught some big marlin but that was on long lines?
JR: Yeah, long line boats. We also ran a private boat, and of course we caught marlin up there. I didnâ€™t actually catch them, but I was the captain of the boat for it. So I didnâ€™tâ€”
TH: Oh yeah? Up where?
JR: Upâ€”Ocean City, Maryland.
JR: I ran the Red Witch.
TH: All right. And you caught marlin while you were captaining that boat?
JR: Yeah, white marlin and blue marlin.
TH: How big?
JR: I think for the first season I was up there, we caught 13 white marlin and two blue marlin.
TH: Oh, my goodness.
JR: Anywhere fromâ€”the white marlin, are like a supercharged sailfish. Theyâ€™re probably about 40 to 60 pounds; the white marlin. The two blue marlin we caught, one it was about 215; one was about 500. With catch and release though, thatâ€™s a totally differently recreation fishery.
TH: Okay. Now, strange occurrences youâ€™ve experienced on the water, odd lights, empty boats, rafts, rogue waves?
JR: Yeah. The rafts. Remember when the Cuban rafts all drifted out here?
TH: NMAdded this sectionI have an oar over at my other house (both talk) â€”
JR: I mean, there were dozens. You had to watch out when you run out in the ocean, so you didnâ€™t run over them in the morning.
TH: In the dark.
TH: They were steel frames. It would sink your boatâ€”
JR: Yes. Exactly. Yeah, yeah. It was when youâ€™d run a risk just running out there.
TH: Iâ€™ll take a picture of that oar and put it in here. Theâ€”but any other odd lights?
JR: No, shooting stars and stuff like that, but nothing toâ€”
TH: Rogue waves?
JR: No, I think, I never experienced anything like a rogueâ€”that Iâ€™d call a rogue wave.
TH: George had a good rogue wave story.
JR: Yeah, you hear stories about, you know. Itâ€™s unbelievable.
JR: Once in a while Iâ€™ve taken a wave, you know, that scared me. Like it was a rogue wave, but I donâ€™t think it was really enough to take me out.
TH: Like a cross sea or something?
TH: Okay. Rescues, sinkings? You mentioned one rescue ofâ€”who was that?
JR: Well, we fish in a fleet, and everybody kind of looks out for one another and, you know, if somebody gets on the radio, one of yourâ€”basically, whatâ€”we end up being all friends. And you run out there and rescue your buddies.
JR: And it just happens. God, I can remember, you know, a lot of times being towed in and towing people in.
TH: So, thatâ€™s pretty much any commercial fishermen?
TH: As long as you got your radioâ€“â€“
TH: You can easily get somebody to pull you in.
JR: Somebody always towing somebody in.
TH: Well, tell me about inlet tragedies. You mentioned one.
JR: Oh yeah, AJ running out there up on the rocks on the north end of the Jetty. (inaudible; both talk)
TH: (both talk) You were thereâ€”were you there with Jim? Withâ€”
JR: I wasâ€”we hadâ€”AJ had went and caught bait and we kind of rendezvoused. He wanted to give me some bait. And we rendezvoused by the Coast Guard station, and then we proceeded out the inlet and, I guess, I was right beside AJ when we broke the inlet. And it was a dark, pitch black morning, and it was kind of sloppy and, you know, rough. And AJ got on the radio and said, â€œJimmy, Iâ€™ve got big trouble.â€ And I got on the radio and said, â€œAJ, what happened?â€ And he said, â€œI hit the rocks.â€ And I remember, I turned around and I went back and got a rope on him. And as we were towing him towards theâ€”I was towing him towards Dynamite Pointâ€”I couldnâ€™t my boat turned towards land so I could get in shallow water, because Iâ€™ve seen he done. He was going down.
TH: So, Dynamite Point is inside the inlet?
JR: Inside the inlet.
TH: Itâ€™s a sand bar?
JR: Yeah. After I got him from the North Jetty, towed him back to the west. Itâ€™s hard, you know, to visualize it. I can imagine somebody talking about it. But as we got by Dynamite Point, I realized Iâ€™d tied him off on the cleatâ€”
TH: On one side?
JR: â€”on one side. So, my boat wouldnâ€™tâ€”I didnâ€™t have any steerage to turn north.
