Fishing in the Age of Sail

S/V Roseway,  Photo by Sara Smith

S/V Roseway,
Photo by Sara Smith

Fishing wasn’t always strings of nets and diesel engines, plastic-wrapped cigarettes and fiberglass hulls.  Think before the time of daily vessel trip reports, and the government tracking every harbor departure, noting every landing.  Imagine a time before plotters and depth finders; a time where rather than making the 20 mile steam offshore to the promised fishing grounds, commercial fishermen had waited for the fish to come to them.

Wing on Wing

Wing on Wing

Fishing in the age of sail was an entirely different beast, an activity that required more than just the skill of a fishermen, but rather an esteemed seamen.  It was a time when it was not enough to know at which depth fish hung, and how to best bait a hook.  It was a different game then, a game where fishermen must also have been seasoned sailors, whose landings were at the mercy of their surroundings.  It was fishing in the age of sail that a drop in barometric pressure, swooping fog, changing winds and an increasing swell, could bring a much anticipated trip’s landings to a halt.  A drastic change in surroundings for the worst meant the number of fish being hauled over the rail no longer were the priority, but rather the operation of the vessel and the survival of the crew.  Fishing in the age of sail was a different game altogether.

Roseway

Roseway

This past winter I worked as crew on a 137-foot, historic fishing schooner, S/V Roseway, one of the most beautiful vessels I’ve ever had the honor to step foot on.

At the helm during trip from Bermuda to Boston

At the helm during trip from Bermuda to Boston

Roseway was commissioned to be built by a Harold Hathaway in John James Boatyard in 1925 in Essex, Massachusetts and was quickly put to work setting sail out of Gloucester in search of swordfish.

In 1934 aboard Roseway a crew of 12 set the world record for the most swordfish ever landed in a 24-hour period.  Before I casually state a number quantifying their glorious feat, please keep in mind that in 1934 swordfish weighed anywhere from 500-1,000 pounds and there was no machinery to be heard of.

Main Sail

Main Sail

At the helm

At the helm

Sunrise Watch

Sunrise Watch

 In 1934, they would have a crew member climb aloft to the top of the main mast, approximately 110 feet above deck.  From there they would keep a lookout for swordfish rising to the surface to warm their blood before they would dive down deep to hunt.  As the person aloft spotted the prey, they would holler to the crew on deck below.  Someone at the bow would then harpoon the swordfish as it surfaced and they then in turn as a group would haul in the massive catch by hand, reeling it to the surface, and then up and over the rail.  They would then gut the fish, pack it with ice, and store it in the fish hold at midship.

On said day in 1934, Roseway and her crew of 12 landed 74 swordfish in a period of 24 hours, setting the world record for the most swordfish hand-hauled in a day, and the record stands to this very day.  There was a time when fishermen and those around them believed the sea would provide forever, and at times such as these, there was no reason to believe otherwise.

At our mooring

At our mooring

 

Sir Francis Drake Channel

Sir Francis Drake Channel

To this day, Roseway sails along the coast of New England each Summer as one of only six remaining original Grand Banks fishing schooners.  While crewing aboard Roseway in the Caribbean this past winter, I couldn’t help but imagine fishing in the age of sail.  A time of gaffed rigging, sail-furling, hand-hauling, line-coiling, hours aloft, tacking and jibing, all in pursuit of the catch of a lifetime.  All in the age of sail.

Climbing Aloft

Climbing Aloft

 

Suggester Reading:  

“The Mortal Sea: Fishing the Atlantic in the Age of Sail,” W. Jeffrey Bolster 

Miss Maura, Hampton Harbor

PETE LAGERSTROM

Fisherman:  GILLNETTER

Pete Lagerstrom

Pete Lagerstrom

“We haven’t been catching much,” shares fishermen Pete Lagerstrom, as he pushes the dinghy away from the dock, the morning sun just beginning to peek past the horizon in a glow of orange.  “We got 1 box of fish yesterday.”  He wastes no time, jumping straight to the catch: The fish just aren’t around.  “It’s starting out to be the worst fishing year yet.” We approach the starboard side of his 41 foot Bruno & Stillman fishing vessel and climbs aboard.  His deckhand Ronnie scrambles around preparing the deck as Pete starts the engine, unties and we soon exit Hampton Harbor off to deeper waters in search of fish.

