Daniel C. Kane oral history interview

Daniel C. Kane oral history interview

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Daniel C. Kane oral history interview
Howard, Terry Lee
University of South Florida--Libraries--Oral History Program


Oral history ( local )
Online audio ( local )


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

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University of South Florida Library
Holding Location:
University of South Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
F70-00009 ( USFLDC DOI )
f70.9 ( USFLDC Handle )

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text Terry Lee Howard (TH): Today is January 15th, 2019. My name’s Terry Howard. I’m here today with Captain Danny Kane. And to begin with, Captain Kane, would you please state your full name?
Daniel Kane (DK): Yeah, my name’s Daniel C. Kane. They call me “Hurricane Dan.”
TH: And how do you spell your name?
DK: I spell my name K-a-n-e. And my boat’s spelled H-u-r-i dash k-a-n-e. I was going to spell it H-u-r-r-y, but I just thought it looked better: Huri–kane.
TH: Do I have your permission to use this interview for publications, books, articles, et cetera?
DK: Yes, sir, you sure do.
TH: And do I have your permission to archive this interview at the University of South Florida Tampa Library Digital Archives?
DK: Yes, you do.
TH: When and where were you born?
DK: I was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, 1958.
TH: Okay. Please give a brief biography of yourself and include your first experiences boating, fishing, and commercial or charter fishing.
DK: All right, first memory of my life is pretty much Tampa Bay. I remember—I mean, we left Florida when I was four years old, but I—we was going to the sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and then you’d come up off Tampa Bay, like, “Mom, what’s that? Is that Tampa Bay?” And, “No, we’ve got to go over the bridge.” I still remember that long, long bridge.
Anyway, we left Florida when I was four years old—my dad was Air Force. When he got back from Vietnam, come back to Florida, he was with the Apollo program. And Florida was very different back then, there weren’t hardly any condominiums, not too many people. There wasn’t much—wasn’t no Disney World. Plenty of snakes, spiders, fish. The river was wonderful. When I was a kid, we’d go—dad [would] take us up to the bridge to do a little fishing.
TH: What river?
DK: Indian River. This is—the bridge, it’d be the Eau Gallie Bridge.
TH: In where?
DK: Here in Florida. East Coast of Florida, the trout capital of the river, trout capital of the world, Indian River.
TH: But where on the Indian River?
DK: Actually, it was the—we moved to Canova Beach, just south of Eau Gallie. This is north of Sebastian, south of Cape Canaveral.
TH: Okay.
DK: And he’d take us fishing on the bridge, and he’d figured out pretty early on he could only handle two of us boys. There’s six boys in our family, and he couldn’t handle more than two of us with rods and reels and sharp hooks, but—
TH: How many brothers? So, what were the ages?
DK: We had six boys and one girl. I had two older brothers and three younger brothers. I’m in the middle. And it was a different time back then. In daytime, my mom would tell us, “Get out of the house. It’s beautiful outside.”
TH: Well, did you live right on the river? Describe your home.
DK: We lived like a block from the ocean, and a block—and a half a mile from the river. And God, when I was a kid, spent a lot of time on the ocean, down on the beach, and at the river, out in the woods. But we’d go fishing there. When I got a little older, eight or nine years old, we’d go up to the Eau Gallie Causeway, up the little bridge, and we’d gig mullet. And a school of mullet would come out of Banana River. And you’d go underneath that bridge and that school of mullet would go underneath there for like 45 minutes. It’d be about 20 yards wide, and two yards deep.
TH: The mullet?
DK: The mullet. And there’d be four of us up there, throwing gigs. We’d gig—one single-pronged gig was a nickel, a three-pronged gig was 10 cents, and a quarter for a five-pronged gig. Of course, we didn’t have no five-pronged gigs. We weren’t rich. We would break momma’s broomstick off, and we’d go gig. She didn’t like us breaking her broomsticks, but boy she’d like when we’d come back with a pile of mullet to eat.
TH: Were they the roe mullet, or just silvers, or—
DK: You know, I don’t think they was roe mullet. I think they was silver mullet, I think. Every morning they’d come out of Banana River, and they’d come underneath that little bridge and they’d go back. And this is before they built the dragon on that—in the Merritt Island.
TH: What are you talking about? The end of Merritt Island. Be specific.
DK: Where Merritt Island ends, you could see it from Eau Gallie Causeway. That’s where the Banana River and the Indian River come together. You know, Indian River used to be the capital of the world, and I think it’s pretty much more the Banana River. It was—we’d used to go fishing there when I was a kid. My dad, he was Air Force, he'd rent a little boat from the base, a little 12-, 15-foot boat, and he’d take two of us fishing. We’d troll MirrOlures. God, we’d catch 15, 20, 30 trout every day, trolling. And then when they’d slowed down, we’d go up in a survival area and try a little fishing with dead bait and live bait, with a plug. We did pretty good. Like I said, dad would only take two of us.
TH: Survival area? Describe what you’re talking about.
DK: Patrick Air Force Base—the pilots have a survival area. They got to swim so far. They got to be able to tread water, and they got to—there’s these tests they got to do. And back there, at Patrick Air Force Base, I'd come up in there, and good fishing spot, too. But that’s where the pilots that had to do their survival training—and they’d had to do their survival training in order to be a pilot. It’s just one of the trainings they had to do. Oh, fishing was good back then. Dad even built a boat there on Patrick Air Force Base. They had a little boat hobby shop, and you’re allowed to—and, you know, we built a little boat. Fishing was good back then.
Anyway, I remember when we was kids, we’d move onto the base, so mom and dad decided to sell their house, move on base so you can save a bunch of money. Living in Canova Beach was like eight miles to the base or nine miles to the base. A year later, they built this new thing called Disney World. The house went from 17,000 to 35,000 [dollars]. They made a mistake moving up there. Mom got into real estate later on because of that. Anyway, we was up there, we’d go fishing on the Spider Islands. This is up there, near Patrick Air Force Base, these _________(??), when they built the canals for the houses. And the Spider Islands was, like, a wildlife preserve. Now there’s all condos on there and mansions, but back then there was nothing.
Golly, we’d get up an hour and a half before daylight, ride our bicycles down there, and from before the sun come up till about the time the mosquitos would start biting, the fish’d bite real good. It seemed like when mosquitos quit biting, the fish quit biting. We did good there. Back—like, fishing was good back then when we was kids. And, of course, once the fish quit biting, we’d get our bows and arrows, and our sticks, and swimming, and doing what kids would do. Anyway—
TH: Were there deer?
DK: Not at that time. I didn’t start drinking till, you know—
TH: Deer, not beer. Deer.
DK: Oh, no. No deer. No, not on Spider Islands. It was horseshoe crabs and fiddler crabs.
TH: Any rattlesnakes?
DK: I used to—we used to go up there, you know, in the mangroves, and we’d go bow and arrow hunting for fish. Where we wouldn’t use—where they have the string to the back in the arrow because that’d make the arrow fly untrue every time. We’d go up there and the black mullet, they get up underneath those mangroves and dig these big old holes, where they’d lay there in the heat of the day. If we couldn't get them there, and they’d got offshore, we’d shoot them. When you hit them, the feather [would] make them do a big old circle. You’d go grab both sides of the feather—don’t grab the arrow by the end, it’d break in half. And the doggone things cost 10, 12 cents, and that was a lot of money back then.
TH: So you'd grab the arrows right next to the fish?
DK: Oh, it’s something else. You know, they had flats back there, and when we got older, we’d do a little bit of—they called it—we called ourselves “river rats,” where’d you do a little drinking and hell-raising on them islands. And, oh gee, the marine patrol would chase us, and we’d wait for them to come, we’d run right across the flats. We’d put our engine on tilt, slide across the flats, and watch them run hard aground. We’d go sit over there and watch the other marine patrol come over there and try to drag them off. We raised a little Cain back in my younger day. And then, oh, fishing was good.
And then, let me see, I had me a girlfriend. Broke my heart when I was 15 years old. I used to be a surfer boy—did a lot of surfing. That girl broke my heart. I took to drinking. I’d say a week later I was a full-fledged alcoholic at the age of 15. Hurt my surfing. Always liked to fish, so we started fishing more. My oldest brother’s best friend, Doug, he was a great fisherman. Oh, they was down in Naples, down here at the power plant, Everglades.
TH: You’re talking commercial fishing?
DK: No, this is when we were in high school. We were just kids, you know, teenagers now, and always catching fish. Oh, I was green with envy. I was washing dishes and whatnot, and I saved my money up and bought the Huri–kane, 21-foot Grady-White, wooden lapstrake boat. A little bit of dry rot, needed some work on it. Anyway, around that time, my oldest brother—
TH: About what year was that? About?
DK: This would have been 1975. My oldest brother was—got real interested in the girls, and Doug, the fisherman, Doug, he was like _____(??) repellent. He would—the girls would run from Doug, so my buddy Dave had to get rid of Doug, so he’d get some girls. And me and my brother, Tom, boy, we’d wanted to go fishing. I’d been wanting to go fishing for two years now, and Doug was the fisherman. Doug needed somebody to do a little bit of drinking with, a little bit of fishing with. Doug had a little Cobia, he’s out in the ocean, and we’d start—
TH: Now, Doug is what age when—and what age were you?
DK: Doug King? Doug King’s gone. You might have heard of Doug King. The late, great Doug King. He was one of the best king mackerel fishermen out of Sebastian Inlet. Cancer took my buddy, Doug, about 10 years ago. But we was friends long before he started commercial fishing, and we’d go out in the ocean, we’d do good, and another one of my friends got a boat. I had the Grady-White, and we took the engine off Doug’s 16-foot Cobia and put it on the back of my Grady-White. The motor I had in the Grady-White, it was like this four-cylinder Evinrude, 85 horsepower—biggest engine—a piece of junk. We put Doug’s little 65 on there, and we was off fishing. We was doing good, man. We—catching fish. Doug was good. I don’t care if it was in the river, in the lake, in the ocean, Doug was catching fish.
TH: Trolling mostly, or every kind?
DK: Well, he wanted to catch some—there’s still red snapper back then, but, you know, really wanted to be a kingfisherman. We—really anything, you know. We was deep-sea drinking, catching fish while we was doing it, you know. We was wide open and—
TH: Now, you must’ve been 18, 17?
DK: No, I’d have been a junior in high school. Not quite a senior. So we start fishing, and my last year of high school, I was in this job-entry program where all you had to do was work 40 hours a week and didn't have to go school. And we went out fishing one day, me and Doug, and caught like $300 worth of kingfish in one day. I mean, gas was probably 28 or 30 cent a gallon back then, you know, and bait—you just catch your own bait, so it didn’t cost nothing. I made almost $150 in one day.
I mean, if I worked 45, 50 hours washing dishes, I'd be lucky to take home $85. So the next time I go to school, I told my teacher, I said, “I’m no longer a dishwasher. I’m a commercial fisherman.” He’s like, “Sorry, Dan, you can’t use commercial fishing for a job.” I’m like, “What? I’m not going to be a professional dishwasher all my life. Some people make a good living fishing.” He’s like, “Sorry, Dan, you can’t use fishing for a job.” I’m like, “Hah!”
TH: Where was this high school?
DK: Satellite High. It’s just south of Cocoa Beach. I told him, I said, “You know, I’m not going to be a professional dishwasher all my life. I’m going to be a commercial fisherman. I’m going to fish.” And he says, “You can’t.” I said, “You can’t stop me. I need one class to have—to graduate. Maybe I’ll come back to summer school and graduate, and maybe I won’t. I’m going fishing.” “You can’t.” I said, “You can’t stop me. Goodbye.” “Come back here.” “Gone fishing.”
Two weeks from graduation my mom got—back then there was no cellphone—she got word, down here, at Sebastian, I was staying at a friend’s house, and staying away from home and catching fish. Not a whole lot, but we was catching fish. We was deep-sea drinking, having fun. Anyway, they let me graduate. Anyway, before that happened, the last ride in my Huri–kane, 21-foot Grady-White, beautiful boat. The bow come up, flared out, it was beautiful, man. Quite a boat. Grady-White, big old wooden keelson in the bottom, two plugs in the back.
TH: Two plugs?
DK: You know, most boats, to run the water out of the back, there’s one plug. Well, the keelson was so big, the wooden boat—before fiberglass boats. And I pulled the two plugs running up. I remember one day, we’re going out the inlet, we had a little party in Satellite Beach. I kept my boat at the Neptune marina, about a mile from the inlet, and Dave Youngerwood(??) had to come all the way down the river in the Indian Queen, 26-foot Chris-Craft. Doug was pretty savvy, and Sebastian Inlet is a little nasty on the outgoing tide. And so we’d drive down—been drinking half the night, and we get a little nap, and here come the Indian Queen, so pulled out there and we’re going out the inlet together.
And Doug hugs the north side where there ain’t really no waves, and that Grady-White—the water come up and off the side. I'm watching the Indian Queen coming out right next to us, and it comes up, and that Indian Queen had a bow like a destroyer—just right through the wave, over the top, over the canopy. This guy’s sitting on the engine box, sleeping on the fish box, can’t see him, so much water thrown down. Next wave—oh boy, that was a sweet boat. Anyway, the last ride of Huri–kane. We used to drink a little bit and—
TH: That was the last ride on the—
DK: No, no, here’s the last ride of the Huri–kane. I don’t know if you know what Monster Hole is in Sebastian Inlet, where they dredged the inlet out and they dumped all the spoil  ____(??)—the waves break there.
TH: Where the surfers—
DK: Surfers—Monster Hole, great surfing spot, world-renowned surfing spot. Well, anyway, this way, the fish was slow, and the waves weren’t real big, they about three and a half, four foot. They weren’t breaking, they just rolling up and feathering and petering out. Doug was driving. It was Doug’s engine, my boat, but Doug was the captain—he driving. Surfing the waves in my 21-foot Grady-White, and about the third, fourth wave we was riding, coming to the top, and the whole boat just side slipped, and the whole boat twisted. Shattered two of my windows. They didn’t have, you know, wheelhouse had just had an—
TH: Describe that. The wave caught you—
DK: We was up on the wave, and the boat just slid down the side, and when it did, the boat twisted. Shattered two windows. I had some dry rot. Broke the planks. I didn’t realize. That was enough of surfing in the boat. When you come in Sebastian Inlet, Doug’s like, “Pull the plugs out. Drain the boat.” I go pull the plugs out, and we’re running in, and, “Put the plugs back in there.” Half the boat’s full of water, the other half of the water’s running out.
The side of the boat, I see water running up the side of the boat, and we side slipped—the dry-rotted wood planks gave loose. The deck’s just screwed onto a frame—this plywood screwed on the frame and painted. And the water’s rushing up the side, so I—in a panic, I reach over there, and I grab the deck, and I just rip it up. Well, unfortunately, there’s a snapper rig laying on the deck. The snapper rig had the sinker and three hooks off the side. Well, one hook’s down underneath the deck, hooked on a rib.
TH: A rib of the boat?
DK: The rib of the boat. When I ripped that floor up, I set a hook wrapped around my finger—really serious bad. So here I got a hook in my finger, water rushing in the boat, and, “Doug, give me your shirt.” I plugged the hole in the boat. And we run the boat up on the island, so we can—so the boat don’t sink, so we get the water out. Try and cut the hook out of my finger and, you know, they show in movies—
TH: Was the barb in there?
DK: It was all the way wrapped around. It was bad. And they show in the movies where guys are cutting stuff out of themselves, and believe me, it’s not—you can’t cut yourself very easy. It’s—Doug wouldn’t do it. Doug didn’t like blood at all, so once we got the water out, we ran the boat up to the marina, and they hauled the boat out in a travel lift, and I went to the hospital to get the hook cut out. They had to go find a bolt cutter. They didn't know what to do. I had to tell them, “You know, you got to pull the barb, too, and cut the eye off and pull it through.” He didn’t do that. He tried pulling it back, and finally, he got bolt cutters and did it right. Anyway, my boat sat—
TH: That’s a big—how big was the hook? Let’s describe the hook.
DK: It was probably a 3407, number seven O’Shaughnessy. About this long and about this wide.
TH: The recorder can’t see your fingers.
DK: Oh, I don’t know, it’s three inches long, and mine was an inch between the point and the shank. Anyway, get that cut out of there, and trying to get the guys to fix my boat—they’re at Neptune marina. There’s one guy who’s real good with woodworking, but he's so busy he ain’t get a chance to get to my boat. Doug had inherited some money from an aunt that died. He also inherited this car with snow tires, so he was one of the only guys to go on the beach and not get stuck in the sand. We used to do a little bit of drinking and raising Cain in my younger days. Well, anyway, Doug inherited some money, and mom and dad was going to Nova Scotia on a vacation. They said Doug had pulled some money out of there to fix my boat and—but Doug had his eyes on this 24-foot Stapleton, and mom and dad was gone, and he had the bank card. Doug bought that boat.
TH: This is your brother?
DK: No, this was Doug, my brother’s ex-best friend, now’s he’s my best friend. My brother now was running around chasing women. He’s—he had to get rid of Doug, and he wanted some women. So now we had a 24-foot Stapleton with a diesel engine, Chrysler-Nissan Diesel engine, had glow plugs. Thing was about as small as a suitcase.
TH: How many horsepower?
DK: Oh, I don’t know, probably 80. It wasn’t much. We’d do about eight knots. But now we had a cabin. Now we can just camp out. We got a Coleman stove and a 8-track tape. We was fishing. Oh golly, we was doing good, having a lot of fun. We was slowly getting better and better, and then Doug got a cracked block. That was the winter of ’75, ’76, or maybe ’76, before—it froze that year. It snowed in the Bahamas. The citrus was falling off the trees. I was picking the citrus—had to get the citrus off the trees before it froze. Built a sea wall, helped build a house, cleaning lots, and doing all this work, and I wasn't doing nothing but spending all my money drinking and other stupid stuff, so I joined the Navy. I was going nowhere, you know. I figured I wanted to join the Navy, buy some property, see the world, maybe learn to play a musical instrument.