JR: So, Tommy Faygo came and bumped by bow, and that literally pushed my bow towards Dynamite Point. And AJ kind of on the rope. He was kind of acting as my anchor. He came and sank behind my boat, and there was no more towing. But he had fractured ribs from it andâ€”
TH: Theâ€”yeah. It stoppedâ€”when he hit the rocks it stops you right now.
JR: Yeah, and that was the boat that I actually sold him, that was the old Playboy.
TH: Okay. And it took out a chunk?
JR: Yeah, in the bow quarter, it took a pretty good foot. About the diameter of a bottom of a five gallon bucketâ€”10 inches.
TH: And did his engine come off its mounts?
JR: Yeah. Yes. He broke his motor mounts and it was a mess.
TH: All right, theâ€”any other rescues?
JR: Well, AJ actually salvaged the boat and sold it. And later, I ran across that boat in Riviera Beach. I donâ€™t know who bought it, but they renamed it The Raven. But I recognized it as my old boat and AJâ€™s boat.
TH: Okay. How about collisions?
JR: Hm. I bumped a guy down there, fishing in Palm Beach. He was a recreational fisherman and he was drifting and I was trolling back towards the inlet, and I bumpedâ€”I runned [sic] into him but it was minor. Collisions? Yeah, collisions with the jetty, you know, Tommy and AJ. And other boat collisions, you know, big boat collisionsâ€”swordfish boats with shrimpâ€”tangling with shrimp boats and all that kind of stuff.
TH: Do you know any specificâ€”
JR: Iâ€™m surprised it doesnâ€™t happen more often, the way everybody runs around in the dark.
TH: Yeah. Especially the faster boats today.
JR: Uh-huh. It is, itâ€™sâ€“â€“when you get out here in front of your home and turn to the north in the morning, before daylight, you got boats running from north/south, that are runningâ€”itâ€™s like cars on the highway. Think theyâ€™re contenders. I mean, they go 50-60 miles an hour.
TH: And theyâ€™re going that fast, too, in the dark of the morning?
TH: Any other calamities you can think of, before we leave this question?
JR: God, nothing I can think of off-hand, Terry.
TH: All right. Youâ€™ll probably think of something when you go home.
JR: Oh yeah, Iâ€™m goneâ€”I know I am.
TH: Okay, drug, alcohol, people smuggling stories youâ€™ve heard or experienced? No names. Now, you did tell me about theâ€”
TH: And you can tell the story right before weâ€” [beep].
JR: Years ago, an old guyâ€”I mean, he had fished everywhere and I wasâ€”(both talk)
TH: Heâ€™s known up and the East NMAdded CoastCoast.
JR: He was upâ€”known up and down the East Coast, Louisiana, North Carolina. And he hadâ€”was fishing out of the Keys. In fact, I think he was living down there on his boat, one of his boats, and fishing out of the Keys. And somebody had thrown over a bunch of marijuana and one [beep] â€”his friends had salvagedâ€”picked up the load of pot.
JR: The bales. And then the guy, through the grapevine down there, had heard who had his bales. He contacted the fisherman and they swappedâ€”
TH: Whatâ€™d he tell the fisherman?
JR: The fisherman saidâ€”he told the fisherman, â€œIf you bring your truck with my bales in itâ€”â€ In a U-haul, or however they did it. â€œâ€”weâ€™ll just swap out myâ€”your truck for a brand-new truck. And weâ€™ll just swap trucks.â€ And they met at a hotel down there and theyâ€”
TH: The guy that owned the marijuana, said, â€œIâ€™ll buy you any truck.â€
JR: Yeah, â€œAny truck you want.â€
TH: â€œPick out a new truck.â€
JR: â€œPick out a new truck and weâ€™ll just swap trucks.â€ And they did this whole transaction. This whole plan. Never meeting one anotherâ€”over a phone, you know. (JR laughs) Itâ€™s not like they knew one another.
TH: They did it over the phone?
JR: Yeah. So, you can imagine.
TH: So, he said, â€œMeet him where?â€
JR: In a hotel downâ€”itâ€™s a littleâ€”I canâ€™t decideâ€”he didnâ€™t even tell me. I forget if he even told me the name of the hotel.
JR: But is was down there somewhere in the Keys. Probably around Stock. I think he fished out of Stock Island.
TH: So, they met and just switched keys?