Hampton Harbor

Hampton Harbor

Sunrise at Hampton Harbor

Sunrise at Hampton Harbor

Steaming Out

Steaming Out

Pete has spent a lifetime on the water, always having fished as a kid, and he grew up working on party boats, as did his brother.  He got his captains license early on and captained party boats for several years until he got tired of the crowd associated with the profession and their antics.  At the time his friends were making good money fishing and he decided he would make a go of it.  He’s been gillnetting on and off over 25 years now.  When asked his favorite thing about fishing, over the hum of the engine he responds, “Just being out on the water.  Even a bad day fishing is a good day.  Like yesterday, we didn’t catch nothing…but it was a beautiful day.  I had fun.”

His Signature Buoys

His Signature Buoys within the Fleet

Hauling the 1st String

Hauling the 1st String

Lagerstrom typically fishes 3 or 4 strings 16-20 miles offshore 7 days a week from June to Christmas, but worries this year may be different.  With the 78% cut in fishermen’s cod quota this new fishing year, most of our NH fishermen are faced with a severe reduction in the total allowable catch they are able to land at the docks each day.  With the dramatic cut in Pete’s cod quota he fears he may be done a lot earlier in the season this fishing year and may be forced to consider other work.  Though he’s on the hunt for a good day fishing, in reality it could end up shortening his season.  He comments that if he were able to catch 2,000 pounds of fish in that one day, that he probably would end up hauling all his gear and going home so as not to catch all his quota in the first month of fishing.  Such tactics make for a conflicting day on the water.

Picking Fish

Picking Fish

Hauling

Hauling

Fellow fisherman Ricky Anderson comes through on the radio with complaints of only 300 pounds of dogfish on his first string of the day.  Pete reaches for the radio to respond.  “That’s weird.  We had 1,000 pounds there yesterday.”  He checks his spiral bound notebook again for his previous day’s coordinates.   “That’s the thing about sustainability,” he continues in reference to our conversation about sustainable fisheries.  “It doesn’t seem very stable to me.  You never know what to expect from one day to the next.”

Radio Chat

Radio Chat

I quickly notice the cleanliness of his boat, an anomaly for a fishing vessel.

“I think this is the cleanest boat I’ve seen yet,” I proclaim.

He breaks out laughing and repeats my comment over the radio.  “You hear that boys.”  He chuckles.  “The cleanest boat.”  Disbelief and crude remarks from surrounding fishermen are returned over radio wires.  He blows his cover and hands back his cleanest boat award uncovering the fact that it’s the very beginning of the fishing year for him since he got a late start waiting for some paperwork to be approved.

Filleting Fresh Fish

Filleting Fresh Fish

Lagerstrom spends his winters, Christmas to April participating in his second favorite hobby after fishing: snowmobiling.  He holds the title of President of the Umbagog Snowmobile Club which boasts over 1,200 members.  He has been a member of the club the past 15 years.   According to Pete it’s cheaper to register a snow mobile in New Hampshire if you are a member of a club; membership fees go towards grooming and maintaining the backcountry trails.  He also enjoys visiting his friends in the Florida Keys during the winter where he spends his time recreational fishing.  It’s not long before I discover his love affair with cold, draft beer and chicken wings.  “When I retire, I want to open a chicken wing hut in the keys.”  I can’t help but laugh, and he continues to go on about all the best places to acquire the best wings on the seacoast.  When not traveling he resides in Hampton with his wife and their beloved golden retriever, Louis.

Wolffish

Wolffish

Endangered Wolffish Thrown Back

Endangered Wolffish Thrown Back

When I ask about how he received his nickname, Snake, within the local fleet he confesses.  “I wouldn’t tell the guys what I was really catching most of the time.”  He mentions he has since changed his ways and he’s quick to add, “You can’t hide anything anymore, anyway.”  Typically Pete works with 2 deckhands, but with the fishing off to such a slow start, he begins the season with just one, Ronnie, who has been fishing with Pete the past 2 years.  I ask him his thoughts on our new community supported fishery, NH Community Seafood.  “Hopefully it will work out and be a good thing for the consumers,”  he pauses, “and hopefully the fishermen too.”  He asks me a few questions about how it works and how it’s been going.  “I just can’t believe you got them eating dogfish,” he exclaims.  “And they like it?”  I smile big and nod.  You can see him thinking it over, the thought of eating dogfish shark, an under-appreciated fish nearly absent from local markets throughout the northeast.  “Huh…maybe I’ll try it some time,” he says.  

Eat Fresher Fish

Eat Fresher Fish

From Fisherman Pete Lagerstrom to NH Seafood Consumers:

“Do you know where tilapia comes from?  Stop eating it.  And the next time you pick up a bag of shrimp, think about where it’s from.”