TH: You were probably how old?
DK: I was 18, going on 19. You know, but I was just drinking. I wasn’t doing nothing. I was working my ass off, and at the end of the week, I had nothing. I wanted to buy some property, and I got out of boot camp and I bought some property on the river for a song and a dance— $25,000. One of the best things I did. And then I joined the Navy and spent three years on aircraft—electronic technician.
TH: Perfect.
DK: It was—well, not perfect, but you know, it was—and I got to be a pretty good, really good technician before it was over. But all I wanted to do was go fishing. The whole time I was in the Navy, all I wanted to do—go fishing. It’s funny, I was on that aircraft carrier, and everybody’s into disco music or real loud rock ‘n’ roll. When the rock ‘n’ roll got real loud, I turned to bluegrass and blues. I’d be on the boat and everybody wanting to disco, and loud rock ‘n’ roll, and I wanted bluegrass and blues. And everyone would talk sports, and I wanted to talk fishing. Everyone talked cars, I wanted to talk boats, sports, surfing. They’re like, What’s wrong with you? I’m like, “Ain’t nothing wrong with me. You’re all like cookie cutters out of the same cloth.”
Oh boy, it was funny timing. Spent three years on the aircraft carrier, time to get shore duty. Called the detailer up, to see what shore duties are open. First, they say, Charleston, South Carolina, then Norfolk, Virginia, and then, he said, “Key West, Florida.” I said, “Whoa, stop right there. Send me to Key West.” Said, “Oh, you’re going to have to extend your enlistment 10 months and go to a three-month school.” Crypto school, scrambler school. I’m like, “No problem. Send me to Key West. It’s only [a] six-hour ride from home.”
TH: Crypto scrambler? Is code—
DK: Crypto is what they call a scrambler. I had to go to a school on a crypto to qualify for this billet down at Key West. I was an electronic technician. Got to be pretty good.
TH: But what—you still—describe crypto.
DK: Crypto is what they used for—is a word for a scrambler.
TH: What’s a scrambler?
DK: Cryptologist, you know, when people talk on the radio, the Russian’s can’t hear what you’re saying. It scrambles your voice, you know, puts everything in code. But anyway, so I'm down there in the Keys. It’s funny, I get down there in the Keys, and here I am, a Florida boy. Down there, it’s not Key West, it’s two Keys—you’ve got Key West and Stock Island and Boca Chica Key. It’s the second-best air—runway—the Navy’s got, Key West. It don’t freeze up, you know, so in the wintertime, a lot of planes come down there.
And I was in—at a communications site. All the information comes from South Atlantic, and up—anyway, that was just that. Anyway, from South Atlantic and the Caribbean, comes through Key West, and we microwave it up there to Charleston. That’s what my job was there. And, anyway, around Boca Chica Key, there’s a Geiger Key marine—Geiger Creek. And, I'm thinking, There might be some lobster back there. So we had like a hour and a half for lunch break.
TH: You’re still in class? Taking classes?
DK: No, no, no, I’m a technician now. I’m, you know, there’s 10 guys working down there. This was before—I wound up running the shop before it was over. But anyway, I had just got there. I’d been there about a week, I’m thinking there might be some lobster back there. So I come to work—we had an hour and a half for lunch—I bring my mask, snorkel, and fins. And everybody goes to lunch, and I go next door and take my uniform off and put my shorts on. I get my mask, snorkel, and fins, and get on a bicycle, ride around the corner, and had a little sandy spot, and about 100 yards—150 yards of mangroves—then a turn, Geiger Creek turn, another sandy spot.
So I get in there, and them mangroves was like a nursery for lobster. I look in there, and there’s thousands and thousands [of] antennas sticking out of the mangrove roots, and I reach up there, and I pluck one out, and he squeaks, and they all disappear. Stick it in my bag, and I go down about 20 yards, and there’s thousands, thousands of little antennas sticking out of there. I reach up there and pluck one out, stick it in my bag, and they all disappear.
TH: Were they small?
DK: Well, I’ll get there. Anyway, I get down to the end of that little creek, and I got me, like, seven little lobsters—six or seven little lobster. I walked to the bicycle, I ring their tails off, and take their antenna and get the poop vein out of the lobster, and get on a bicycle, ride around the corner, and I put my lobster in my—I brought some taters and lemon and butter—was planning on catching a lobster. So I stick these in the microwave and go next door and take a shower. I’m putting my uniform on, and I'm sitting there at the work table, got a plate [of] lobster and baked potatoes.
My boys come back from lunch, and they’re going, Kane, what do you got? “I got lunch here.” Lobster? Where’d you get the lobster? “Oh, I got them in the creek out back.” They go, No. I said, “Okay, no.” Oh man, those lobster are short. Said, “Oh man, they’re the sweetest. The best.” Oh man, can I have one? “Get out of here. You already had lunch. This is my lunch.” Boys didn’t know what to think about me.
Back then, we was allowed to catch conch, so I made some friends with some local boys, and on the weekends, I’d go out there. We’d go swimming, catch conch a lot—jumped right off the beach, go out there, catch 18 lobster, 18 conch. I remember one time, we [were] coming in there, we had an inner tube with a little breadbasket strapped in there, and that’s what we put all our stuff in. You know, hang—we can hang on, you know, come to walking out of the water with these bags of lobster, bags of conch, and tourist are going, Wow, where’d you’d get those? Just see me walk out of the ocean, what do you mean where’d I get those? Anyway, my second boat, the Huri–kane II, was a little 18-foot Forecast I bought when I was playing Navy there, at Boca Chica. It had a little Yamaha.
TH: Eighteen-foot Forecast?
DK: The name of the boat was a Forecast, a little fiberglass boat. Kept it right on base there. And I'd work, and I’d get off work—I met two bums from home down there. And I’d get off—
TH: Bums? Bums?
DK: Bums.
TH: Bums, okay.
DK: They stole gas—siphoned gas—to get down to Key West. I mean, it’s some—some shady kids come off the beach, you know. And the one guy, Fred Hines(??), I knew his sister in high school, and she was beautiful. So I meet these guys down there. They ain’t got nothing. They ain’t got no money, you know, and I took them fishing. Took them over to pick kingfish nets at $10 an hour, you know. Took them, over there, to the shrimp house to pop shrimp heads for—forget what it was—a $1.50 a bucket, you know, and show them how to make a little money. And I—but we’d catch some fish. We weren’t catching much, we was catching small yellowtail and catching 150 pounds a night or—and then I go to work all day, and I get about an hour and a half of sleep, and come Friday, I went and fished. I washed the clothes and had problems with the motor.
TH: The motor?
DK: The motor. So I buy me another motor, ran about 10 hours, and it put the rod right through the side of the motor. I decided to take Oceanside Marina to court because of this—
TH: You bought a used motor?
DK: A rebuilt motor.
TH: Okay.
DK: My mechanic buddy takes the head off, and the head gasket’s just all rusted away and gone. So that’s what happened, the water came through the head gasket, and water didn’t compress. Go to court—didn’t know how to fill out the paperwork, so I get the ladies at the court helping me out. I go to court, talk to the judge, and, of course, you know, me against the Bubba system. Judge was like, “You know, it looks like your suing yourself.” He tells me, “You know, you spent $35 and do this paperwork right, but you’ll be wasting your $35 because you”—judge told me, “You’re going to lose.” Said, “Okay.” So that was the end of the Huri–kane II. It sat there in the parking lot of the bowling alley on base for a year before I had to get rid of it.
The whole time I was in the Navy, all I wanted to go do was go fishing. Then I get out of the Navy. My buddy had bought Doug’s 24-foot Stapleton. He wouldn’t let me fish it without him on it or his friend. Him and his friend bought it. And I wanted to fish bad. My buddy, Doug, got married, so I couldn’t have a job with him. His wife was fishing with him. And we was at the bar one night, and here’s Junior Roseman(??), and he’s like, “Yeah, Bob Young(??) got a 31-foot Prowler for sale, down in Key West, Florida.” Mm, boy. Anyway, when I got out of the Navy, I couldn’t keep on making my land payments, so I sold my property for $75,000.
TH: That you bought for 20 [thousand]?
DK: I bought it for 25,000, so I got, like, the $18,000 I spent in it for seven years. Most of it was taxes. I still owed, like, 23,000. Anyway, got out of the Navy, I had $52,000 in my pocket. In ’83, that was still a little bit of money. Went down to the Keys and bought me a Prowler [for] $15,000. Bob Young—I had beat up—Bob had a contract with the Coast Guard. When the Coast Guard busted a boat for smuggling, he’d come out there and tow them to the dock. They took the drugs off it, he’d take them over to his dock and get the fuel out, so they’d cut the fuel tanks open and look. And this is a boat I bought, the Sika(??), and it was funny. Everybody hated the Sika(??) back then.
They was just wrapping up the smuggling, and over half the guys fishing were smugglers, and young. They didn’t like the Sika(??) because they—when you got busted, they’d come tow you around. So, anyway, I bought the Sika(??), sold my property, and it was—Bob had it tore up. No canopy, the keel was off of it, deck wasn’t even there, just pieces of oil-soaked plywood. So I went to rebuild my boat.
TH: Where were you living?
DK: This was—I was living on the boat at the time.
TH: Oh my goodness, where?
DK: This is down in Key West—Land’s End Marina, Key West. Oh golly, it’s something else. Me and my buddy trying to rebuild the boat, living on the boat, eating fiberglass. He’s wanting to chase girls and blah blah. We finally get the boat put together. The first trip, I run it aground.
TH: Run what?
DK: Run it aground. Had to pull it out and find a keel he’d cut off. He’d cut the keel off, so for towing. So I found the keel was only half a keel, and I had to add a piece on there and—
TH: You hadn’t seen the bottom of the boat yet?
DK: No. Nope. No. Shoot, I just wanted a boat, boy. And I couldn’t fish my brother’s boat. So, anyway, got the boat fixed up and started fishing. Now, I was yellowtail fishing—if I was smarter, I would have gone with somebody and let them teach me what to do. Instead, I just went out there and learned on my own. Probably took me three years to learn what I could’ve learned in one trip.
TH: Yellowtail snapper.
DK: Oh, yellowtail snapper—Key West. I went down to the Keys, I was going to buy a boat—buy this boat, and come back home and kingfish. I figured I'd be there in a month. Took me like nine and a half years to get out of Key West. You can lose a decade in Key West pretty easy. I was deep-sea drinking back in them days—catching fish. I think it was about three years before I started catching fish, and that yellowtail is something else. Golly, they're not big fish, so you better move fast. Trying to learn how to fish, I had a big chip on my shoulder, nobody told me what the secret was. And there wasn't no big secret. It was like having your bait pre-cut. That’s like five or 10 pounds a night times two people, you know, and being quick tying a knot. That was another five or 10 pounds a night times two people. Throwing your bait way over the little fish.
TH: So, what do you mean times two people?
DK: Well, I had a deckhand back then, and now I fish by myself. You know, I’d come into the dock with 6 [hundred], 700 pounds of fish, you know, and I should be doubling that. And I didn’t understand it, but all these little tricks though—10 pounds here, 10 pounds there. Now you’re doing—well, there’s another 120 pounds a night.
TH: By just learning a little bit more? Be specific.
DK: If I would’ve fished with somebody else, and learned all these little tricks—somebody could’ve showed them to me—so I had to learn the hard way, but—
TH: Explain how you catch the yellowtail?
DK: The yellowtail?
TH: Yeah. And how the fishing—
DK: It’s funny, though. Back then, it used to be all nighttime fishing. Went down to the Keys to buy a kingfish boat, and by the time I put the thing together, three months later, I missed the kingfish season. I figured [I'd] go yellowtailing. And yellowtailing is pretty tricky. This is a tropical fish. They’re not very big—delicacy—people love them. And, you know, back then we didn’t get a lot of money for them. I got about three $3 a pound. I called them “gold tails.”
Now, fishing for yellowtails is a little tricky—they’re small fish. And you want to get them up off the bottom, get them up to the surface, close, where you could really put them in a boat in a hurry. The way we do this is you don’t use a sinker; we use a chum ball for the sinker. What they do is they grind up this baitfish, and make chum out of it, and they mix the chum with dirt and make this chum ball like the consistency of Play-Doh.
TH: Play-Doh?
DK: When you hook the bait on your hook, you put a piece of this dirt around the top of the bait, and you stick it in the water. It’s like a sinker. Like when—first, when you get there, you know how many hands it is. A hand’s like that far, like a foot and a half, two-foot-long, we call a hand. So, anyway, you set—you got to set this in the water gently, so it don’t break on the surface. And you know how far the bottom is. You want to pop your first chum balls about three to five feet off the bottom.
TH: How deep of water you fishing?
DK: Oh, you go anywhere from 45 to 125, you know. But, anyway, you pop two or three chum balls pretty close to the bottom; it brings the fish to where your chum ball is. Now, these fish—that chum ball breaks—some people like the big puffy one. I like to break them in two or three pieces, that way when the fish eats it, the sand gets stuck in its gills, and they got to swim harder to get the sand out its gill. Now, when you swim—getting this chum, sand out of his gills—he's chumming the water and exciting the other fish.
And so if a fish breaks your chum ball, you know you’re going too deep. You don’t want to drive it down, you want to bring them up, so you start popping your chum balls one or two hands high, or one or two hands high, or one or two—and you bring the fish together, and up, behind the boat. And once you get them behind the boat, this is where you really start. Then you quit popping chum balls, you take a—you hook it on there, throw it out there. Get—
TH: Hook what on there?
DK: Hook the bait on the line. You throw it out there.
TH: What kind of bait?
DK: Well, we used redfin herring. We’d cut them—I’d cut big fat pieces at night, and real skinny pieces in the daytime so it’d look more like a minnow. Once you got the fish up near the surface, you’d throw that bait back there. I’d wait about three seconds, and take a little piece of the dirtball, and throw it back, close to where the bait was. That way, by the time the bait got so far down, the chum ball or the piece of chum—now, we’re not using chum ball. And by doing this, you could pull the fish up, and you'd get them back there, about 17 hands behind the back of the boat, which is really good, especially if you want to fish two lines by yourself. And it’s hard to fish two lines by yourself.
TH: Now you’re using handlines?
DK: Now, the handline we used is like a 60-pound test mainline or the 20- or 30-pound test mono leader. And this line’s so skinny, so light, it’ll cut you.
TH: The leader line?
DK: So, what we’d use for this—well, when you put your hands in the water all day long, your flesh gets real soft. So we’d take bicycle innertubes and cut them so we’d put them over our finger. Put a little tape under there, and that way, that line ain’t going to cut you. And, aw man, when you get them fish just right, you could put them in the boat in a hurry, and they was 2.50, $3 a pound.
TH: So you used what kind of line—main line—what was your main line again?
DK: I like triple fish. We’d use 60 pound—
TH: Sixty pounds—
DK: —for our main line. We’d take that line—
TH: Was it monofilament?
DK: Monofilament. I’d drag the line behind the boat, wrap it on a big old yo-yo, and I'd drag it behind the boat, just straighten it out, then I'd take 220—put 20 grit sand paper, and I'd sand it twice to sand the wax off the line, so you got good grip. And you want that line—stretch it, so when it lays on the deck, it lays real good. You don’t want no knots when you’re yellowtail fishing. You want that—don’t walk in the line. Don’t make knots. Knots—knot ruins my fishing. I get a knot, you know, it ruins my week. I hate a knot. You know, it tangles, you ain’t catching fish. Most important thing about fishing—
TH: So then you had a little swivel, and how long was the leader?
DK: My leader, I'd start probably about 10 foot. When it got back to about five foot, I'd cut off and make a new leader. Now, I learned—
TH: And a leader line was lightweight, like 10-pound test?
DK: You know, it’d be 20 or 30, 40 sometimes. Now, at nighttime—now they weren’t fishing in the daytime, they change the feeding pattern, the yellowtail. But nighttime, if they’re biting good, I'd just take the main line, take 10 foot, cut it off—use 60 for main line and 60 for a leader. If they’re going to bite that, good. You ain’t got to worry about breaking them off. Now, when the best—
TH: How big a hook?
DK: We’d use a number—I'd use a number 3407 O’Shaughnessy. Some people used a little number two.
TH: Describe it.
DK: It’s about this long. It’s the same size we use for king mackerel. We use a number eight O’Shaughnessy for king mackerel. It’s one size smaller than the kingfish, and the live baiters use the number seven for kingfish, or they used to. Anyway, pretty big hook. I like to tie them—
TH: But they’re little fish.
DK: Little fish, but I didn’t want little fish.
TH: You wanted the big—
DK: Sometimes it’d take me three days to find the big fish.
TH: Snapper? You’re talking snapper.
DK: Big yellowtail snapper. I mean, you catch little yellowtail snapper, you’re going to get 60 cent less a pound. And I was going to the Dry Tortugas, going out for five to eight days, and I don’t want 60 cent. I don’t want the fish to just be sitting, you know, I'm going to burn my ice. I didn’t want $2 a pound, when I could get 2.60 a pound for bigger fish.
TH: How big? Now, talk about the—give me a—describe the sizes.
DK: A big snapper is over a pound, under a pound’s small. Anything over a pound is big. And I really liked the pound and a half, two-pound fish because they’re harder to spook. You get the four and five—rarely do you get five pound. If you get the three to four pounders, five pounders, you can drop something on the deck and scare them. They ain’t coming back. The pound and a half, two pounders, when they were biting, they were biting—biting good. Oh yes.
Anyway, one of the most important things, you got to be quick tying a hook. I started fishing by myself years later. It took a lot of practice. Now, if I pulled that fish out of the water—if I couldn’t see the hook, instead of de-hooking the fish, I'd just come across and de-hook and snap the line on purpose. I’d reach out and grab a hook, tie a knot, and I'd be back in the water in about three seconds. Tying a knot and putting the bait, you know, you got to be fast. Like I said, it’s—tying a hook, that’s another secret, another 15, 20 pounds a night.