JR: Yes, they just swapped keys and signed over trucks, and did it right there at the hotel. (TH laughs)
JR: Probably in a little conference room down there they hadâ€”on one of those little Conch Hotels down there in the Keys. You know, those were years ago.
TH: Any other stories?
JR: God, too many stories over the years that people like Al Tyrrell have told me. Itâ€™s unbelievable. Itâ€™s justâ€”we could sit here all day.
TH: Well, letâ€™s hear a couple. What did Al tell you?
JR: I mean, Alâ€™s stories about war, itâ€™s just heroic stuff.
TH: Oh, his war stories?
JR: Yeah, I mean, all that.
TH: Um, people smuggling?
JR: Varied. Iâ€™ve heard stories about it, you know, but usually notâ€”nothing that I know specific, just hearsay.
TH: Okay. So, humorous, funny stories youâ€™ve heard or experienced on the water.
JR: God, thereâ€™s been so many humorous plain stories. Just about every day you go something happens. (JR laughs) No, my minds at a blank there. Yeah, itâ€™sâ€”yeah, you hear stories.
TH: Okay. Anything else you want to add about life as a captainâ€”fishing captain in Florida.
JR: Oh, itâ€™s been great. Itâ€™s been absolutely fine. Just the freedom of it, the people. Just the whole lifestyle. I mean, itâ€™s been really fun for me anyway. A lot of work though. And thereâ€™s a lot hardships and times when there areâ€”just like anything else, Iâ€™m sure.
TH: Specific hardships.
JR: Um, weather, economics, you know. Just things that pop up. You spend a lot of time away from home.
JR: Yeah, NMYour vs. youâ€™reyouâ€™re constantly, you knowâ€”you got to almost be a mechanic, somewhat, to actually be a fisherman. (JR laughs) I mean, thereâ€™s just no way around it. You end up turning wrenches almost on a monthly basis. If not, more often if youâ€™re not lucky. But yeah, itâ€™s been great.
TH: Okay. Any final thoughts on fishing?
JR: I look forward to getting out there and doing it. (TH laughs) Iâ€™ve beenâ€”kind of lately, Iâ€™ve been battling this cancer, you know, Terry. And, I mean, what keeps me going is just, you know, Iâ€™m going to get to go fishing soon. (JR laughs) But thatâ€™s a whole story in itself. Me and my buddy Shaq teamed up and were fishingâ€”weâ€™ve been fishing together and doing quite well.
TH: Okay. Why thank you very much.
JR: â€”coming towards Sebastian Inlet. And I got up to where I was looking at the Inlet, and it was pitch black, and it was kind of overcast and hazy or foggy, and there was limited visibility, so to speak. And I could see the red light over in the bridge that goes over the Sebastian Inlet. I could see that middle red light and I knew that was center of the inlet. And I just had learnedâ€”gotten the basics on how to figure out my LORAN (Long range navigation). There was no, you know, colored plotters or anything like that. You just had the Loran-c, and that was muchâ€”upgrade from the old time system they had before me.
But I got up in the pocket there, going towards the new Sebastian Inlet, and I was inside of the North Jetty. Almost in where the surfers would surf and a boat behind me shined a spotlight. The boatâ€™s name was A Misty NMChanged from EmisculadyLady, I never knew the captains name. But he shined a spotlight up, and he was behind me, and Iâ€™ve seen we were headed directly towards the rocks. I mean, weâ€™re only probably 300 feet from the North Jetty and I had lost what I was doing. I could not accept what my Loran was telling me. I was going visually, and all I knew, that I had to go towards that red light. And it was rough and everything else, and it was a harrowing experience for me in Sebastian Inletâ€”starting out. And I think the guy who kind of guided me with that spotlightâ€”and he said, â€œManâ€”â€ He said, â€œâ€”I hadâ€”was in the same predicament you were.â€ But just that simple flick of the switch. And who knows, you know?
TH: Heâ€™d saved you?
JR: I had my spotlight there. And itâ€™s not something you keep on like headlights on a car, you know, you flick that thing on at random and it kind of blinds you and changes your whole perspective. And running a boat at night is definitely a different ball game thanâ€”
TH: Well, tell me about Sebastian Inlet.
JR: Rough. Um, outgoing tides, Southeast wind.
TH: Itâ€™s a much smaller inlet?