NH Community Seafood

My Dear Friends, Family, and online acquaintances: I  made it back from the Caribbean a week ago today, and have been cold ever since; Big Surprise.  Since I’ve returned home, I’ve hit the ground running on my latest business venture with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Josh Wiersma, Sector Manager of the New Hampshire fishing fleet.  Together we are working to establish a large-scale Community Supported Fishery (CSF) within our Seacoast community, called NH Community Seafood.   For those of you wanting more information, as defined by Local Catch, a national network of CSF’s, the key components to a successful Community Supported Fishery are to:

  • Establish a transparent chain-of-custody from boat to fork;
  • Increase access to premium, locally caught seafood;
  • Ensure fishers receive a fair price for their catch that reflects the value of their work;
  • Engage fishers and community members in more robust, viable, local food systems;
  • Provide a framework through which fishers and customers alike can creatively steward our marine resources.
Portsmouth Harbor

Portsmouth Harbor

We hope to be dishing all you fine folk with the freshest fish you could possibly ever imagine starting June 2013, prior to which we will be accepting members for 8 week shares throughout the summer and fall.  As of right now the plan is to offer 1 lb. and 2 lb. shares, as well as an UnderDog share consisting of strictly underutilized marginal species, such as dogfish, hake, and whiting, for a significantly lower cost.  Our website along with pricing and more information should be up and running by the end of the month at which point I will be sure to share it with all of you.

Fresh Catch

Fresh Catch

We have been working extremely hard from all directions to get this Community Supported Fishery off the ground, but as the name suggests, I’m going to need a bit of help from all of you. please, Please, PLEASE help me spread the word! Like our new FB page! https://www.facebook.com/NhCommunitySeafood And visit our webiste at: www.nhcommunityseafood.com And don’t you worry, the Fishues will be starting back up once again in full force, and will be a key component to our NH Community Seafood’s CSF! Eat the fresh stuff and support your local fishermen!

It's gonna get Fishy!

It’s gonna get Fishy!

As ever, your support is most appreciated! LOVE to you ALL!!!

A Guest Fishue by a Modern-day Icelandic Viking, Markus Ingi Gudnason

In November of every year, Black Trumpet holds a Beer and Game Dinner comprised of wild and exotic foods paired with experimental/small batch brews from local breweries. In the past the menu has consisted of anything from the traditional game meats such as venison and wild boar to the extremes of iguana, llama, camel, hare, python, bear and insects. Last year Smuttynose Brewery produced a rich Porter brewed with black trumpet mushrooms, mostly foraged by the kitchen staff of Black Trumpet. Chef Evan Mallett has always found a way to come up with new ways to source ingredients and serve them creatively.

Black Trumpet Bistro Beer and Game Dinner

Black Trumpet Bistro Beer and Game Dinner

So what does this have to do with “Fishues,” and why am I writing an entry? My name is Markus Ingi Gudnason and I have been working in the kitchen at Black Trumpet for 2 years, and Sarah VanHorn asked me to share my experience traveling in Iceland and tell about this year’s Beer and Game dinner where we served a traditional custom of my Icelandic heritage, hákarl and Brennivin. At the annual Viking-inspired mid-winter festival, þorrablót, eating hákarl and drinking brennivin proves strength and courage, as well as providing a food supply to survive long trips through the Northern Atlantic. Brennivin is Icelandic schnapps made from potatoes and flavored with caraway. Hákarl is Icelandic for shark, specifically the Greenland or Basking shark that inhabits the waters between Iceland and Greenland.  This shark is poisonous when eaten fresh, unless it has gone through a fermentation process only the Vikings would consider sane.  Traditionally, after catching and butchering the shark, the meat was buried for 2 to 4 months under gravel and stones to press and cure. It was then hung to dry for up to five months, until a thick brown crust formed. In the more modern technique, the shark is simply pressed with heavy weights in a controlled climate for an extended period of time, until the crust forms.  The crust is removed and it is cut into bite size pieces to eat. It smells strongly of ammonia but getting past the offensive smell is most of the battle.  Otherwise, it’s a rather tasty piece of shark!

My father was born and raised in Iceland and my parents always brought us up with Icelandic customs. We attended þorrablót every year and ate traditional Icelandic doughnuts called kleinur and fish jerky as kids. It wasn’t until recently that I finally tried the hákarl, but always remembered the smell when they would open the jar. I have always been intrigued with my Icelandic heritage, but in the past two years I have felt the passion to embrace my culture, which has led me to dual citizenship and a willingness to learn the language, live and work there.