And, oh wow, I got pretty good. At the end there, I was making all my trips short. I didn’t care if it was a good trip or a bad trip. Make the bad trip shorter. If you can’t find any fish in two and a half days, I'd go back to the docks—60 miles—throw my bait in the freezer before it thawed out. Call it a bad day, that way you wait two more days, and you’re going, “It’s a whole different moon phase,” you know, you’re not against the wall. Make all the trips short. Anyway, I always wanted to kingfish, you know. When I got out of the Navy, there weren’t no kingfish.
TH: So you spent nine years snapper fishing?
DK: Yellowtail—more than that, actually. Anyway, when I joined the Navy, there was more fish than you could shake a stick at out in the ocean. When I got out of the Navy, they was gone. In seven years, they wiped out all the fish. They came out with this thing called a LORAN-C. The LORAN-A—LORAN-C is a—
TH: Who’s—first of all, who’s “they”?
DK: The government. The LORAN-C allowed you to go back to the same exact spot. This was the predecessor to the GPS [global positioning system] system. This allowed fishermen to go right to a spot—have a good spot there, write the number down, and be able to come back. Before then, you’d just go on a compass course by so many minutes, and slow down and start looking. I mean, to find the same rock twice in a year was a nearly impossibility. When you’re going—I mean, you’d get close, but good luck finding that exact spot.
Now, when they came out with the LORAN-C, it made the bad fishermen good fishermen, and good fishermen great fishermen. When I got out of the Navy, seven years later, it was gone. Grouper was gone. Red snapper was gone. Oh yeah, they started longlining. By the time I got out of the navy, they started longlining—really started hurting it. The king mackerel—they wiped them out with wraparound gill nets in the wintertime. In the summertime, they drift netted them.
TH: You’re covering a lot of area here.
DK: So, anyway, I go down. When I got out of the Navy, well, this was—when I was in the navy, they wiped out all the fish. When I was in the Navy, all I wanted to do was go fishing, so I went down to the Keys to buy a kingfish boat. Anyway, nine years later, they banned the drift nets. My buddy—
TH: So let’s—
DK: My buddy, Doug, calls me up one night, drunk as a skunk. He’s like, “They took down the fences. They’re going to let the fish back in. I mean, they’re going to let the kingfish back in the feeding grounds.” You know, I've been in the Keys now for nine years, my wife’s been with me five years. She hated the Keys. She wanted to come back to Sebastian. She wanted to come home. I’ve been wanting to kingfish, but it was so bad. Now, when I was out in the Keys, at nine years, I'd make one third of my income in six weeks of kingfishing. The kingfishing ain’t down there very long, but I wanted to kingfish, so—
TH: Did you handline kingfish down there?
DK: We trolled them. We trolled them. There’s other ways,                (??). But anyway, when they banned the drift nets, I got Doug off the phone three hours later. I turned to the wife, “You ready to go home? I’m going kingfishing.”
TH: So you—
DK: My deckhand told me, “There ain’t no way you’re going home.” By this time, I’m one of the top hooks down there, yellowtailing. I mean, [I] told Frank, “Three months. I’m going May first. I’m going to be in Jupiter, kingfishing. Doug’s going to meet me in Jupiter.” “Ain’t no way. You’re doing too good.”
TH: About what year was this?
DK: This would’ve been ’98, probably.
TH: So let’s go back a little bit. So, first—the first thing to really lessen the fish or wipe out much of the fish was the navigation—
DK: Technology.
TH: Technology.
DK: Technology.
TH: And it made every—like you said—
DK: So then, after the technology, they came up with live bait. And now they’ve got fluorocarbon, they got lines that disappear in the water. And there’s no more secret spots. Today all the spots—you can go on the internet, and you go in fishing magazines, you know.
TH: Okay. And then talk a little bit about the circle nets and the airplanes. I mean—
DK: Oh, my golly.
TH: And now—stop you there—I recall times, the old timers like Al Terrell and—
DK: Let me tell you about the wraparound drift nets. They spot them with the spotter planes, and they wrap them up. And back in the days, there was so many fish, there's no way they could put them all in the net. So they wrapped the school of fish up, and they take about 20 percent or maybe 40 percent, and the rest would go to the bottom of the ocean, dead. Because they’re stuck in that net, they purse it down. The fish can’t swim around, it needs—oxygen starvation.
And after doing—using these nets—for like six, seven years, what they didn’t kill, the fish wouldn’t come back to the same spot where their school was wiped out, and only 10 percent lived. They just avoided that spot. They wouldn’t come there no more, you know. It was sad. When I got out of the Navy, there wasn’t nothing. When I got out of the Navy, the king mackerel fishermen were in the river clamming. They couldn’t make a living catching kingfish. There was only like seven or eight full-time kingfishermen left. It was that horrible.
But I was bound to turn—become a king—well, like I said, went down to the Keys, and it took me nine years to get out of the Keys. Now, when they banned the nets, I came up here, and the fishing was so horrible, I’d fish for three months, then I’d go back down to the Keys and fish yellowtail snapper for three months, then I’d come back up here and fish for three months. Now, back then, we was on a thousand-pound-a-day limit in our winter quota. And you know, it’d open up on November 1st, and by New Year’s, we’d be done. We couldn’t catch no more kingfish till April first. And what happened, is the net boats is only allowed 5,000 pounds. Well, they’d go set 20,000-pound sets and split them up in their—
TH: That’s down in the Keys?
DK: No, this is up here.
TH: Oh, they—
DK: This was up here. When my—
TH: The nets were still fishing up here?
DK: The nets were still fishing up here. We went to 50 head a day. Now, I tell people, “The east coast king mackerel fishermen are the only commercial fishermen that volunteered to ask to fish conservatively, to rebuild the stocks.” That’s only half the truth. Really, we wanted to go 50 head a day because we knew the net boats could not get in there. What happened was, the fish would come down, and they’ll set up in an area for some—pretty much a half a moon or a moon. They take a weather system or a moon, and they’ll move on. Kingfish love to move. They only set up in place for a little while.
Well, when the net boats line up where the fish are, they go set once and as soon as that roller—when that net starts hitting the water, those fish start moving. They’re gone. We’ve got to wait for another moon, another weather system and hope it brings some more fish in. So we said, Let’s go to 50 head a day. And we went to 50 head a day, got the nets off our fish. I mean, we weren’t being shut down on New Year’s, and I was fishing all the way to April 1st. We was fishing through Lent. We was leaving a quarter million, 350,000 pounds of our quota, swim, and we didn't care because we was making more than twice as much money catching less fish because [of] fishing during Lent. Got the nets off our fish, so they weren’t killing fish and sending it to the bottom anymore.
TH: This was the time, you know, the year—
DK: This had been after I come out of the Keys.
TH: But the nets were still fishing?
DK: The nets were still fishing. They was down—they’d cut them down to 5,000-pound limits, but you got to be caught. Oh, we went to 50 head, and all of a sudden, the nets was out of it. Like I said, we was leaving a quarter million, 350,000 pounds of our winter quota swim.
TH: So it was 50 head for everybody, including the nets?
DK: For everybody.
TH: About what year?
DK: Oh, gee, let me see. That’d probably been around 2002, 2003.
TH: I think the nets were outlawed in late ’90s—’98. Was it 2002?
DK: Oh, let me tell you a story about outlawing the nets.
TH: Well, let’s get the—let’s get—try and get the years right.
DK: Oh, I'm not real good with years. Well, let me talk about the nets. The nets ruined my king mackerel fishery when I was in the Navy. Now, a lot of the net fishermen down in the Keys were the smugglers, you know, they had the big boats, you know. They were fishermen—lobster—and I never really never considered smugglers criminals, you know. Fishermen been smuggling people, jewels. Most of the wars were, you know, it’s commercial fishermen that helped show the armies which way to invade the country. Smuggling is not as bad as some people—but, anyway—God, where was I going with that?
Oh, I wrote this article for, like, two and a half, three years, trying to get the nets out of our fishery. Took me two and a half, three years to get the brass balls to submit it. And I go to this fishery meeting, and everybody gets a fish meeting, you know, they say, I’m Joe Smith from Sebastian. Oh, I’m Fred Jones from Fort Pierce. So I get up there, and I say, “Dan Kane, fisherman extraordinaire.” And the whole room breaks up laughing, laughing.
Just about time the laughing starts settling down, I say, “You people, the council, you’re all responsible for destruction of public property. That’s millions of dollars.” You could hear a pin drop. I said, “When I was in the Navy, you let them wipe out the king mackerel fisheries with these net boats. You check with our federal penal system, you’ll find out over 51 percent of these kingfish net boat captains have been convicted of federal crimes—smuggling.” Oh my golly.
TH: What percent?
DK: Over 50 percent. It was the truth. I thought it would stop the net boats. No, it didn’t stop the net boats. What it did—I'm not going to say it endangered my life, but when I went to the Keys down there, from then on, I slept with one eye open and, you know, I always watched my back because I really made some enemies of people I really respected. But you know, I thought it'd stop the drift nets—thought it’d stop the wraparound nets. They’re still wrapping up kingfish down in Key West. They’ve got half the Key West quota. It’s disgusting. I hate our National Marine Fisheries Service for their incompetence. Anyway, when I came back home—
TH: Is there a different EEE [sic] zone down in the Keys?
DK: Yes.
TH: For the people that don’t know, there’s different—
DK: It split up. I remember when they split it up. Golly, I was down there in the Keys. Like I said, I used to make one-third of my income a year catching kingfish in six weeks down in the Keys. One year, the Panhandle caught our whole quota. The EEZ [Exclusive Economic Zone] down there used to go from the Panhandle all the way to Miami. They caught the 1.1 million pounds up in the Panhandle. None for us. We had special meetings, and the council decided to give us 350,000 pounds of fish.
TH: That would be down in the Keys?
DK: Down in the Keys. And we decided, How do we want to split it up? We wanted to go 1,000 pounds—is what we wanted.
TH: A boat?
DK: A boat. You know, for those 350,000. And, back then, you know—
TH: Per trip?
DK: Per trip, per day.
TH: Pete Glad(??), you know, we couldn’t figure out how to come up with a 1,000 pounds, so Pete says, “Let’s do, you know, 1,250 fish a day,” or no, “125 fish a day.” Anyway, so they’re eight-pound fish, that’d come out to about 1,000 pounds. Well, that year, these little bitty fish showed up there—          (??) like, the rock pile, all over—these little bitty four pounders, barely legal things. A hundred and twenty-five fish was like 450 pounds.
Now, in the rock pile, there is a school—these big, giant logs, 20, 30, 40 pounders—monsters. They wouldn’t bite the spoon, but they’d bite the jerk bug. And those boys down there don’t know what a jerk bug is. They’re afraid of a jerk bug. I found that one school of fish and I sat there. I was doing 17, 18 hundred pounds for my 125 fish. Everyone else was doing 450 pounds of fish.
Oh, the guy down there that counts the fish, Ed Little, is like—tells Dave, “You tell Dan to quit catching over his limit. He’s going to get in trouble.” And he’s going, “Ed, you got to see these fish. They’re monsters. He ain’t catching over his limit.” And then when those big fish left, there were some fish over there at Riley’s Hump. You can’t fish Riley’s Hump anymore, it’s a National Marine—
TH: What’re you talking about?
DK: —sanctuary. Riley’s Hump.
TH: Riley’s Hump.
DK: Riley’s Hump. My most favorite fishing spot in the world is now a marine sanctuary. They take all my spots. Eighty percent of my fishing bottom in Key West—they took it from me. Did they reimburse me for any of that? No, they just—go somewhere else. But anyway, that year is funny. And then the Cubans—the lobster fishermen decided they’d fish in state waters, around—right next to the Dry Tortugas Park. They didn’t have to catch 125 fish. They could fish unlimited. I was killing them. I was making—I was doing good, and golly, the Cubans filled the quota in two days.
TH: Kingfish?
DK: Kingfish. They decided they could fish unlimited because they was in state waters, and I was so mad, I caught myself bad-mouthing the locals. I said, “Well, this ain’t going to work. I better get my boat and go home.” You don’t bad-mouth the locals. That never works out. So anyway, yeah, we went to 50 head a day up here. The fishing got better and better, you know, and then I started traveling up to St. Augustine and Jacksonville after the spawn in June and July. I was going way up north, and I had to—I didn’t have to go to the Keys anymore.
Once we went to 50 head, I was able to fish here year-round, doing good, you know, and then we decided to go to Louisiana. They're really good in Louisiana. I’ve been going to Louisiana now for 21 years. I kingfished in Louisiana for, like, two and half, three months. I fished in the Panhandle in the fall—place to be in the fall when we get the northeast winds, and make the weather horrible and the ocean conditions horrible here in the east coast of Florida. It’s offshore wind, over there, in the Panhandle. And that’s where the fish stage up before they swim south of the migration.
TH: Kingfish?
DK: Kingfish.
TH: So, like, name some of the ports in the Panhandle that you’d fish out of.
DK: Fished out of Destin, Panama City. We started fishing out of Apalachicola a few years ago. I tell Jack and Captain Turner, “We went to Louisiana.” God, 21 years ago, it was only about eight or nine of us for, like, seven or eight years, and then the fleet followed us. And I told Jack and Jimmy.
TH: Jimmy Turner?
DK: Jimmy Turner. “When you’re a leader, you get followers whether you want them or not.” Some people can’t catch fish and keep their mouth shut. They got to brag and that never is good. But anyway, it’s been all right. Once we started going 50 head, the fishing got really, really good and—
TH: But over in Louisiana, you can catch how many a trip?
DK: In Louisiana, we’re allowed 3,000 pounds a trip. You know, I’ve had 3,000 pounds in a day, maybe 10, 12 times, but normally it’s—you average a thousand pounds a day, and you fish three days. And it’s long, and it’s hot, and it’s something else.
TH: And what months are those?
DK: They open up the season July first, so we leave here June 24 to travel over there. And it’s quite a journey. I like it. The third-year or the second year we’re going over there, and my buddy, Jack Robinson’s like, “Dan, let’s just cut right across the Gulf. I hate going up around the rim, you know, because you go wait in order to—you got to go all the way around Florida, and then come all the way down south and go around the mouth, in the Mississippi.” That’s a lot of time. You got to stop and get fuel, and, you know, and I had just rebuilt my boat. Carried about 340 or 370 gallons of fuel. I’m like, “Okay, Jack, if it’s slit calm, I don’t see why not, you know, five foot—5,000 foot—my boat’ll float.”
So we get over there at Estero Island, that’s Fort Myers Beach, that’s where we fuel off for the jump-off, and we didn’t tell nobody we was planning on going across the Gulf. And there’s David Steed(??), and Dave from down the Keys, Jim. There were about eight of us. Me and Jack, we get fuel, and say, Oh, we’re just going right across the Gulf. They go, That’s crazy. You could die. Like, “Well, I don’t know about that.” I can’t believe—that’s stupid. That’s crazy. That’s dumb, you know. And we leave Estero Island—
TH: There’s two of you together?
DK: The guys that are going to Destin, and we’re going straight for the mouth of the Mississippi. It’s only like a 10 or 12-degree difference, but it’s another two days’ travel. That’s a lot of fuel. A lot of time. A lot of sleeping, you know. So, we listened to these guys for like six hours, bad-mouthing—Oh, dumb, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard in my life. That’s crazy.
And we get there a day and a half early, get our boat ready, night’s sleep, and we get to start right where we want to be. These guys, they start in Alabama. They’ve had like 700 pounds. Jimmy, the last day, when we was coming in, somebody pointed him the right direction. We had our fisher back out by the time those guys got into the dock, you know.
The next year, Mark Coyote(??) is like, “God, that looks like a pretty good idea. You mind if I help?” “No, the more, the merrier, because we don’t stop.” Lay down and take a four-hour nap. We get a half mile from the other guy and keep the eyes open for him. And three years later, every guy that’s saying, “It’s crazy. It’s—” they’re riding right with us. Straight across the Gulf of Mexico.
We go over there. We go across Lake Okeechobee and then jump right across the Gulf. It’s—the fishing was really good. Now, we’ve lost, like, 85 percent of the oil rigs over there. And the oil rigs are like tremendous fishing spots, and there are spots over there that I've caught $150,000 worth of fish. They took the oil rig down—never catch a fish there again. And—
TH: They like the structure.
DK: It’s—what happens is each oil rig is like a nursery for the shrimp. It’s like the fish—the bait stop there. There’s lights at night. There’s shade in the day. And bait, and a lot of fish—they love—into the shade, out of the shade. They love playing in the shade. I don’t know what it is. And the oil rigs cause a current at ease, and fish love that, so you got the bait, so you got the bigger fish. Ah, it’s just—at least I got to fish there when there was plenty, plenty oil rigs, you know. I got to see it when it was good. At least I got to fish down there, in the Dry Tortugas, where I lost 85 percent of my fishing bottom. At least I got to see it when I was good, and it was great, and it’s still pretty good.
TH: So today your pattern is Louisiana in July, then North—
DK: About late September, we go to the Panhandle.
TH: And then?
DK: And then when the water gets so cold, the fish are out of the Panhandle. Now, last year, we found out where the little fish stay there in Apalachicola, right before the Big Bend area. What a—you know, I was talking earlier, when the Panhandle caught our whole quota, down in the Keys, then they split it up. Then they gave the Panhandle, like, 185—186,000 pounds a year because they caught 1.1 million pounds of fish one year, you know.
And we went over there, it’s like, first, nobody—first, we went to the Panhandle, the first year, we didn’t go Louisiana. It’s like holy smokes, there ain’t nobody here, you know, the north winds, the offshore breeze. The fishing was great. It was like a secret. And then we started going to Louisiana, and then people started going to the Panhandle. While I was in Louisiana, they had that quota filled by the time we got done with Louisiana.