JR: Yeah, itâ€™s a tight inlet. Thereâ€™s just limited room for error. You could easily get, you know, veer off onâ€”coming in, with following sea, you could easily kind of broach into the North Jettyâ€”inside the inlet.
TH: Do they have a light on it?
JR: Everything around that area going in or out of Sebastian, particularly at night, is hazardous. I mean, when itâ€™s rough. But, you know, most of timesâ€”summertime, rainy days. Me and Ericaâ€”
TH: You fishedâ€”
JR: My girlfriend, yeah. She, I mean, she was the love of my life. We fished together and everything. Anyway, she was my girlfriend and she passed away recently. But me and her, we were fishing up there, together, on my boatâ€”out of the Cape.
TH: Okay, Cape Canaveral.
JR: Port Canaveral. And we experienced good fishing, limit after limit.
TH: Seventy five head?
JR: Yeah. We came in, and one night sheâ€”there was a little birdâ€”a little tern floating around. A royal tern is backed, and there was somethingâ€”and he was over waterlogged. And it had been rough and windy and we were tied up in dock for a couple of days, just trying kind of waiting the weather out to go out fishing again. And we rescue this bird, and he ended up being nicknamed AJ. And we turn him over to theâ€”Wildlife Control came and got him but, through them, they got hold of Wildlife Refuge and they took possession of our bird weâ€™d nicknamed AJ. After AJ Brown. (TH laughs)
TH: Where did you find the bird?
JR: He actually came floating through the locks. He was drifting around, on the east side of the locks, in theâ€”
TH: Itâ€™s a crossover?
JR: Yeah, itâ€™s a crossover. Itâ€™s, like, Port Canaveralâ€™s different. You got locks and then youâ€™re actually out of the Capeâ€”Port Canaveral. But we did our best. We rescued this little damn bird, and now every time I see that bird lying around. But they are royal tern, and theyâ€™re pretty coolâ€”theyâ€™re those orange bill birds.
TH: How small? Like a wren?
JR: No, theyâ€™re not small. Theyâ€™re the ones who follow you when youâ€™re cutting up mulletâ€”
TH: Oh, okay.
JR: â€”and baitâ€”throwing it out. They kind of skim. Theirâ€”definitely, you see them a lot more offshore than you see inshore. For that bird to be in the situation he was in, he was in some kind of major distress. Iâ€™ve seen them on the beach up there, but Iâ€™ve never seen them, you know, floating around like pelican. You know, theyâ€™reâ€”but this oneâ€”something was wrong, like, heâ€™d been waterlogged. Who knows what happened to him beforehand.
TH: And, Erica? Anything else about her?
JR: God, sheâ€”
TH: Could she pull fish?
JR: She could pull fish, and if it wasâ€”if she got a fish on and you tried to take over, it usually brought an issue. Itâ€™s her fish to lose, not your fish to lose kind of thing. (JR laughs)
TH: She wouldnâ€™t allow you to pull her fish?
JR: But she was, you know, fished as good as any guy Iâ€™d ever took. Sheâ€™s unbelievable. And she had a passion for it, too.
TH: Hey Jimmy, youâ€™re fighting another battle right now?
JR: Oh yeah. You know, Iâ€™ve been a lifelong fisherman here in Florida, and I got melanoma cancer. And Iâ€™m battling that and itâ€™s, you know, itâ€™s definitely been up and down, win and lose, and that sort of thing. And fortunately, I have the support of my family and my friends, you know, other fishermen came forward and helped me out and Iâ€”fortunately, I got a beautiful wife: Beth, and her son. Heâ€™s actually helping me fish, and so itâ€™s, you know, like NMAdded this inas I mentioned before my buddy, Robert McMullenâ€”Shaq. I mean, soâ€”but at least Iâ€™m still able to go fishing.
TH: And youâ€™re being treated?
JR: Oh yeah, over at Moffitt.
JR: And thatâ€™s going, you know, clinical trials. And so far, Iâ€™ve actually beenâ€”I feel like Iâ€™m beating it.
TH: Itâ€™s been a long ordeal.
JR: Oh yeah. Yeah. But the biggest lot, you know, the biggestâ€”most painâ€”heartbreaking thing was, you know, I had been able to fish whenever I wanted, and then suddenly, you know, not being able to. It really took off. It was hard.
TH: Itâ€™s been hard.
JR: Just, you know. And Iâ€™ll be back out there soon.