Earlier this year, I finally decided to take my first trip to Iceland and booked a flight for late October. Being a surfer, I was anticipating early winter swells that affect the southwest coast, and Iceland Airwaves, a five-day music festival held every year in downtown Reykjavik. I brought up the idea to the chef/owner of Black Trumpet, Evan and his wife Denise, to bring back some hákarl for the beer and game dinner. They were hesitant at first, but once Evan decided on preparing insects, he realized he wanted to push this year’s game dinner limits, and said yes.  I contacted all my aunts, uncles and cousins who have been living in Reykjavik since my dad had left and after all other arrangements, I packed my surfboard, hiking pack and camera and set off. After a six hour overnight flight and two buses, I arrived in Reykjavik at 6am with a mere 2 hours of sleep to be greeted by my great Aunt Halla. We set out to the harbor to get my first glimpse of Mt. Esja, overlooking downtown Reykjavik and its bay, which houses hundreds of Icelandic fishing boats. This is also where the only Icelandic flea market, Kolaportið, is located. Here they sell all things local from hand-knitted sweaters and clothing to the infamous hákarl and fresh fish right off the boat. Halla then took me back to the house where I would be staying for the next 10 days. We drank coffee and ate traditional Icelandic breakfast items including sheep’s head rillette, smoked steelhead trout pate, boiled eggs and rye bread with butter and cheese, a diet that I would learn to love throughout the duration of my stay.

Through a drunken coffee daze I walked the main street of downtown, Laugavegur, in search of any sign to lead me toward surf knowledge. Through the company known as Arctic Adventures, I was introduced to Ingo, one of the few local surfers, and then to an Aussie (Jed) and a Scot (Fraser) who were also searching for surf. Both Jed and Fraser were in Iceland for grad school. Fraser is a scuba diver and is studying the glacial lakes scattered throughout Iceland. Jed is working on a project which involves the sustainability of cod fishing in Iceland. When the economy of Iceland collapsed in 2008, the cod fishing industry was one of the few industries that were not affected by this crisis. Iceland built itself upon its fishing industry. Cod has been its number one export for years, and in the past there have been a number of disputes regarding their territorial waters. Iceland has slowly been expanding its fishing waters to support the demand for fish. Through a series of disputes known as the “Cod Wars” ranging from 1950-1970, the United Kingdom was trying to prevent this from happening. Through an agreement, the United Kingdom accepted Iceland’s plea for more territory.  In return, British fishermen are allowed to fish these waters for a short period of time each year.

Markus Surfing in New Hampshire

Markus Surfing Rye on the Rocks, in New Hampshire

surf2

Jed, Fraser and I made plans to rent a car and set out the following day to one of the few fishing villages on the south coast of Iceland with a viable harbor, by the name of Grindavík, better known for Iceland’s most popular geothermal swimming pool, Blue Lagoon.  The south coast of Iceland is lined with black sand beaches and glaciers that prevent good territory for settlement and fishing. The other fishing villages on the south coast that have viable harbors are Þorlákshöfn being nearby on the Reykjanes peninsula, and Höfn some 300 kilometers east.  There are just over 300,000 citizens of Iceland, three quarters of them reside in and around Reykjavik, the rest are scattered throughout the east and west fjords, the arctic north, and the south coastline in these small desolate fishing villages.

We met and talked with a couple of Grindavík fisherman in a small coffee shop located right on the dock looking out at all the boats. At first, their appearance was rugged and threatening, especially after informing them of our search for surf in the land of fire and ice, but they looked at us with joy and shared stories of their days on the water with pictures to prove all over the walls of their local spot. Grindavík has a population of less than 3000 and most of them are working in the fishing industry, and they are certainly proud of their history and will be, for generations to come.

We took to the road after finding surf and breaking my fins on the reef and explored the rest of the Reykjanes peninsula. We had a few more hours of daylight and decided to take a drive towards the Golden Circle. The Golden Circle is the nickname for a tourist adventure involving tour guides that take you through three of Iceland’s most important geological features, Gulfoss waterfall, Geysir, and Þingvellir National Park.  This park marks not only the origin of Iceland’s parliament but also the continental drift between the Eurasian and North American continental plates.  Fraser, being a diver, informed us of a crystal clear glacial spring located in Þingvellir National Park by the name of Silfra, a glacial rift that is part of this divergent tectonic boundary. Fraser said, “You can see as far as your goggles will let you.” Looking down, I could see the bottom with ease, and it was near 3-4 meters deep. After an ice cold glacial swim, we drove back towards Reykjavik in the dark to be greeted by a brief viewing of the Northern Lights. I was only on the first leg of my trip, and so far, I felt spoiled by Iceland’s natural beauty.