Well, two years ago—three years ago—two years ago, they decided to give the Panhandle some more fish. They gave them like 500,000 to add to the 186,000. Almost 700,000 pounds. They really should have a million. And they decided they was going to open the season up, and not in July like they’ve been doing, because July and August is tourist season in the Panhandle. That’s when the charter boats are all chartering.
So they decided they’d wait till the tourist season opened, and open up the kingfish for the charter boats. They’d have something to do when the charter season was over. Now, I don’t know what anybody else thinks, but I don’t think a charter boat should be able to sell the kingfish. That’s a sport boat, and he shouldn’t have a commercial license.
So anyway, they decided to wait till the tourist season, and open up the kingfish in the Panhandle for the charter boats. Well, trying to hurt us, what they did is they—they wait till we’re done in Louisiana and they waited for us. Now, they open up the season when we get there. It was like, “Thank you very much.” They tried to screw us, and they just handed us the check, “Here you go, guys.” And so, instead of the quota being filled, we got to fish there till the water’s so cold, the fish swam south. So now come the springtime, there’ll still be some fish over there for us to go over there now. And it’s like—they tried to screw us, and they just wrote us a check. It’s something else.
TH: So is—now, it used to be, before the nets started striking kingfish on the west coast, there was a handline industry and—
DK: The net boats are in Key West. When you get north of Key West, there’s no roller rig boats.
TH: But I mean—what I’m saying is _________(??) Cleve Lewis.
DK: No.
TH: Some of these old-timers, they used to follow the fish on the west coast of Florida and fish Fort Myers, Tampa area. I don’t know.
DK: Well, actually, Tampa ain’t got fish for a long time because it was always closed, and the fish was in their backyard. Now, now—
TH: The fish are coming back over there.
DK: Well, this year, we tried to fish Tampa on the way home, but the red tide had screwed everything up there.  It was like a 150-mile dead zone of nothing. Nothing. No kingfish, no stone crabs. The stone crabbers had to run way north. They had to go like 80 miles or 60 miles north to catch any stone crabs. That red tide was horrendous this year.
TH: So that’s the new plague on the fishing industry?
DK: Yeah, the red tide’s been happening forever, but now they have fertilized the red tide, and it’s become—it’s tragic. Tragic.
TH: Well, before we go, you know, Tommy Thagos(??)—and he spent—they found fish in Fort Myers—off of Fort Myers.
DK: Oh yeah, they’re there, down there, catching fish right now, just south of Fort Myers, in the Florida Bay. I remember the first year I went over there, to Destin, on the way back. Everybody else came home, and I said, “I’m going to stay over here in Fort Myers, and try and do something here.” And everybody else came home. And it was funny because I went—I got a couple springs around there, where guys used to catch fish, you know, people gave me some numbers.
And I wasn’t doing nothing and came home for Thanksgiving, and I went back to my boat and I [was] fishing—dive and shark—and off of Sanibel Island, working this charter, and it says, “Rocks and ledges.” A guy’s over there, Tommy Marble(??), and God, what’s the other guy’s name—Randy—on the Silver King.
They’re out in Naples. They’re like, You’re too early, Dan. We’re going to make three more grouper trips before the kingfish show up. I’m like, “Well, I ain’t doing nothing at home. I’m just going to try it, you know.” And I go to King’s Corner, lo and behold, there they are. I could’ve had my limit—my 1,250. I was telling you earlier, when they had 125 head because they wanted a thousand pounds. They changed the quota to 1,250 pounds a day because I smoked them boys’ ass.
Well, anyway, I catch real good. I call Tom, “If you get your pencil out, I'll give you a number where—” they ain’t never fished there before. They’ve been there two, three generations of kingfishermen, or fishermen—commercial fishermen. They ain’t never caught fish there—what I call the King’s Corner. Like, for Sanibel Island, the coast makes a 90-degree turn. You go 20 miles offshore, and the coast makes—at 60 foot of water, it makes that same turn. God, we catching fish good, man.
And I called Tommy Jones, and he comes back over there. I give him a number, he goes, “What’s this log on spot?” I go, “Log on.” “Log” is what we call a giant kingfish. Tommy wouldn’t let me fish that rock the next two weeks. That was his spot. It didn’t matter, there was plenty of fish around. Oh, we caught fish good there, that year, and then the red tide come and run them off. King’s Corner. Headed up to King’s Corner about eight years later, sun’s getting ready to go down, me and Jeff Bryan(??), we’re killing these little fish. Biting the spoons quick as you get them out there.
Here come this little 18-foot toy boat, two kids in it—14, 16 years old? I don’t know. And they’re waving, hollering at me. I can’t understand. They’ve got like this British or Canadian accent. The fish were chewing, and I take the boat out of gear. I get up on the bow so I can understand them. They’re saying, We’re lost. Where’s the land? Twenty-five, 30 miles offshore, and these kids are lost. Sun’s going down, I tell them, I said, “The land’s to the east, the sun sets in the West. Go east. When it gets dark, go to the lights.”
TH: Hope they had enough fuel.
DK: Hope they had enough fuel. They probably tourists. Daddy probably rented a boat, and the kids took off. Crazy.
TH: Okay. Now—
DK: Hurricane Dan back. Let me shine you on.
TH: Before—before—
DK: Let me shine you on. My old introduction—I used to tell people, you know, “My name’s Dan Kane. They call me Hurricane Dan.” All my boats been named the Huri–kane.
TH: What about your pets?
DK: I used to have a dog named Candy Kane. I used to have a cat named Sugar Kane, still got a cat in our—I used to have a cat named Nova Kane. Still got a cat named Solar Kane. Used to have a cat named Raising Kane. Oh yeah, I got wife named Maggie Kane. Maybe I should put her before the dead dog and dead cats. Maybe not. I came up with a new word this year. I call it “luckability.” My ability to find fish is more luck than ability—luckability. Tell people, “If I can see land, I’m in the wrong place.” And I also tell people, “The ocean is the love of my life. My life is the ocean.”
Let me tell you one of my favorite stories about Rambo. Rambo was a spotter pilot. These are the pilots—they go find the king mackerel. The king mackerel are not like any other fish with schools. The school is in a circle. It makes a donut. A spotter pilot looks for that donut. When he finds that donut, he calls the net boats, and they run out to where he’s at. And he tells them when to drop the net in the water, which direction to go to wrap these fish up. Anyway, call me Rambo. Shorty on the Yvette’s out there fishing one day and—
TH: Who?
DK: Shorty on the Yvette—this is Monday night—this down in Key West. Runs out of cigars, and he asks Rambo, “Can you get me a box of cigars when you go to fuel up your plane?” He’s like, “No problem.” He gets out there and drops that box of cigars in the ocean, they pick it up. Shorty thought, That’s pretty cool. I think he started running out of cigars on purpose. Pretty soon, Rambo, you know, he can fly over and drop that box of cigars right on the back deck. This is, like, entertaining. And after a while, two or three times, they just saw Rambo just huddle home. Next time, he decides, he can put that box of cigars right in the wheelhouse. He gets real close to that boat. He leans the plane over. He tosses that box right through the door, right in the wheelhouse—only problem is the wing touched the boat.
TH: The what—oh.
DK: When the wing touched the boat, the plane come out of the air, does a cartwheel across the ocean, knocks Rambo out. Boys jumped in the water, and unstrapped and dragged his unconscious ass out of a plane. Saved his life. After that, they changed his name from Rambo to Ramboat. Oh boy. Then you said to tell you about the time I got hooked when I was surfing—been hooked four times. Golly, we ain’t been fishing—this is probably back in ’76. Doug had the Chicken Reel—slow boat. We decided we’re going to go out there, get an early start. We go out in the nighttime. We’re going to have an early start in the morning.
TH: Chicken Reel was the name of the boat?
DK: The name of the boat was the Chicken Reel. Doug played a fiddle, and one of his favorite fiddle songs was “The Chicken Reel.” And the chicken’s a small red snapper, so it’s kind of like—my boat’s the Huri–kane. You know, sometimes you got to slip something in there. So, anyway, we go out there, Doug has this stainless steel rock anchor. It’s cold. He anchors up. It’s blowing a little bit. It’s supposed to be nice in the morning—it’s cold. He don’t like where he’s at, so he decides to pull anchor. Puts the anchor rope in the boat. Well, ain’t this nice? He tells me, “Go over and cut the rope out of the wheel.” I’m like, “Ain’t no way. You put the rope in the wheel, you cut it out of the wheel.”
TH: So he got the anchor line in the wheel?
DK: Yes. And Doug’s like a cat. He ain’t going in the water. He knows I'm a surfer boy, you know. I’m like, “I ain’t going in there. You put the rope in the wheel. It’s your fault.” So I—like a dummy, I let him talk me into a coin flip. Of course, you know who loses, so I got to go swimming. It’s dark outside. Back then, there was a lot of sharks in Sebastian—a lot of sharks.
And I’m a young, teenage—a little scared of some things I shouldn’t be. So anyway, ain’t got another set of clothes, so I strip down buck-ass naked. Get a knife. I jump over. By the time I find where the knot is, I’m out of breath. So I wind up running a piece of monofilament down to the knot, and I go down there and cut and cut. And breath of air, cut and cut, and breath of air, and cut and cut. Climb out. He tries to kick the rope out of the wheel with the engine. A little six-cylinder Chrysler—kills the engine—I go over there, and cut, and cut, and cut, and cut. Climb out. It’s cold.
TH: Is it monofilament? No—
DK: This is the anchor rope, you know. He tries to kick it out. Still more rope in there. Where, the third time I jump overboard—got a snapper rig on the fishing pole, hanging over the side. I’m buck-ass naked, and I jump over, that hook catches me in the ass. So here I am, my head and my feet—it’s in the—is in the water, and the hook’s in my ass. And I just reached down to grab the hook and rip it out of there. I don’t even think about it, you know. And I go down there and cut a few more—
TH: This is the big snapper—
DK: Yeah, it’s a nice—
TH: A couple of inches?
DK: It was probably a 3407 O’Shaughnessy. I just ripped it out of my ass. And I cut a few more times, but I climbed out of there, and I was like, “That’s it, Doug, I ain’t going back in the water,” again, bleeding. Of course, Doug didn’t go in the water. He sat there for the next hour and a half, cranked the engine up, put it in gear [makes sound], crank the engine up—finally, he spit it out. Oh boy, that was—let me see, the other time I got hooked. Let me see. Oh yeah, we was fishing, me and Doug, and found a sheet of plywood floating in the ocean. We catch like two dolphin and two or three kingfish off this sheet of plywood.
TH: Because the fish hang under—
DK: The fish—they love playing into the shade, out of the shade. They just love something to make shade and just—so anyway, back then we used three hooks of tandems. The hook—there’s the eye, another hook, and that hook goes through—so you got three hooks in tandem, that’s triple bait. Now, when you sling a kingfish in the boat, you’re supposed to pick them up and set them in a box, not overhand sling them—is what I did.
So I miss the kill box, and the fish hits the fish box, and it comes right back at me. Put my arm up, and the hook goes in my elbow. And I got about an eight- or 10-pound fish on another hook, and he’s shaking my arm like hell, so I reach over there and grab the middle hook with my thumb, and he bites me on the hand. I sling the fish up on the dehooker and dehook him. Wow, I'm bleeding, the hook’s hanging out of my arm. Doug was a screamer.
TH: Now, one other thing—
DK: He’s hollering at me. I ruined the fishing—screaming and yelling at me.
TH: When a kingfish bites you, it bleeds. It’s like razor.
DK: A kingfish got a mouth full of razor blades. So does a bluefish. If a kingfish touches you with your mouth, you’re sliced like a butterfly knife. So Doug’s screaming and yelling at me. I got hooks—didn’t have no bolt cutters. We had half of a rusty hacksaw blade. So I'm here, trying to hold the hook down with my elbow, and hold on the other side, while he’s trying to cut with his little hacksaw blade, “Ow, ow.” “Shut up, you baby!” Oh, let me see—
TH: Did he get the barb?
DK: Yeah, we got that. Thank God there’s no feeling down here. There’s no feeling here. You grab your elbow, and it don’t hurt. And the other time I got hooked—I got a picture of that on my—
TH: I want to get some more details of this.
DK: Of that?
TH: So you had one hook in your elbow—your arm was cut by the kingfish?
DK: My other hand.
TH: Your other hand? The whole—the hand was cut?
DK: And this is before we knew about supergluing yourself back together.
TH: Okay.
DK: If you get cut, break out the superglue. I don’t care if it’s going to take three stitches. You get the               (??), squirt the superglue in there and hold it, and let it—do it twice. You be back fishing in 10 minutes.
TH: Hmm.
DK: Just glue yourself back together. We didn’t have that back in those days. Oh, let me see, the other time I got hooked, we was over in Louisiana. Nobody’s finding some fish. I went around this little single pole—
TH: Single what?
DK: Oil rig—single pole. They got an oil rig pulling oil. You go 10, 12 miles, they’ll normally have just another rig. A lot of times it’ll serve just a single pole or a small rig.
TH: I don’t understand the single pole.
DK: And it’s sucking and pumping. You got oil rigs with four legs, you got some oil rigs, like, three or four houses are gathered. You got some—just a single pole there.
TH: A single pipe?
DK: Just a single pipe sticking out.
TH: The whole thing’s mounted on a single—
DK: Right. Well, anyway, I come back to that place, and the fish are biting. They’re biting really good. I call my buddy, Jack, I said, “Jack, you need to get over here.” You know, sometimes we share a spot. When the fishing’s really good, it really helps to share a spot with your buddy. I let him see the hook there, in my hand.
TH: Oh God.
DK: So, anyway, I'm killing the fish. My kill box holds a little over 900 pounds of fish. Almost 1,000—1,000 pounds if I can’t shut the lid, which I do a lot. So anyway, I tell Jack, “You need to get over here. They’re biting. I got to pull out and gut out.” So, Jack pulls over there, and I pull out, and I throw the anchor, and I got—takes me about 45 minutes to an hour to gut.
I’m sweating— sweating like you wouldn’t believe. Now, my dry stack—my dry exhaust, my engine—it’s hot, but it ain’t super hot. I normally use that when I'm in Louisiana—work till my shirt’s soaked in sweat, and I'll take that sweaty shirt off, and wrap it around my dry stack and put a dry shirt on. By the time that shirt’s soaked in sweat, the other shirt’s dry, and, sometimes, it even brings the smell of the fabric softener out over the fish and sweat smell.
Well, that time, after gutting my fish, I decided to take my shirt off, put it on my smokestack. My bug reel—the hook is rolled up in the bug reel, but the hook’s just hanging out a little bit. When I took my shirt off, my hand come down there, and I hit that hook, and it hurt just a little bit. I ticked—I got the hook in my hand. I had to pull the wire out—break the wire. Now, the hook was in my hand. It came back out, and it went back—
TH: Now, that’s the picture that you showed me?
DK: —and it went—then it went back into my pinky.
TH: Oh God.
DK: And now, I had to pull it back through to get it out of my pinky, and I could not pull the barb through. If I could pull the barb through, I'd cut the eye off, and get it out and go back to work. But the distance from where it went—it went out—it was longer than the distance of the hook, so I can’t pull the barb through.
TH: You showed me a couple inches.
DK: So the third time I try and pull the barb through, I give up. I call Jack, “Come over. Put your deckhand on my boat and see if you can pull this hook out.” He comes over and he—three times, tries and pulls it out, you know, and my head about to explode because of the pain. I wind up kicking a bucket halfway across a boat. That’s it. I'm going to the doc. Going to the hospital to get it cut out.
Anyway, Jack winds up having 2,400 pounds that day. I probably would’ve had 3,000 pounds if I wouldn’t have done this. So anyway, thank goodness I have a pain pill on the boat. I eat a pain pill. I drive in. Garfish(??) is at the dock. He’s got to give me a ride, 30 miles to the hospital. I get to the hospital, and they’re not really a hospital. Right next door is a clinic, a little cheaper than the hospital. I brought the bolt cutters with me. I’ve done this before. I know they ain’t going to have bolt cutters there.
So I got to wait, and wait, and wait. The painkiller wears off and hands hurt. Finally, about nine o’clock, they’re going to take care of me. I put the hook in me about 10:30 in the morning. So I go in there, and I brought another hook with me so I could show them—what you want to do, we want to pull—you’re going to have to cut this here, pull the barb out, then I'll cut the eye off and pull the hook through. And I'm telling the ladies stories, you know, and the nurse and the doctor are both ladies, a little older. That doctor, she told me two or three—“You’re one cool dude.” Once she got the hook pulled through, I got down there and cut the—“Can I keep these?” She wanted to keep the hooks. I tell her, “Ma’am, you got to quit flirting with me. I’m married.” That’s the four times.
TH: Four hooks?
DK: Four hooks. If you fish—especially kingfishing—you’re going to get hooked, you’re going to get bit. But that’s just what it is. Let me see, I already told you about—oh, when I got out of the Navy, before I sold my property, I tried to go tilefishing—longlining. I’d been in the Navy for seven years, electronic technician. I ain’t done no manual labor.
I get out of the Navy, I tried clamming—tried to pull this clam rake. I wind up getting these blisters on my hand. And I didn’t know no better. I get a job on a longline boat, I figured, Well, I better pop these blisters. Never pop a blister. Wait till the blister pops naturally. I’m out there, and you got to squeeze these gangions to put the hook and line on the longline. And I cut these blisters so there’s—and, as I’m squeezing these gangions, you know, like 300 gangions to set the line out, and then pull them back in, I could actually see the meat in my hand separate, and the pain was immense. And saltwater in an open wound don’t hurt for the first two or three seconds until it starts drying, and then the pain is immense. I didn’t want to longline. Oh boy, let me see—
TH: Was that your own boat that you were—
DK: No, that was Dave Burns(??). He was a drunk. That was before I bought my boat—before I sold my property. My first try at fishing out of the Navy. Oh boy, let me see, John Katubi. Scooby dooby Katubi—John the Russian. I’m down there in the Keys. I've been fishing for about a year and a half, two years. I mentioned I learned how to fish the hard way. I’m fishing hard, doing deep-sea drinking. I’m not doing real good—kind of struggling. The fish house decides they’re going to kick all the dead weight. There’s like seven or eight people, all they do is sit at the dock and drink. Maybe go out once a week to catch a few fish to buy some more beer, and so—
TH: This was in the Keys?
DK: This is in the Keys—              (??) fish house. So they’re kicking all the dead weight out. My name is on there because I'm not producing real good. And John Katubi is in the office—John and Albert—and they’re going through who really ain’t very good. And I’m going to get kicked out, and John and Albert’s like, Well, you know, Dan fishes all the time. He’s only here for one or two days.
TH: Is this Albert—
DK: No, this is—
TH: Different Albert.
DK: Albert Chiron(??), down there in Key West. “I see how Dan fishes all the time. He just don’t know how to catch them, you know. You know, at least he’s trying,” you know, I was doing deep-sea drinking. So anyway, John Katubi, he’s feeling sorry for me. John liked to drink, too. He’s a pretty good fisherman. He was a character. Tell you a story, in a second, about him and the tuna boats.
But anyway—so John gives me about nine or 10 numbers. He gives me some numbers to the 10-minute reefs, some numbers to the 45-minute reefs, some numbers to the 55-minute reefs. Now, back in the old days, before the LORAN-C, they would count how many minutes before they start looking for the rocks. And he gives me about 10 numbers, he says, “Now, I’m not giving you these numbers to make a living on, you got to find your own spot. Don’t just run from number to number, move over a quarter of a mile and run to it. Miss it by a quarter-mile and go back to it. Run past and come back to it.”
He told me, you know, how to find bottom. He says, “You’re going down the reef,” you know, down the Keys a lot of reefs end. He says, “Keep on going that same—you’ll be surprised. You might find a rock off the end of that reef all by itself, and that’s what you want.” And he pretty much told me, you know, “You need to look. You’re not going to find unless you look.” And I've always been lucky finding fish—always been lucky. And I always lay it to that 20-minute sermon John Katubi give me. He told me how to find fish, and even—I come up here, kingfishing, and the whole fleet will go one—they’re all going there. You don’t find unless you go look. And I’m not as good as one or two other guys, but I find them. My luckability normally runs pretty high. Oh boy, that’s—
TH: Luckability.
DK: Luckability. Scooby Dooby Katubi. He was in the Navy. He told me, when he got out of the Navy—was in San Diego. I spent three years in San Diego myself. He said he got him a gallon of wine, went and sat down there at the railroad tracks, and drank his bottle of wine. He had kind of a—I ain’t going to say “warped” sense of humor, but he decides he’s going to put his sea bag, and all of his Navy uniforms, on that train track and watch the train run it over. He said that was great. He said that train hit that—uniform flying everywhere.
So anyway, the next morning, he got a bit of a hangover. The tuna fleet used to be there—San Diego. So John goes down there and gets a job on the tuna boat, and that was really interesting. I went down there to the tuna fleet, and I was talking to a guy, I said, you know, “When’s the trip?” He said, “Well, it could be anywhere from, like, six weeks to three to six months.” I said, “What?” He says, “Yeah. At first, you know, we leave out of here, we’ll go down off of Baja [California] and look around. But, you know, normally we don’t find them there. So then, we’ll go through the Panama Canal and look on the east coast of South America. Sometimes we catch them there. If we don’t get them there, we go across the Atlantic Ocean to Africa, where we know we’re going to load the boats.”
And the fleet would be three boats. One boat’s the bait boat, and they can’t get a net around these tuna unless they stop them. And so, the bait boat gets the tunas in a feeding frenzy, and while the fish are in a feeding frenzy, the big boat wraps up the little bait boat. I’m using “little”—not really little, you know. And so anyway, John says they—these bait boats—they put these guys in like a windshield-washing cage, and they lower them over the side of the boat, real close to the waterline.
TH: Now—
DK: And they got these poles—this is tuna fishing. And they got these poles, and he said, “The leader on these poles just, almost, touches their shoulder. They find these tunas,” and I guess they pretty much find what the—porpoises will run with the tunas. And he says, “They get there, and they’re squirting water overs these guys’ head—showering the water to make it look like bait on the surface. And they’re throwing live bait in the water, and the fish are up there in a feeding frenzy. They got no—one—sometimes two poles to one hook. Sometimes three poles to one hook.” Three men to pull one fish out of the water. And the hooks don’t have barbs on, they have a little hair and they—and they bail them.
And while they got the fish in a feeding frenzy, the big boat wraps them up, and then the little boat pushes over the net, and they go find the next school to set the second boat. And then, if they got both boats stuck, then they try and spend the rest of the day—John told me, he says, “Everybody on that boat was junkies. There was one old Portuguese guy that wasn’t into the drugs. Everybody else was junkies. When those tuna boats hit the dock, the sheriffs were there checking all the crew members for warrants,” he said. Anyway, he wound up down in the Keys years later. After that, he went sandfishing over there, and then he come to the Keys. Wound up being a stone crabber.
Oh, another story, John Katubi stone crabbing. I don’t know if you watch this Deadliest Catch? And sometimes those crabbers are fooling with each other. The one guy is looking for a truck, so the guy got a truck out of a junkyard and tied it to his locked pot(??). Well, down there, in the Keys, the stone crabs—they break the claws off, and throw the crab back in the water. He’ll grow a new crab.
TH: A new claw.
DK: A new claw. So anyway, they think it’s kind of funny to save all of these crabs without no claws, and stuff their friends trap full of crabs with no claws. I’m at the dock one day—old John—he likes to drink. He’s pouring a bunch of new stone crab traps. They put a little bit of concrete in the bottom of a crab or lobster pot to hold it, so not only does it sink—so it sets upright. And it’s early in the morning, nine o’clock, John’s drunk. He’s got this penny loafer. He’s like, “Dan, you got a bone? I want to concrete this bone into this penny loafer. I’m going to put it in Dennis’ trap.” I’m like, “Yeah right, John.”
TH: Put a what in—a bone?
DK: A bone. So anyway, I go home for lunch, or I go on home, and we had ham hock—a big old ham hock bone. So I give John this ham hock bone. He sticks it in his penny loafers, concretes it in there. He’s got a drumstick—he sticks it in the hole in the big toe—concretes this—bone’s in the shoe and he goes, puts it in Dennis’s trap. Dennis goes, pulls his trap, and he freaks out. There’s somebody’s foot in his trap. He calls the Coast Guard. He gets to the dock, the Coast Guard’s there, the marine patrol’s there, the ambulance—the ambulance driver. They’re, Yeah, that’s a femur bone. And they’re naming the bone—this old ham hock bone. Anyway, for Christmas, he got the other penny loafer for Christmas. Oh, yikes, Scooby Dooby Katubi.
Dennis—same guy—fishing by himself. He’s anchored up one night. He’s going to get an early start on the stone crab the next morning. All by himself, he’s asleep and, all of a sudden, the boat starts up. Scared the snot out of him. Wiring kind of sucked on the boat. Could you imagine sleeping on your boat and, all of a sudden, it just starts up and wakes you up?
TH: It’s just bad wiring?
DK: Bad wiring.
TH: Oh my goodness. I never heard of such a thing.
DK: Oh, all kind of such of things. Let me see, I might have another couple of stories.
TH: I’m sure. I’m sure you do.
DK: Oh yeah, over in Louisiana, about 12 years ago, Ricky McKnight(??) wakes up. Got water in his engine. If water don’t compress—you can’t turn an engine over with water in it. If you turn it over, it’ll put the rod right through the side.
TH: That’s a diesel.
DK: I’m on a single pull. I’m killing the fish. It’s, like, not even an hour after daylight. They’re biting. Ricky comes on the radio, “I got water on my engine. I don’t know what to do.” Well, I know what he needs to do. So I quit pulling fish. I get up on the radio, I say, “Ricky, I heard of this happening before, 15 years ago, in the Dry Tortugas. Whichever cylinder had the exhaust valve open has water in it. You need to get a socket that fits on the front of that engine, a big old breaker bar, and you roll that engine over backwards, and that piston is going to come back up to the top, and it’s going to push the water out of the cylinder, out through the exhaust manifold.” He’s like, “Really?”
Billy Rubin(??) comes on the radio, said, “Yay, Ricky! I got a big socket set, and I got a giant breaker bar. I’ll be right over.” I’m, like, going, thank God, because I had a socket and breaker bar myself, but I didn’t want to quit fishing. Go over there, and sure enough, Ricky was able to go fishing and got the water out of the engine. He fished—rest of that season, he didn’t shut the engine off at night, he let it run and dry-stacked his boat on the end of the season.
TH: What’s the advantage of dry-stacking your boat?
DK: Well, when I was over in Louisiana, my exhaust was always nine to 12 inches underwater. So it means if a hose clamp breaks loose, you’re having a string of water coming in there this big.
TH: And that’s—
DK: Your bilge pump’s only this big, so you’re sinking unless you could plug that hole up. When I was over there in Louisiana, my exhaust was always nine to 12 inches underwater. That’s a lot of back pressure on your engine. That shortens the life of an engine. Dry-stack, you know, it’s a little noisier but—
TH: It’s safer?
DK: Huh?
TH: Far safer?
DK: Far safer, yeah. And plus, my first year—went to Louisiana—I didn’t realize I had a bad fuel injector or a fuel pump. Actually, it was—the fuel pump was sort of dirty. It was—and I had so much exhaust rolling up the back of my boat, up in my cabin, like, and if you drive down the highway with your window rolled down on your station wagon, that exhaust will roll right up in there, and that exhaust is deadly. And I was having that exhaust roll up in there, and I didn’t know what—I didn’t have enough money to go Louisiana, my first year in Louisiana, and have a mechanic look at my boat.
So instead of having a mechanic holding(??) up on my canopy, I kind of hatched my canopy so that hatch would take the wind and blow it right off—right across my stern, and blow all that exhaust right out. And it worked. And it made the stern of the boat about 10 degrees colder, because if you take your hand and put it up to the canopy, it is so hot—about 110 degrees up there. When you get that cool air blowing on you, it really changes that. It’s funny, too, when I—
TH: But it confused me. The cold air blowing where?
DK: Well, see, when my wet exhaust—the wet exhaust—the exhaust is rolling up into the back of the boat, and the exhaust is coming up into my wheelhouse.
TH: Where was the hole?
DK: My exhaust and the stern of the boat.
TH: But I mean, where was the hole in your canopy?
DK: I put it about two-foot in front of the stern of the boat, so when it was opened up—and that air come right across my face, and right across the stern of the boat, and then—
TH: Blow that air.
DK: It didn't fix the smoking problem, but it fixed the problem of me breathing exhaust all the time. I was going to Louisiana—I built an ice hold upfront. When I built the ice hold upfront, my bilge water, instead of sitting in front of the boat, sat right underneath the engine. So the boat rolled, and the salt water splashed up on the bottom of my engine. In a month, it’d have salt crystals this thick off the bottom of my engine, and salt on your engine ain’t a good thing to do. I’d clean it up and spray a lithium grease, another month later, it’d be fixed. So the next time I pulled the engine out of the boat, I put spray rails on the inside of my stringers. I took a little cover for, you know, your plastic fences—that PVC [polyvinyl chloride] square thing. I’d cut it lengthwise, and I bolted it on to the stringers, so now when the water hit the stringers, it splashed right—got the salt off there.
TH: I had that problem.
DK: Salt on the bottom of your engine?
TH: Yeah. It’s so—there’s no space down there.
DK: Well, next time you pull the engine, put little spray rails on your stringer. That’s what I did. I just—
TH: I had a—
DK: Worked like a champ.
TH: —Rhino coat. That Rhino coating.
DK: On the bottom of your engine?
TH: Yeah.
DK: Next time you pull your engine, get one of those plastic covers for a 4x4 and cut it lengthwise, and make spray rails on the inside of your stringers. That way when the water hits there, it’ll hit that spray rail and get knocked right back in the bottom of the boat.
TH: There’s no room on mine, it’s that little 24 Stapleton. There’s no room.
DK: Oh, there’s room.
TH: All right, I'll—
DK: Because stringers got to be high enough for the engine.
TH: Yeah, it is.
DK: You know, and there’s room. It works.
TH: Excellent. Excellent idea.
DK: I was up there at the Cape, about eight years ago, in the yard. I met this guy. He was on an aircraft when he played Navy. Had a nice little toy pleasure boat and we call it “pussy barge.” About two days later, I’m working on my boat—ain’t nobody there, it’s a weekend. And one other guy—a few boats over, I hear somebody say, “Hello?” I get out. I look around. I walk around. Don’t see nobody. Hear it again, “Hello?” I look around. There’s a car over there. Ain’t nobody around, you know, Tommy’s two boats over.
And about 10 minutes later, I’m over talking to Tommy, heard it again, “Hello?” I said, “You hear that? That’s the third time I heard that. I looked for it before.” So I go looking around. This guy, Don, I met a few days earlier was up on his boat. His boat’s on the hill—he’s pressure washing it. The exhaust fumes overtake him. He passes out standing on the boat. He falls like 12 foot onto the ground, cracks ribs, and breaks his pelvis.
The third time I go find him, he’s trying to pull himself up on this rope, I said, “Whoa! Whoa! Stop! Stop! Don’t do nothing. You might have a back problem. Hold on! I’ll go get you a pillow, get you a blanket. I’m calling 911.” They come over here and towed him off. This is up here, at Cape Marina, Cape Canaveral, you know, and people there are, Oh, thank you, Dan, that was nice. And I meet this guy, Don, about 10 days later. He wanted to thank me. “Oh, broke my pelvis, broke some ribs.” I said, “Don, it’s not ‘hello.’ The word’s ‘help.’”
TH: I was going to say.
DK: I said, “I might have heard you say ‘help’ the first time, I would have found you, you know, 15 minutes earlier.” Oh boy. Let me see. Oh, this ain’t fishing. Christmas—my wife likes after-Christmas sales, so I used to always give her $200 for after Christmas-sales. I thought I’d do something special for her this time, so I go to the bank. I get 200 $1 bills. I take Christmas tree ornament hangers and hook them in these $1 bills, and start sticking them on the tree. That Christmas tree is nothing but $1 bills from top to bottom. I still had like $70 left. We used to always have a train underneath the tree. I stick dollar bills out of the train. I stuck the rest in a couple of shoe boxes. It’s about $20 of change off the—all around the bottom of the tree. It looked pretty neat—a money tree.
Wife wakes up, “Wow, that’s pretty cool,” she says. Eh, okay, you know. And anyway, my stepson, Marvin, his wife comes over. She steps in the door, and Jeannie(??), she goes, “Oh my God, is that real?” “Yes.” “Oh, my God.” She’s there running her hand down the tree, like, “Oh, my.” A money tree. Funny thing is I was seeing Jaws 2 on TV the other day, and they had a tree in there with money hanging off there, so my original idea wasn't quite that original. Oh, it was something. Let me see. Oh yeah, laughing at pain. You ever laugh at pain? I had kidney stones a few year—a year and a half, I put up with kidney stones.
TH: That’s supposed to be pretty painful.
DK: Oh, the doctor—I don’t go to the doctor. Doctors will kill you. I finally go to a doctor, “You got a kidney stone in each kidney, but I don’t know what your problem is.” And my pain wasn’t back here. It’s down here. I went through this for a year and a half. Finally, when those kidney stones moved, I was talking on the radio—I had—I dropped to the ground. It just dropped me. The pain was so bad. I had to climb up my captain’s chair and pull the boat out of gear and reach over to turn the autopilot—right back to the ground. It—the pain was unbelievable. I go down to my cabin and lay in bed, see if I could find a place where the pain was a little less, and I couldn’t find that position. I hear myself whimpering like a kitten, dog.
And I could take pain. I—and then I remember, like, four or five years earlier, I put some pain pills on the boat in case I ever broke a hand or had a problem. Thank goodness, you know, I was like 17 miles from the dock. I literally—I got two steps coming out of my cabin to my wheelhouse. I crawled up there. I opened up, found my pain pill, ate the pain pill. I get up on the dash. I'm shaking and, finally, about a minute and a half later, the pain started easing away. Go to the doc—I go back to the doc—I go to the doctor the next day and I'm hurting. The nurse’s aide, said, “I think you had a muscle spasm. We’ll give you some muscle relaxer and some pain pills.” I’m like, “No. I—please, I think I got kidney stones. That was no muscle spasm.” They send me home, and I get them broke up—blah, blah, blah.
Well, anyway, about a year—a half a year later, I'm pulling a fish box off my boat. And my boat’s got a crown, so it’s got skids on both sides, so it don’t—my fish box don’t rock. Fish box ain’t that heavy. I go to pull the fish box off the boat by myself, and the skid hits a hatch, comes out of my hand, falls on my foot, breaks my foot in about three places. The pain is—it’s like three places, and my foot is like just fire—it hurts, you know, and I'm on my knees. After about 45, 50 seconds, I figure I better man up and stand up, and see just how bad it is. And it hurts, but I can walk, so no problem. I continue walking.
Now, at—two places healed pretty quick. That big toe—it hurt, man, for like, a half a year. What hurt worse was the gas pedal and the brake pedal. I’m going home one day from the boat, and my toe was hurting bad, really hurting bad. I’m thinking about pulling off the side of the road—it’s hurting so bad. And then I remember the kidney stone pain, and that wasn’t pain, that was like a mosquito bite. I started laughing at the little bitty pain in my toe. And I'm driving down the road, laughing at the pain. About 20, 30 seconds later, the pain left. I never thought you could laugh pain away, but you can. Let me see. Oh yeah, the storm of the century, holy smokes. Been through a lot of hurricanes, a lot of storms. This was a cold front.
TH: In your boat?
DK: In my boat, in the Dry Tortugas. When it got up—
TH: Dry Tortuga—
DK: —when it got up to New England, they called it a white hurricane. This was—
TH: Describe how far offshore the Dry Tortugas are.