The rest of my trip was spent exploring Reykjavik and attending the Iceland Airwaves music festival. But for one last trip out into the country before hopping on my plane flight home, I linked up with Jed and we rented a car to search for surf. We decided to explore further east and picked Þorlákshöfn. The small harbor here holds a number of fishing boats as well as a ferry to access the Vestmannaeyjar islands off the south coast. With the right tide and swell, it has great potential for its point break just outside the harbor. We found ourselves not so lucky and planned a new attack. It was raining, it was cold, visibility was low, and the wind was howling from the Arctic north, announcing the arrival of winter. This wasn’t about landing good surf anymore. It was the struggle that inspired us, foraging for potential surf where there are no parking lots, accessible beaches or another soul in sight.

Days were getting shorter. It was 3pm and it was starting to get dark. We ended with a couple Icelandic stouts and called it a day. I retrieved my hákarl and beloved fish jerky from the market and prepared for departure the following day.

Back in New Hampshire it was time for preparation of the Beer and Game dinner. The hákarl and Brennivín were introduced on the menu as a “Viking Challenge” not for the “faint of heart” and served by a true Viking (myself). It was a huge success and nearly everyone was brave enough to take the challenge, and a difficult challenge it is.

Chef Evan Mallet

Chef Evan Mallet

Plating Desert

Plating Desert

Markus and Denise Mallet serving the Halkarl and Brennivin

Markus and Denise Mallet serving the Hakarl and Brennivin

Up for the challenge

Up for the Viking challenge

Cheers!

Cheers!

I’d like to give a big thank you to Sarah VanHorn, Evan and Denise Mallett. Also, thank you to everyone else involved with this year’s Beer and Game dinner and to everyone who keeps up on their fishues. And to you I say Skál (cheers)! Ó á tilhlökkun, taka mig aftur…(oh the anticipation, take me back)

Takk fyrir,

Markus Ingi Gudnason

Caribbean Rondon Soup

Here on the island of San Andres, Colombia surrounded by the crystal blue waters of the Caribbean, fish is an obvious staple food item and is prepared a number of ways, one of the most popular dishes being Rondon Soup.  Rondon is a traditional Caribbean dish that gets its name from the phrase, “Rundown,” as in, the cook of the home prepares a soup with whatever they were able to track down or forage that day, whether it was in the backyard, a neighbors coconut tree, or the bounty of the sea.  For this reason, there are many variations on the dish, there can be no wrongs.  Here’s the recipe for Rondon Soup as we prepared it this past Viernes (friday).

Across the street

Across the street

RONDON SOUP

First we boiled pig tails and feet in water for around an hour, over an open fire, to add some extra flavor to the soup.

Boiling Pork

Boiling Pork

Next Emildo cracked open 4 coconuts, which Peter then grated into a clean soup pan.  We added water and let soak for 10 minutes.  Soon following, the shredded coconut was sifted out and the extra juice pressed back into the pan.  Alas we had our coconut milk, which we put on the fire.

Emildo cracking coconuts

Emildo cracking coconuts

Peter shredding coconut

Peter shredding coconut

Blending the water and the coconut

Blending the water and the coconut

Coconut milk on the fire, and the pork left to cool

Coconut milk on the fire, and the pork left to cool

Once the coconut milk began to simmer, we added our vegetables, sliced yuca, peeled potato, plantains, and chiquitas (mini bananas), onions, garlic, and left the soup to boil.  We also added our poultry seasoning called Maggi.

Boiling vegetables

Boiling vegetables

Emildo then started to make the dumplings by kneading flour salt and pepper together.  He then rolled the dough into individual balls, and later flattened them in his hands and draped them over the top of the boiling soup.

Dumplings over top the soup

Dumplings over top the soup

Meanwhile Peter descaled the fresh fish, yellowtail and red snapper, and scored the the width of the body on both sides to help them cook more quickly.  (Notice we used WHOLE fish!!!)  We also had a piece of tuna and barracuda already filleted.

Red Snapper and Yellowtail

Red Snapper and Yellowtail

Peter descaling fish

Peter descaling fish

Tuna and Barracuda

Tuna and Barracuda

The fish was then added to the boiling pot along with the pork and some basil. It was left to finish cooking for around 30 minutes and served as is.  What a treat!  It was the most delicious fish stew I have ever had without a doubt!