DK: The Dry Tortugas is, like, 65 miles west of Key West. There’s a chain of Keys—keep on going down there, and Dry Tortugas is the last Key. Fort Jefferson on Dry Tortugas is a great, big old brick fort. Anyway, before I went fishing, this was before cellphones, the wife tells me, “You know, there’s a cold front coming. Isobars are really tight. Please be in safe harbor when it comes. There’s going to be a lot of wind.” All right, storm of the century. Anyway, my wife asked me to be in safe harbor because this cold front had the isobars really tight.
TH: Isobars really tight means lots of wind.
DK: It means a lot of wind. Anyway, the fish wouldn’t bite that day. It was weird. It was like my joints—my joints felt weird, and the fish wouldn’t bite. I think I caught like five little fish in like 10 drops. I’m like, “Huh!”
TH: You’re bottom fishing?
DK: Bottom fishing—yellowtailing—down there in the Dry Tortugas. So I figure I might as well go into Fort Jefferson, get ready for this cold front.
TH: Is there a harbor at Fort Jefferson?
DK: There’s a safe harbor inside Fort Jefferson. Only problem is half of the bottom has this turtle grass, and the only anchor that’ll hold the turtle grass is a plow anchor. So when you go into Fort Jefferson, you need to make sure you drop your anchor in a piece of sand. Now, I had a wishbone anchor. That’s a wrong anchor to have in any winds.
TH: Describe a wishbone anchor.
DK: A wishbone anchor only has one fluke. It’s shaped like a wish bone. I started using a wishbone anchor to anchor up in the front of the reef. Your fish are always in the front of a reef. When you got the current running, the current comes up the reef, and it makes like a wave. And the fish are always in the front of the reef. And they’re like up and down that wave, like a surfer riding that wave. They don’t got to swim, all they got to do is turn the tail and they can just [makes sound] you know. And they want to be in front of the other fish because he who’s in the front gets the first bite of the fish. So I decided, instead of using a rock anchor—your rock anchor hits the front of the reef, and the fish are there, now your bow is 15 foot behind the fish, and you walk 30 foot to the stern of your boat, now you’re 45 feet behind—down current of the fish.
So anyway, I'm using this—made a mistake of using a wishbone anchor. And I take a little nap, and I'm there about noon, and I get up before dark, and there’s like quite a few boats in there and more coming, you know. And I lay back down. Now, Bird Key is right next to Fort Jefferson. It’s right across the way. And the first 50 foot of Bird Key goes from, like, three inches of water to three, four foot of water. It just drops off immediately. And it must be about an hour after dark—
TH: What boat were you in?
DK: I was in the Huri–kane III—my 31-foot Prowler. And anyway, my boat drags anchor. I wake up. My boat bumps the beach. I come flying out of my cabin, and I look out the window and I see dry land right there. I know it’s real deep. I crank the engine up, and I put it in reverse in full throttle. And now I'm backing up into a 45-knot wind, about two-, three-foot sloppy-choppy stuff. Water is hitting the stern of my boat, and just flying up over the roof, into the—
TH: Well, where was the anchor?
DK: The anchor’s off my bow, skipping across the water. I’m going full throttle in reverse, and then I take it out of gear, I jump up on the bow, and I get the rope and the anchor on the bow. And the wind’s blowing 45 knots, so I’m almost on the beach again. My Prowler used to have outboard steering on the inboard boat, so it only did like 14 degrees one way, and 18 degrees the other way, when you should have like 28 degrees on your rudder. So I didn’t have very good steering to get the boat back off—away from the beach.
Heart’s in my chest—my—beating like a drum. I’m soaking wet, and Eric on the Triple-E says, “Hey, Dan, is that you yachting around?” I’m going, “God, Eric, I just got off the beach. I don’t know what to do.” You can’t tie up to the fort after dark. He’s like, “Oh, I've got a 45-pound Danforth. You could anchor off of my stern if you want.” “Oh, thank you.” So I pull up to Eric and tie off to him. It’s raining, blowing 45, so he goes back. I go back in my boat.
TH: Eric’s another fisherman?
DK: Another fisherman. Eric on the Triple-E. He gets the name Tugboat after this little story. So anyway, I go up there, and I get the rope off my bow and I tie it up. I watch this big three-mast sailboat pull in. Everybody’s color-coding their foul-weather gear in one boat. Pull up, put one anchor up, pull up and put the other anchor out. Think there’s 27 boats in the anchorage. Nine out of 27 boats are going to wind up on the beach before it’s over. And it’s blowing 50, then it starts blowing 60, then it’s blowing 70. Boats start breaking roofs left and right, you know.
The little sail—I watch this one little sailboat. He’s got one of these little anchor packages you buy that’s coated in plastic, and about this much chain—a little toy anchor. It rides up this big sailboat’s anchor, and they tie up to the side of that boat, and they’re banging [makes sound]. It starts blowing 80. It starts blowing—and then it really starts blowing. Boats start breaking roofs left and right, dragging this way and that way.
Let me see. The Golden Girl—Franklin, the Golden Girl. He had this big old steadying sailboat—used to be a bluefin tuna fishing boat—used to harpoon tunas. And he was down there yellowtailing. He had a little boat. He used the big boat for, like, the mothership, and the little boat he’d make three or four trips, and he’d take the big boat back to the land and fill it full of ice again. His wife was working with the Rangers in the fort. Well, he didn’t have no rope. He had all chain to his anchor. You got to have some rope for stretch. When you start snatching—if you got a whole anchor, it just snatches that—if you got stretch—snatched his anchor right out of the bottom. He went up on the shore.
Moses                (??), this Cuban guy—oh, he was a good fisherman. He gets blown up on the beach, and Frank’s outrigger gets underneath Moses’s canopy, and it blows away to the wind like a leaf in the wind. It was like three boats altogether on the beach, and it’s lightning. The rain’s going this way. It looked like a freighter wreck. It looked ugly. And it’s blowing and blowing, and the tower was clocking 98 miles an hour inside Fort—on top of Fort Jefferson—before the tower blew over. One-third of the pine trees—
TH: What kind of tower are you talking about?
DK: This is the tower to mount the radios and the wind meter, you know, so they could talk. Anyway, a couple of days later, I get up in there, one-third of the palm trees are blown over counterclockwise inside the fort. It’s a mess. There’s like four sailboats on the beach. I tell Eric, I said, “Hey, I have a way to get them sailboats off the beach—is you get a rope on the mast, and you pull the boat over, and you have the rope on the bow. Once you get that boat pulled over on its side, it’ll slide right off the beach on its side.” He’s like, “Really?”
So he goes and pulls about four boats off the beach that way. Couldn’t get the big, giant boat with the two sailboats—no, the two—and the sails, and three masts. Anyway, Moses—I go over there and he’s hard aground. Sand had the boat half-buried, and I tell Moses, I said, “There’s a bunch of palm trees knocked over inside the fort. See, you get those palm trees and cut the top and the bottom off, you got logs. Take your rudder off—your underwater gear off—and roll your boat in the water. Get back to the dock, and you could put it all back together.” “Oh no, we got it.” They got like—he was a Cuban—good—gee, I like the Cubans. Got about four or five Cubans—they’re digging like monkeys trying to get the keel to show. Queen Elizabeth II, like a 70-foot lobster boat—lobsters out of Miami. When they’re done with that part of the season, they come down and finish in the Tortugas. Big old towing hawser—broke it in half. Snapped the half a second time and that—
TH: So broke it in half doing what?
DK: Trying to pull that boat off the beach.
TH: Whose boat?
DK: Moses ____________(??)—a Crusader, a 34-foot Crusader. Towing hawser—a big old—tore it in half. They hook it up again. They pulled the boat off the beach. When they pulled the boat off the beach, it sounded like somebody tearing a telephone book in half. That rudder ripped all the keel bolts and came dragging off. Oh, just tore all his underwater gear up. Almost sunk the boat. That was the last fishing trip for Moses on the ________(??). There was—nine boats out of 27 boats went up—actually, 10. I was the first one on the beach. It was something else, man. Holy smokes. Storm of the century.
TH: At least you weren’t out in the ocean.
DK: Oh, God. Thank God, the mom—I mean, the wife told me not to do that. Oh, you know what a shrimp sucker is? These shrimp boats, instead of basking the shrimp out of the hole, they’ll squirt a hose of water in there and have another hose sucking the water, and the shrimp in the water slurry out into a thing, and it really makes unloading these big shrimp boats a lot quicker. Well, there’s this Vietnamese over there. He got his shrimp business now. He started by welding his first shrimp boat together, and welded the three boats—
TH: I assume you’re in Louisiana.
DK: We’re in Louisiana now. And so now he gets several boats and he getting screwed on the price, so he starts selling his own shrimp—gets his own ice house. Well, he wants a shrimp sucker, so he calls Dean Blanchard(??) down at Grand Isle, wants to know where he buys his shrimp sucker at. So Dean Blanchard’s(??) pretty much a joker, so he gives this Vietnamese guy a number to a whorehouse over in Louis—over in New Orleans. So this Vietnamese calls this whorehouse, tells them he wanting a shrimp sucker. “Well, you must be a little fella, but we got blondes, we got brunettes, we got redheads.” “No, no, no. I want a shrimp sucker just like Mr. Dean.” “Well, I don’t know what you want, but just come on, and we’ll take care of you.” Oh boy.
Now, let’s start talking about some boat accidents. Marty Riddle(??), down there in the Keys, he’s dead and gone now. Marty was fishing with a boat—George Calvary(??)—they was longlining down off Dry Tortugas. Sleeping. George hears a tugboat coming. Tugboat’s dragging two barges, barely misses George. George gets the crew up—no time to pull the anchor. They got a hard boat for a life raft. They get the flare kit, an apple, an orange, and a jug of water.
Second barge misses them. The cable going from the second barge to the—from the first barge to the second barge, is now against the wheelhouse of the boat. Marty said that cable had the wheelhouse about halfway cut off before the second barge T-boned the boat and rolled it over. These guys are in a—they have a little life raft. And the barge—the barge turned around, makes two circles looking at all this wreckage, and moves on.
TH: So it just—the barge just turned the whole boat over?
DK: Yeah, rolled it over and sunk it.
TH: So were they in the—
DK: No, George had got the boys up. They got the boat off the roof. They had just enough time to grab the flare kit.
TH: The rest of the—
DK: I think they had a pack of cigarettes, too. And Marty said—
TH: They had a lifeboat.
DK: Yeah, they had a hard—this was before you had to have life rafts.
TH: When you say a hard life—
DK: It wasn’t a rubber raft. It was just a hard fiberglass boat. A little toy boat like, you know, I think it was a 14-foot river boat. He said they was in the water for two days.
TH: Off the Dry Tortugas?
DK: He said they was on their last flare. He said this freighter’s running right by them. And he said George Calvary(??) took that flare gun—and this guy had come out of the boat to have a cigarette—George took that flare gun and aimed it right at the guy. The flare hit about two foot below the guy’s feet and exploded, and it showered sparks, you know.
TH: Was it nighttime?
DK: No, that was first thing in the morning. They’d been out there for that night and another night. And so it was the last flare. And, anyway, Marty—
TH: And they used the other flares for other boats?
DK: He said they kept on shooting flares and smoke flares, and people just run right by them when they see it. You know, a lot of those freighters—right there, in the Dry Tortugas, all the boats that are coming out of the Caribbean, going up to New York or going to New Orleans, they pass right through. It’s like Grand Central Station, that little area there.
TH: And they wouldn’t pick them up?
DK: They didn’t pick them up. Thank goodness, when they made the few rafts, they was able to see the name of the barge—of the tug. And the paint in the—so they got—Marty got enough money. They all got money out of that deal. Now, Terry Kite(??), he was out there fishing. I think he was anchored up, sleeping. It was like four knots of current.
TH: Where?
DK: This is Riley’s Hump, 15 miles southwest of Dry Tortugas. My most favorite fishing hole in the world. I can’t—it’s a National Marine sanctuary now—can’t fish there. But it’s the last rock before you drop off, and the Gulf Stream are going south. It’s the last—one of my favorite yellowtail spots. A third of my income come off that rock every year. Can’t never go there again.
So anyway, Terry’s out there anchored up. I'm up there near the fort sleeping, and this freighter’s coming by, sees Terry, don’t realize how much current there is. The freighter runs over Terry’s anchor rope, pulls his Crusader—[makes sound] slap against the freighter. Terry said his bow was digging in the water until the freighter finally shakes the anchor rope in half. He said the boat was spinning around. The stern had hit the ship in the bow—the stern and the bow, the stern and the bow—and it’s spinning around. And I get a call on the CB [citizens band] radio, like, eight of us had CB radios, everybody else had VHFs [very high frequency].
And Terry’s wondering what to do. I said, “Terry, if I was you, I wouldn’t go up on that.” The guy is wanting to give him some money on the ship. I said, “I don’t know if I’d go on that ship. Now you’re in their county. You have no rights when you step onboard that guy’s ship.” Terry never got a penny out of that. Beat the shit out of his boat. Oh, let me see. Who else? Oh, Curty Hammer. My buddy, Curty Hammer—we was fishing up off of Pelican—offshore Pelican. This was about eight years ago.
TH: Now, Pelican is? Now we’re back off Sebastian.
DK: We’re off Sebastian. We’re off Cape Canaveral. And that year was—it blew. It was one of the nastiest winters.
TH: About how far off?
DK: We were like a mile offshore of Pelican Flats. Pelican Flats is like 24 miles from Sebastian or 24 miles from Cape Canaveral. It was only about 12 miles off—15 miles offshore, but you got to come in at an angle. Didn’t catch a fish there—rougher than snot. Now, I’m up there in Grant[-Valkaria], Florida. I’m just putting my boat in my slip. Maybe I just put my boat in my slip. Jerry Harrison is showing Al Tyrell where Sebastian Inlet is. Al ain’t been out this late, but we’re long ways away.
We get a call. Curty Hammer puts the LORAN numbers on the radio. “I’m sinking,” cold and blowing. I’m like, “Oh my God.” Jerry thinks he’s Jesus Christ now. Jerry, he said, “I’m on my way.” I said, “Should I come, Jerry?” He says, “I’ll be there in 20 minutes. I'll let you know.” I said, “Okay.” I cranked my engine up, and I start idling towards the inlet. Jerry runs right to the numbers, and Curty had the intelligence—he’s on a fish box lid and got a little flashlight. Jerry sees a little flash. Picked him up.
TH: That was at night—dark?
DK: What happened—he thinks his washdown pump hose broke loose. And he’s riding in, the first thing he noticed—all of a sudden, the boat was sluggish, and then the engine died because of the water, and he sunk.
TH: That was—Al Tyrell told me that story, and I have it. His version of it.
DK: The Curty Hammer sinking?
TH: And he said, the day after that, the Coast Guard was checking everybody for lights on their lifejackets.
DK: Might have been.
TH: Because that little light and that—I don’t know—I heard it was the light on his life jacket.
DK: Might have been.
TH: That he was able to see, and that’s what saved his butt.
DK: How about Jimmy Turner? You know Jimmy?
TH: He was—Jimmy’s the one who went back and found him.
DK: No, no, that was Jerry Harrison.
TH: Jerry Harrison went back to find him.
DK: And Jimmy Turner—we’re in the yard one day. Jimmy bought this Coast Guard boat, and I look at the scupper. The scupper of the boat comes down, and somebody had one-inch or inch and a half PVC coming out there with the T, another T—five T’s, PVC, at the water line for two bilge pumps, a fish box drain—
TH: Now, I don’t understand what you’re—I mean—
DK: His bilge pump and everything—
TH: I don’t understand—whoever you’re talking to is not going to understand.
DK: Oh, I got you. Well, anyway, he’s got his bilge pumps and his fish box drain this high above the water line.
TH: An inch.
DK: And I’m like—
TH: And inch above the water line.
DK: And I’m like, “Jimmy, that’s bullshit. That’ll sink you. You need to get them bilge pumps—and not a plastic thru-hull, but a bronze thru-hull because you—a plastic thru-hull could—get into the dock and snap off, now your bilge pump is pumping into the boat,” bronze thru-hull. I said, “They need to be about two foot off the waterline. You need to plug those holes. That will sink you.” He says, “You got any money? I’ll fix it.” I said, “That ain’t the issue, Jimmy. You need to fix it now the boat’s out of the water.” About eight days later, he gets in a fight with his wife, goes offshore, anchors up, wakes up when the water’s in his cabin. The boat sinks. Who knows what sunk the boat? I guarantee you it was that PVC.
TH: Well, how did he—what happened?
DK: You don’t put PVC at the waterline because the boat’s rocking like this. It probably broke loose and—
TH: But I mean—
DK: And now—now when the bilge pumps come on, they’re pumping the water out of the bilge, into the bilge.
TH: Who saved him?
DK: He was—he had one of the old EPIRBs [emergency position-indicating radio beacon] that the airplanes monitored. He was in his underwear, on top of a fish box lid, with his EPIRB blinking a light. And it’s not going to the Coast Guard, it’s just—if an airplane flies over, they see it.
TH: They see the EPIRB light? How do they know it’s an EPIRB light?
DK: No, they just have the EPIRB signal—the radio signal.
TH: Oh, okay.
DK: And then that sent people out to get him.
TH: He was on his fish box?
DK: On his fish box.
TH: His boat had already sunk?
DK: Boat’s already on the bottom of the ocean. It’s funny, about—
TH: How long was he on there?
DK: About a year and a half before that, he sells a boat to the brother of Roy Turner. Roy’s way up there amberjacking, coming in, and the boat sinks on the way in—Roy’s boat. So anyway, about two years after Jimmy’s boat sunk, and three years after Jimmy’s old boat he sold to Roy sinks, I’m working on my boat. I’m trying to fix my canopy. My canopy is longer than the boat is, and it got racked. I’m putting these gussets in there, just tightening it up. And Jimmy’s got one of his buddies down there, and he’s laughing at what I'm doing.
And whenever Jimmy would work on a boat, he’d go get somebody to help him. I’m going to do it myself. Ask somebody and do it myself. He’s sitting there laughing at what I'm doing to my canopy. I’m like, “Jimmy, I wouldn’t laugh if I was you. Two of your boats wound up on the bottom of the ocean. Maybe mine works a little better than yours.” It looked like I punched him in the gut. He went back to his boat and had a little cry. Don’t start throwing rocks if you live in a glass house. Oh boy, let me see. Who else sunk? Oh, I didn’t sink my boat, but I sunk up on the beach. About four and a half years ago, I was—didn’t want to go to Jupiter to fight that crowd fishing down there in Jupiter. So I’m trying to catch some amberjacks, some grouper. Fished two days and two nights.
TH: Where was this?
DK: This was right offshore Sebastian. Coming in, I'm real tired. I’ve been fishing two days, two nights. Probably got about three hours of sleep, maybe four. On the way in, I eat seven meatballs. I never should’ve ate. I know when I eat, it puts me to sleep. I took a shower. I should’ve stayed hungry and dirty. I wanted, you know, when I get home, I wanted to just jump right into bed, so I was going to eat and shower on the way in.
Three miles from the inlet—had it on my radar to see the jetty sticking out of the shoreline. Next thing I know, some water hits me in the back of the neck, wakes me up. It’s turtle season, so there ain’t no lights on the beach. I wake up, and I look, and I see all these ripples on the water, and I’m like—it was slit calm. I’m like—I got my hand on the—what’s going on? If it wasn't turtle season, there’d been some lights on the beach. I had about second, maybe a second and a half to put it in reverse and get off the beach. Instead, I'm sitting there [makes sound], and then I felt a wave pick my stern up and set me sideways like—now I know what was on—putting my boat on the beach.
TH: You fell asleep.
DK: Oh my golly. It took us, I guess, about 15 hours to get that boat off the beach.
TH: Albert came to help you?
DK: Albert and Mike Quatraro. Towboat come down there. Had the boat—the instructor come off the beach—the bow and then the rope broke. Went back up on the beach. I tried to—the samson post got pulled off the bow. The samson post is what you tie the boat up—anchor your boat with. That got ripped off the bow. Thank goodness I got a tow line, so I was able to run the rope through my tow line and back to my stern cleat.
TH: Tow line is an eye into the bow of the—
DK: Yeah, in the bow of the boat, for putting boats on trailers mostly or—it’s nice to have a tow line. If somebody’s going to tow you, if you’re pulled from the samson post, you’re pulling the bow down. If you’re pulled from the tow line, the boat’s riding straight and true. Anyway, we worked for hours. The Coast Guard come down there. Got to defuel the tanks. You got to get the fuel out of the tanks.
I’m like, “Come here and look at it. My boat’s on the beach, but the decks are washing water. I built the tanks myself. They’re [made] out of fiberglass.” As a matter of fact, I built the tanks so good—probably the reason why the boat didn’t come apart. The moment the boat gets on the beach, the waves break the cap rail apart, and then they tear the side apart. I built these fiberglass fuel tanks, and about three inches from the side of the boat—after I built the tank, I thought I'd just connect the front and the back and middle baffle to the side of the boat. Just—when you got a deck-out boat, anything you thinking to make that boat stronger, do it. It’ll be 17 years till you get back down in there again.
And oh golly, Coast Guard wanted to take my boat. “We’re going to commandeer your boat because you’re not addressing the issue.” I’m like, “What? You take the cap off there, the fuel’s going to—” “Oh, we can tap in there and suck the fuel out of there without spilling any. Spill any fuel, it’s going to be a $45—$40,000 fine a day, per day.” I’m like, “Well, kiss my ass.” When I was on that aircraft carrier, they was dumping thousands of gallons of jet fuel in the water every day. Nobody fined the government. They ain’t going to let that plane hit that deck unless there’s less than x-amount of pounds on their wings, and they dump the fuel.
So anyway, we pull and pull and pull, and the boat probably had about three tons of sand in it. Every wave that comes in there dumps a five-gallon bucket of sand. We’re digging. Finally, the other sea tow comes down there, and the hatch of my cabin blew off, so every wave coming there just filled my cabin. He comes there with a cordless drill, a piece of wood, and closed my cabin, got some suck pumps, got the water out of the cabin. Finally, get the boat off the beach. Boat comes off the beach—about this much freeboard on the side of the boat.
TH: It was about two inches.
DK: The other side probably got about a foot and a half, two—I mean, three foot. You got a sea tow saying            (??). Albert, he’s hanging on the stern of the boat when the boat come off the beach. He’s like, “Dan, give me a hand.” So I reach over and grab his arm. He said, “Not that arm. That arm’s hurt.” So I just grabbed him by his britches and throw him in the boat. The guy is saying, “Everybody get up on this side.” Because you wanted to get on the high side and bring—and Albert’s like, “Screw that!” And he grabs a five-gallon bucket and starts dumping water out of the boat. And I grab a bucket and I—we start on the sand. And we was like three-quarters of a mile from the inlet. By the time we got to the inlet, we had like two foot of freeboard. We got that much sand out of there. There was still—
Oh God. I told the wife I was too old to rebuild a boat—my old Prowler. Rebuilt my boat in 52 days. Had to fix my               (??), put my wall back up, rewire the boat, new steering lines, new—get the engine rebuilt, transmission rebuilt. I did a six-month, two-man project in 52 days by myself. I had some help the first—had some help the first week, you know, in getting the sand out of there, and after that, it was my job.
Now, David Steed(??)—Captain David Steed(??)—he come down, put $500 in my hand, said, “Here, Dan, I’d like to help you out.” Jerry Harrison come down and put $300 in my hands, and said, “Here, Dan, I’d like to help you out.” Mason give me $100. Each, you know, depending on how much—to how good they were doing. And Tony Sepai(??) come down with a trailer. You know, I had a lot of help. Family and friends—fish house loaned me money. Got back to fishing.
TH: Fishermen help each other.
DK: Don’t—don’t fall asleep.
DK: All right, let’s get back to some stories. I got a—remember Aubrey and the Mary Bee(??)?
TH: No.
DK: He was, like, a legend swordfishing. Had a problem waking his crew up. They wouldn’t get up. Aubrey had enough of this. He goes down there with a hot dog. He takes this hot dog and starts slapping the boys with it in the face. “Get up. Get up. Get up.” Slapping the boys in the face with those hotdogs. Boy wakes up and looks, and he’s sitting there holding his pecker in his hand. After that, he say, “Boy’s time to—are you up!?” “We’re up.”
No more hanging around. Same guy, Aubrey on the Mary Bee(??), he’s out there catching the swordfish. He’s making a run, decided to get in one night, and he comes across this boat—been out of gas, been out there all day long. It was like five firemen from Orlando. They run away offshore, run out of gas, probably 35 miles from the beach or maybe 20 miles.
TH: This is the east coast? Off Sebastian?
DK: This is off—somewhere off Sebastian. And these guys are out there, waving their lifejacket, and Aubrey pulls up to them and opens up his window. He looks down, and that boy says, “Are you God? We’ve been praying to you all day long.” “Are you God?”
TH: Did he tow them in? I hope.
DK: I think he towed them till the Coast Guard—back then the Coast Guard would come get you. Now, they’re not up to it. Oh, the “ugly spot.” I took Captain Turner down there, at Key West, to catch some yellowtail snapper one year. The fishing really sucked here. Found him , he’s pulling tree stumps out of the mud. Said, “You know what? Want to go to the Keys and go yellow”—“Oh, I'd love to go fishing.”
I take him down there and looking around, not finding the fish. The second day we wake up, and Jimmy’s like, “You got a mirror on the boat?” “Got a mirror? No, I ain’t got a mirror.” “You don’t got a mirror?” I said, “No.” He says, “You never want to look at you?” I said, “Look at me, Jimmy. If you look like this, you’d think you want to look in the mirror every day?” He’s like, “I can't believe you ain't got a mirror." Found some fish a little while later, and in my LORAN book it’s the “ugly spot.”
One day, I’m talking to Don on the Cindy(??), we’re bullshitting. And run out of things to say, so I tell Don, I say, “Don, you know what I like about you?” He goes, “What’s that, Danny?” I said, “You’re the only one I know that’s uglier than me.”
TH: We use a mirror to—it’s a signaling device.
DK: Yeah?
TH: Yeah, I have a couple of little mirrors, you know, that they give you when they did the Coast Guard inspection.
DK: You know, back in the old days, before all of that—a guy is telling me—back—before they had plastic buckets and stuff—if you got in trouble, you fill your bucket up with about a gallon and a half of water, a little bit of diesel fuel, take a rag, soak it in oil, throw it on top of that diesel fuel, and set it afire. He said, “Put that thing on top of your roof. You’ll have a black billow of smoke they can see for 20 miles.”
TH: That’s—I was just taking the Coast Guard class, and they—a burning bucket. And that’s—they’ve used that for years as—
DK: Yeah, that’s one of the old things. But it has to be a metal bucket or—back in the days, it wasn’t. You do a plastic bucket, you’re going to have a fire on your roof.
TH: But the—yeah, that’s a definite distress signal. And that’s on the Coast Guard exam.
DK: You know, flashing white light’s—address—a distress signal too, don’t you?
TH: Well, any—if you flash them in the, you know, SOS, you know.
DK: A blink and a blink and—
TH: And a burning white light.
DK: Let me see. What else do I have on here? Oh, yeah, Junior Rose(??). Now, I don’t know if you know Junior. He’s down there in the Keys. This is us—been 35, 40 years ago. Down there catching kingfish. The net boat takes them in. Puts his net—wraps his boat up.
TH: And what, you know—
DK: Junior’s circling, catching fish. A big old roller rig boat comes up and circles Junior, and Junior’s mad. More than mad, he’s furious.
TH: Because he’s surrounded by a net—
DK: Because he lost his spot to the net boat. And the guy said, “You know, we’ll fill your boat up with fish. We don’t care, you know, we’re going to kill the fish.” Junior’s mad. He goes—he’s furious. And Junior used to drink a lot.
TH: The net boat offered to give him enough fish to fill his boat. That’s—
DK: So anyway, they get to the dock, you know, and it used to be like the Wild West. You had the smugglers and stuff—this is when the smuggling was wide open. These guys get to the dock, and Junior’s having a little bit of revenge. You know, people think Cubans are small, not all Cubans are small, some are like Samoans. Some of them are big fellas. Boy Roach(??)—great big fella.
TH: Junior is a Cuban?
DK: No, Junior’s a boy from Lake Okeechobee—old—one of the old-timers. So anyway, the guys get to the dock—Junior’s got a battery. Cut the tops of the battery, and he’s dumping battery acid on these guys’ spare net. Junior—Boy Roach(??) ain’t too happy about that. He goes, knocks Junior on his ass. Junior picks up a stick—I don’t know if it was 2x2 or a 2x4—and goes to hit Boy Roach(??) with it.
TH: I don’t know who Boy Roach(??) is.
DK: Boy Roach(??) is this big Cuban. He’s, like, big as a Samoan.
TH: He was the one that was a captain of the—
DK: No, he was just a deckhand. He was just a deckhand. But you don’t go screwing up somebody’s nets whether you hate them or not. So anyway, Boy Roach(??) takes the stick away from Junior and starts banging him on the head with it. And Junior’s wife, Linda, don’t take kindly to his [sic] husband getting beat up. So Linda takes Junior’s .22 and starts shooting it through the roof. Junior’s like, “That stupid bitch. I’m getting beat to death, and she’s shooting holes in my roof.” She’s, “Leave him alone! [makes sound] Leave him alone!”
Junior’s brother is on another boat. He got a little .22, he taking potshots [makes sound]. Now, these are some of the smuggler boys, so one of the smugglers walks up with an Uzi and just empties it into Junior’s brother’s boat. By that time, Junior’s brother is swimming across to the other side.
TH: Jumped out of the boat.
DK: Swim across to the other side. And then—this is only going on for about a minute, maybe two minutes, and all of a sudden, the DEA [Drug Enforcement Administration] and Customs—they were, like, hiding because one whole row of Ming’s(??) Fish House, you call it “smugglers row” for a reason. And they were waiting for some smuggling to go on. Here, they got this shootout at the O.K. Corral. It was a little wilder back in the day. But nobody got really hurt, except for that net.
TH: This was how many years ago?
DK: This is probably back in ’79, or something. But this was back when I was playing Navy. This here is just one of the stories we—gets passed around. One of the stories you never forget. Oh, a heat stroke. I almost had a heat stroke fishing one day. It was in Louisiana. The fish were chewing and biting really good. I filled my kill box up—1,000 pounds in a couple of hours. I called Tony, said, “Tony, the fish are chewing over here. I got to throw the anchor and gut these fish.”
Tony comes over. I go throw my anchor. I’m gutting and packing as fast as I can—45 minutes, an hour, as quick as you—soaked in sweat, you know. In Louisiana, sometimes I—two pairs of pants in a day, change my underwear. Sometimes three shirts in a day. I mean, when you’re soaked in sweat, ain’t nothing like pouring some clean—some cold water—I keep a gallon of water on the deck, so it’s cool. You pour that gallon of water on, you put some clean clothes, you’re good to go. This day, I forget to put my shirt back on. Get over there, and Tony’s not on my spot. I get there, and the fish are chewing. I'm killing the fish. Quick as I get them in the water—catching the fish. The sun gets pretty close—not quite to the horizon, but it’s getting underneath my canopy. The sun’s cooking me. I’m—
TH: There’s no wind?
DK: All of a sudden, I quit sweating. I think that’s kind of strange, you know, and I'm pulling the snot out of the fish. And [they’re] biting like hell, you know. The sun’s underneath there, I’m thinking, Ain’t that sun ever going to set? And I'm pulling fish, and hot, and all of a sudden, I start farting. And I’m not talking about a couple of farts. I'm talking about—some farts are lasting two to three minutes. You’re just like—it’s like—almost like a cartoon. I’m like, I can’t believe it. This goes on for like four minutes. I’m farting—quit for a couple—I'm like, Wow, this is weird.
And the fish are biting, I’m hot, I’m overheating, and the sun’s cooking me, you know. And, Ain’t that sun ever going to set? Then, all of a sudden, I start getting these electrical impulses. It starts at my butt bum, run up my spine, and hit the back of my neck, and I get these tingling sensations running down to my eyeball. And I'm thinking, I’m about ready to have a heat stroke. I got—dragging a couple of fish. I throw that fish in a box. I go up front, pour a gallon of water on my head, inhale the iced tea, take my soaking clothes off, pour another gallon of water on my head, drink a couple more iced teas. Finally, about an hour later, I go back there and pull them fish. I mean, I think I was that close to having a heat stroke.
TH: So those are the symptoms? Is—you don’t sweat?
DK: When you quit sweating is one thing, and the next—I start—the gas come out of my body just, like, unbelievable. I mean, I—sometimes I’ll wear a whole circle. It just like—it was, like, worse than Blazing Saddles. You ain’t never— I ain’t never seen anybody fart like that.
TH: The—but you lose gas out of your system? Your system is empty, basically.
DK: First, I quit sweating, and then I—and this gas—
TH: And then the tingling.
DK: And then the tingling in the back, you know, that was, you know, I’m thinking that’s—so, I was about ready to pass out.
TH: Huh.
DK: The only thing I could figure.
TH: That's interesting.
DK: But when I gutted them fish, I’d then put my shirt back on. And the sweat gets in your shirt, and then the wind, you know, it keeps you cool. And it’s like—eh, I don’t go bareback no more. That was something else. Oh boy.
TH: Just pick out the—
DK: The good ones?
TH: Yeah.
DK: Here’s a story. A guy just bought a boat—been fishing about a year, maybe. Not even a year. We’re up at the Cape—Chris Benson Reef—this guy catches his limit late. Fishes till dark. Now, the new autopilots, you can make a track, and it’ll take you right back on that track. That morning, that guy started a track at a slip—to where he went fishing. Coming back, he fell asleep. Eight knots—that auto-pilot took him eight knots into Port Canaveral, right down, all through port, putting out a big old wake. It tried to put the boat in the slip.
TH: Because the autopilot—
DK: The boat made their—the autopilot tried to make a real hard turn. I mean, when you get in a slip, you got to use a lot of neutral. Ran his sailboat in his slip—anchor on his bow. This guy runs. The anchor comes right through his window, right into his face. That’s how he wakes up—running in—
TH: Oh, he’s in his kingfish boat or—
DK: Sleeping.
TH: —sleeping.
DK: He fell asleep for an hour and a half.
TH: And the anchor of a sailboat—
DK: When he ran into that sailboat that was in his slip, the anchor came through his window and hit him right in the face at eight knots.
TH: I know this story. Who was the guy?
DK: I’m not sure who the guy—
TH: He’s from Fort Pierce, and he’s—
DK: I think he was.
TH: I’ve heard that story before. Now, wait, you got to explain to the—you can put a boat—a boat will follow the track—
DK: On autopilot.
TH: What do you call that? Tracker or—
DK: Um, I've never used—
TH: You can put it on the autopilot and—
DK: The new autopilots—you can make a track and—
TH: —everywhere you’ve been, it’ll go back. And you can reverse the track.
DK: —and if you—you can reverse the track if you punch the right thing in. It’ll take you right back to where you want to go.
TH: Restart.
DK: And also, that computer will do a perfect circle.
TH: And that’s—a lot of the guys can put their boat in a perfect circle—
DK: They don’t even got to learn how to circle anymore, the computer does it for them. They don’t even got to learn where the bottom is, they got cellphones. Fishing today is—it’s right there.
TH: The—yeah, explain that. Oh, that’s okay, I can explain it.
DK: Oh boy. You know John Smith?           (??) is gone. John Smith, he catches his limit and he wants to get to the dock in a hurry to—you know, when the whole fleet’s in one place, sometimes you got to wait two hours to unload. John once took outrunners, but he notices all the way in he’s over his pass. So he’s on the slide, gutting his fish.
TH: You mean going full speed on a—
DK: He’s on a slide. He’s doing more than 13—he’s doing 13 or 15 knots. You’re not a slide until 13 and a half knots, really. Don on the Cindy(??) is doing eight knots, he’s got his limit, got his fish gutted. He goes down the cabin, puts in [an] egg and biscuit—egg and sausage biscuit in the oven. Comes out—when he comes out of the cabin, where his microwave is, he looks up and John’s about 10 foot behind him, wide open. He had just enough time to take it off autopilot, turn the boat, and John hit the corner of his boat—ripped a big old hole in his boat. Almost sunk John’s boat.
TH: So the one boat is gutting his fish and not paying—has it on autopilot and he’s going—
DK: Yeah, 15 knots.
TH: —going 15 knots. The other boat’s up ahead, and they’re both going the same way?
DK: No, no, the other one’s going slow—about eight knots.
TH: It’s going about eight knots, up ahead of him. And it’s just dumb luck they didn’t—
DK: Lucky nobody got hurt, just the boat got a big old hole in it.
TH: Yeah.
DK: Two days later, John was fishing again. He got that boat home, patched it the next day, and a day later, he ran all the way back to Sebastian from Salerno. Like, holy smokes, that’s faster—that’s quick repair. That’s a fast repair job.
TH: The—I assume, like, when two kingfishermen that collide—they work it out. Now, I’ve known some other issues where they—the one I know about, they didn’t want to tell anybody else. They were embarrassed. And one that hit other boat—and they just take care of it themselves.
DK: It’s—I was down there in the Keys, the Cubans brought spare outriggers. They knew they were probably going to break—down in the Keys, the whole fleet’s in one circle. The whole—
TH: They don’t have their—
DK: A left-hand circle—the whole fleets at a left-hand circle. They see you catch a fish, here they come. You’re going right, they want to go left. We were there one day, in the rock pile, catching fish or catching—and you could actually see the school’s so big, the water is discolored. And so the whole fleet—there must 20 of us—circling, circling. We’re catching fish, and the Coast Guard comes out there, starts doing inspections on boats, you know, and while—and they got two rafts stopping people and doing safety inspections.
TH: Where was this?
DK: This is the rock pile. This is like 15 miles north of the Dry Tortugas.
TH: Okay.
DK: Down there, like I said, the Cubans, they all get in one circle and it’s the left—not a right-hand circle like we do. So, anyway, this Coast Guard cutter—guys on the flying bridge are trying to catch a fish—watching us kill the fish. So before it’s over, pretty soon, we got that 65-foot Coast Guard Cutter right in the middle of our circle. It’s illegal to interfere with a commercial boat engaged in fishing, but it’s perfectly all right for a 65-foot Coast Guard cutter to come right in there. Anyway. Oh yeah, Garfish(??). We were fishing one night—fishing the umbrella rigs. He’s—
TH: Explain an umbrella rig, please.
DK: An umbrella rig is a bluefish rig from up north. It’s got four arms. Put a bent hook on there with a piece of surgical tubing. These          (??)—they spin around like eels and—
TH: Like, there’s four arms and out of—off of each arm comes a hook.
DK: And as you drag through, those arms come—and it looks like a school of bait, and sometimes the fish will chew it up. They won’t bite nothing else. Come February, that’s the only thing they’ll bite. Anyway, Garfish(??) is dehooking a fish, falls off the dehooker, falls right in his boot.
TH: The fish?
DK: And as it goes down his calf—I forget how many stitches he got, 28, 38? Laid him open. Boot’s full of blood in minutes. Araby Jack(??) had to go get Garfish(??), put him on his boat, and run to the dock because Jack could haul ass. And Garfish(??)—he was hurt.
TH: He was bleeding.
DK: Jack—oh, here’s a good story. This—golly, I don’t know when this was. This was a long time ago—maybe before I was in the Navy. Randal and his brother go out fishing out of the Neptune Marina, out of Sebastian—boat sinks. Randal said when the boat sunk, he said, him and his brother came through a spill of gasoline.
TH: They’re—where—how far offshore are they when their boat sunk?
DK: They must be 20 miles, maybe further, offshore. The boat sinks. They spend a night in the water. Gasoline burned them. Not a flame burn, but a chemical burn. So these guys—
TH: It was a gasoline engine.
DK: The gasoline they had to swim through when the boat sunk irritated their skin. Didn’t burn them—flame burn—but burned them through the chemical burn. So they’re in the water all night long. The next day, next morning, Jack and a couple of his buddies out in Neptune Marina, and one of them is a pilot, “Where’s Randal? And his brother didn’t come last night.” He tells Jack, he said, “We need some young eyes. We’re going to go up in the plane and look for them.” And they’re out there, flying around, and these guys are fishermen, you know, they know about the stream going north, so they keep on going north. Almost out of fuel.
TH: The airplane?
DK: The airplane’s almost out of fuel, and Jack says, “Wait a minute. Turn back around. I thought I seen something.” Turns back around, and Randal and the brother are hanging onto a couple of buoys. Been in the water probably close to 20 hours now. The plane circles around into them, sees a boat about a mile and a half away, flies over to the boat, circles the boat a couple of times, flies back to Randal, and nothing. Goes back, circles real low to the boat, flies back to Randal. Third time he goes circling over, the guys finally followed him over there and found Randal. Ocean gives a few back.
TH: The what?
DK: Said the ocean gives a few back.
TH: Oh.
DK: I remember the ocean took my best friend about 35 years ago, Captain Wesley Johns(??). We was out fishing, and Wesley’s on Riley’s Hump, 15 miles south of Dry Tortugas. I'm about seven, eight miles north of there—a spot we called the Bell House spot. They’re talking about this cold front coming through tomorrow morning. The sun just about hit the horizon, and here comes that pre-frontal trough. It goes from slit calm to 45, 50 knots in about two seconds. I mean, it came up with a [makes sound]. My boat leaned sideways, and it swings about 100 degrees on anchor.
My deckhand’s going, “What are we going to do?” I said, “Put everything on deck. We’re going to break anchor pretty soon,” because when I was down there in the Keys, I put a trip on my anchors. That way if the anchor don’t want to come back, you break the trips, and it pulls the anchor up from the ass end of it. I said, “You know, put everything on the deck because when we break anchor—and we’re going to break anchor pretty soon—we’re going behind the islands.” And sure enough, a minute or two late, we break anchor. It blow. It went from zero to 45, 50 in no time. I call my buddy, Wesley. He’s going to try and fish this stuff in Riley’s Hump. Dude.
TH: Anchor.
DK: “Dude, you need to come in here.” Now, the boat—he was a deck, and he just got his own boat. It was an old Navy launch, 20 at both ends. Somebody had cut the stern end off, so it had a flat stern so you could fish out of. Not the best boat. He’s got a deckhand that ain’t never been fishing before. He liked to teach somebody how to fish. He didn’t want somebody coming with him, that already knew how to fish. He didn’t want to fight that.
So he’s trying to anchor up on the 85 rock. Kind of a hard rock to anchor on—it’s—you drag. I guess the anchor drug two times, and the third time, that Wesley goes up there to help make sure his green deckhand knew what to do. He’s coming back down the side of the boat, the anchor grab, boat slung, pitched him off the side of the boat. He’s wearing his jacket, foul-weather gear, and stuff. It’s cold—blowing. He’s screaming—screaming at the deckhand, “Cut the anchor.” Guy gets up there, cuts the anchor, no Wesley. Takes him minutes to figure out how to operate the radio.
Finally, when the longliner say, “Start throwing stuff in the water. If it floats, throw it in the water. We need a debris field.” So the longliners are going that way. Rick Laflair(??) owned the boat Wesley was buying that he got slung off of. He calls me on the CB radio. Off I go, and it’s blowing 50 or better. It’s blowing. The waves are 12, 13 foot—occasional 17 footers. Sometimes four foot of white water rolling on top of these big, giant waves. And there’s like six of us out there, and we got a search pattern. I didn’t have lat and long, but I'm half a mile between the other boats. We found the debris field, never found Wesley.
The sky was this ugly lemon-yellow color because of all the salt spray whipping through there. I’m—I don’t know if you’ve seen the—what was that movie they had? The Perfect Storm? When you get in a really rough, nasty sea, they don’t show the foam scudding across the ocean. The waves create this foam, and this foam scuds across the ocean. It hits and hits and hits—more foam—till they get a big old ball of foam, like a tumbleweed. And it launches up in the air, off the wave, and then it gets shredded by the wind, and it goes through the same thing again. It foam, foam, gets together, and pretty intimidating to see something like that in a little 31.
My deckhand say, “Want me to get on the roof to help look?” I said, “No. You stay inside here, where I keep my eye on you.” We looked all day long, never found my buddy Wesley. All right, I got a couple of stories about guys getting yanked off the boat, setting their lobster pots. Art—he’s setting his lobster—working in the back deck, setting a lobster pot.
TH: Now, this is down in the Keys?
DK: Down in the Keys. And he don’t realize it—standing in a coil of rope. Yanks him overboard. He’s in like 35, 40 foot of water.
TH: By himself?
DK: No, the guy’s driving the boat. He gets yanked off the—yanked overboard. He says, as he’s getting sucked down there, he could see the—see the surface there. He says the trap hit the bottom, and he’s like—he don't got a knife. He says, “He thinks I'm dead.” But once the trap hit the bottom, all of a sudden, he got a little bit of slack. He's able to get it off his foot and swim up to the surface. Rick Laflair(??)—
TH: Now, the guy driving the boat figured it out?
DK: No, no, he just—once the trap hit the bottom and he got a little a slack—when he’s going, pulling down, he couldn’t get it off because he was being drug to the bottom. Now, Rick Laflair(??)—about 20 year—not 20, yeah, maybe 20 years ago, these guys figured out in the deep, deep water, there’s a lot of lobster but they can’t fish it because the current would pull their floats underneath the water when the current runs, and it compresses the floats, and they don’t come back to the surface. They lose their traps. Well, they figured out how to trotline it. They’ll put 25 traps on one line. Bad Brad figured out—you put a cinder block over, and you put out the 25 traps in another cinder block. No buoys, no nothing. But he figured out how to use the bottom machine. He’d go to his numbers, and he’d start looking. He had one-inch poly rope. The bottom machine would mark that one-inch poly rope. He’d go down to the end—
TH: Poly?
DK: Poly rope floats.
TH: Polyurethane.
DK: Polyurethane rope. Not nylon rope. It won’t mark nylon rope—I don’t think—but it’ll mark the polyurethane. And he’d throw his grapple hook, and he said, “I grabbed that 100 foot from the cinderblock every time.” Well, these guys went out there and started fishing where nobody fished before. Now, these fish got to swim out of the deep water—come up—
TH: Now, these are fish traps or—
DK: These are lobster pots.
TH: Lobster pots.
DK: There’s like seven or eight guys. They went out there, and they started doing over a million dollars a year with these trotlines. Rick Laflair(??) one day—
TH: Now, these are lobster pots—
DK: They even cut the stern off the boat, so when they get the first trap over, they take the next trap, and they stud it down—back up. And it gets snatched up. They take the next trap. And each trap has like 100 or 200 foot of rope on top of it. Take it off the stack, set it down, stand back. You know, when that trap, you know [makes sound]—Rick does this, and the boat yanked him up. The ropes go up in the air, come right down, all around his neck. And he was going overboard. He said he grabs that rope, he runs, and he jumps overboard, and he just barely got it off his neck. And he said the next trap come whooshing right by his head. By that time, the boat stopped. Let me see. You know, back in—
TH: But that’s interesting how they—
DK: You’ll like this story. During World War II, a U-boat sunk the big wreck off of Cape Canaveral sunk, and bottles of booze started floating up out of this wreck. And for three days, the commercial fishermen out of Port Canaveral went out to where this wreck was and was fishing up bottles of booze. Old-timer told my mom that story. I’m coming to the inlet one day, and Davis Dee(??) says, “Dan, there’s a lot of people on the inlet. Why don’t you entertain them?” I say, “What do you want me to do, Dave? Run into a jetty?” Said, “Oh, that’d be entertaining.” “Okay.” I go and try to come in there. My steering wheel feels funny. I turn it, and it feels funny. Steering wheel breaks off right in my hand. Outgoing tide, you know, that’s not the place to have no steering, so I throttle it back immediately. I run back and grab my tiller. I was about a quarter of a mile an hour faster than the current. I said, “Okay, Dave, I’m entertaining the people. How do you like this?”
TH: Happened to me one night at Jupiter Inlet.
DK: Oh, right in the inlet?
TH: Right before the inlet. Right—I could see the—
DK: Down in the Keys, we’d used this mahoola(??)—a little baby silverside, they call them, for bait. You know, we’d used a chum ball because we’d always have a surface chum line going. You know, I meant to say that when I was yellowtailing. We have the dirt balls to bring them up, but you always got to line the mahoolas(??), so once the fish get on the surface, now you don’t stop that chum line, you know. And the mahoola(??) cost a little bit of money to buy, you know, we—I bought me a skip and a motor so my buddies would take me to catch the bait. I paid half of this net. This net had two 300-foot wings. The wings were about five-foot deep and had a 16x16x16 pocket for the bait. And the net was mesh—about this small—
TH: I don’t know—
DK: Anyway, this is with catching mahoola(??)—
TH: Small is about as big as your little finger.
DK: —and we got two little boats. We put half—one wing in the bag in one boat, and the other wing in the other boat. And I had a little motor. I bought a motor so you guys could take my bait for half the net, too. And when you see the—you got to wait for low tide, and see a big old school. And we’d circle them up, and you got to drag the bottom. You can’t lift the lead line, otherwise, the bait will get out underneath there. And then you get down to the purse, and you pick up that purse—that thing would be full of minnows. Fill a whole skip up with minnow. Just start taking your shrimp basket in there and dumping the minnows, the minnows are bouncing. They’re throwing water droplets and scales, and it’s like a rainbow. It looks like the glittering gold.
DK: They’re a little bitty thing, about—
TH: Two inch.
DK: If they’re so small you can’t see them, we call them “hair.” Well, anyway, my buddy, Wesley Johns(??)—the ocean took my buddy from me—he wanted to get a picture. So he climbs in the skip of all these little mahoolas(??), and all you could see is his hands, his feet, and his head. He was in there for about 20, 30 seconds to get this picture. Maybe a minute. Not a minute—
TH: Where he got into the bait?
DK: He’s laying in this bait, and the acid in the bait ate the skin off his body. It—he ate them raw—under his arms, his arms, his nuts, his legs, his toes.
TH: The what on the—
DK: The acid in the minnows.
TH: The acid?
DK: The acid in the minnows that ate—he said, for three days, he couldn’t sit down. He couldn’t lay down. He couldn’t sleep.
TH: Just cleaned up the—just boiled off the skin.
DK: How’s that? Oh yeah, one last one. My buddy Doug and Dave, my brother Dave and Doug— they was fishing in Jupiter Inlet. This is back when I was playing Navy. Rough, big sea. They was fishing—not out of Jupiter, what’s that little—Hobe Sound. Now, I don’t know why, but one guy, Vince—what was his last name? Well, anyway, Vincent says, “I don’t know why Doug waiting for the biggest wave of the set to go in there.” But Doug has his 24-foot Stapleton. He’s coming in Jupiter Inlet. My brother, Dave, said the top third of the wave broke over the whole boat. He said, “The boat popped out of whitewash, riding on its side, and coming down this wave.” Doug said a little bitty cross swat come by and hit the side of the boat and uprighted him. And he said he gave it full throttle, and it got through the—holy smokes—wave broke apart. “Don’t know why Doug waited for the biggest—”
TH: That’s the Jupiter Inlet.
DK: Jupiter Inlet.
TH: It’s very treacherous.
DK: That’s eaten a lot of boats.
TH: Now, tell me, finally, about life as a commercial fishing captain. Do you have any last things that you wish to share about being a captain?
DK: You know, it’s something else. I tell people, “I’m a male chauvinist pig.” That’s why my job description [is] captain. The captain’s always right. You know, I love fishing. My wife says she ain’t never see me happy as when I'm pulling a fish. It’s—
TH: Does she ever go fishing with you?
DK: She fished with me for about 10 months. And that’s how I learned how to fish two lines, yellowtail, and this down there, but her feet would hurt. And I'd tell her, “Leave that other line on the deck. Let me—I want to learn how to fish two fish lines.” And when you fish two lines, you could outfish two men. Because if you miss a snapper, it’s because you pulled the bait away from them. If you let them have it, they’ll swallow it. So you have to find another hook, and the secret to fishing two lines is knowing when not to use that other line, because it will screw you up. But when you get them fish where you want them, man, you could really put some fish in the boat.
TH: It’s like if you’re trying to use too many lines kingfishing.
DK: Well, you know, a lot of these guys use a line down the middle. I couldn’t use that middle line 15 years ago. If I get a tangle, it ruins my week. Don’t ruin my bite, don’t ruin my day, it ruins my week. I hate a tangle, but I don’t know what else I'd do. You know, I was an electronic technician. I got many things I could do. I got inventions that I could probably sell. Like, I got a bunch of ideas, but the ocean’s the love of my life.
When I first got together with my wife, I told her, “I love you, but I love the ocean, too. If you ever come between me and the ocean, I'll hate you. And don’t do it.” But I set that rule long before I started—before we got married. I’ve seen this ocean ruin so many marriages when I was in the Navy, commercial fishing. Wesley, he’d go fishing, boy, his girlfriend come down the dock all dressed to the T, “Where’s Wesley? Is he coming back?” She just wanted to make sure he wasn’t coming back, so she’d go out and fool around.
TH: Have you enjoyed—it’s been a good life.
DK: You know, I ain’t got no money. I’m in debt. But it’s been a great—I have complete faith in my ability to catch fish, and the ocean’s never let me down. I’ve made a lot of bad mistakes of—oh well. It’s all part of it.
TH: Thank you.




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