Rondon Soup.  Salute!

Rondon Soup. Salute!

ENJOY!

DSC_1287

Sail, Sail Away

For those of you who don’t know, I will be sailing around the Caribbean the next couple of months.  Though I won’t always have internet access, or the ability to keep up-to-date with Fishues or my travels, you can follow my adventure via my travel blog at:  www.seavhtravels.wordpress.com

I’ll do my best to keep up with it, as well as to continue to search out new Fishues material.    For now I’ll be sailing around Panama in hopes of reaching Puerto Rico in the next couple of weeks.

DSC_0906

Be Well; wherever you may be.

Ciao!

Buy Whole Fish!

Just across the Canadian Border

Just across the Canadian Border

In the average American market, whole fish does not sell, nor does variety.  On the east coast grocery store fish cases are limited to a few staples, shrimp, haddock, cod, salmon, swordfish, tuna, shellfish, lobster, with very little variance from store to store, and the fish are almost always in the form of a filet.  In a sense it’s as if society has already made up the mind of the average consumer as to what’s for dinner.  However the truth is, there’s more than cod swimming around within the ocean waters, particularly in our local east coast waters, and they are being harvested on a daily basis, but yet they are unavailable to the average consumer.  We must demand local fish, lest you’d like to eat haddock every other week for the rest of your life.  And why not try whole fish?

Winter Desert

Winter Desert

A week ago today I returned from Montreal, Canada with a whole fish (don’t tell U.S. customs), called a Dorade.  Though it’s not a local species, seeing as they’re from the Mediterranean Sea, a recipe I had found in my new Fishmonger book inspired me to try it out.  Unlike in New England, markets in Quebec are much more specialized, like those in Europe and other places around the world, and therefore there is much more variety within them.  There’s a bakery for your breads, a deli for your meats and cheeses, a market for your produce, and a special market for your fish.  The consumer is presented with the option of making their own dietary decisions rather than society deciding for them.

Fish Market

Fish Market

Fish Market, Dorade

Dorade

When I arrived home my mother and I decided to try out the new recipe recipe below.  It’s quick and easy and is bound to impress any guest. We had eaten the entire fish before it even left the counter.  My mum even insisted it was the most delicious fish she’s ever tasted.  It’s always great to impress your own mother with your cooking.  And the best part, it only took 25 minutes to do.  You can try this recipe with any fish that is big enough to fill a pan; probably best if not more than 2 lbs.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Ingredients:  1-2 lb. Fish, Bay Leaves, 1 lb. of coarse Sea Salt, and Peppercorns

Step 1

Step 1

Lay the whole fish on top of a bed of salt with 3 bay leaves beneath it.  Stuff the inside of the fish with a handful of whole peppercorns.

Step 2

Step 2

Place a bay leaf on top and cover the fish completely with the remainder of salt.  Bake the fish at 425 F for 25 minutes.

Step 3

Step 3

When it’s done, peel back the layer of salt.  With it should come the fish skin.  Then remove the whole fish from the pan removing the other side’s skin.  Alas you are left with a juicy, meaty, whole fish, with a few bones to pick through, which can be carefully removed all at once by withdrawing the spine.  Why not try whole fish?  Bonne appetit!

Whole Fish!

Whole Fish!

Christmas at Sea

The Holiday season is upon us, and like most I’ve found myself wondering where the time has gone.   Is it really already the third week of December already?

Icing the fish in December

Icing the fish in December

The fall semester at school has concluded its finals week, and everyone has made their way to whichever place they call home for the holidays.  However for me as a fifth year student (I took the scenic route thru school), that last final I took in Animal Physiology a week ago today was my last, and it has yet to sink in.  I don’t ever have to go back to another class at the University of New Hampshire ever again.  That’s right, I graduated.  I’ve proudly accepted the title of a college graduate, with a bachelor of science in marine biology with a concentration in writing; and yes, it feels amazing.  I’d like to take this time to THANK anyone and everyone who’s given me a helping hand along the way; I couldn’t have ever done it alone.

That being said, people immediately jump out of their seats asking the infamous question…”What next?”  Well friends and fellow Fishues followers, for now the plan is to fly to an undetermined location in the next 10 days, the only criteria being that this mysterious place be warm and on the water where I can finally get lots of warm-water diving in.  Any suggestions?  I have a few ideas I’ve been tossing around in my head (or my dome-piece as my New Zealand-bound brother, Alex would call it).  Currently the winning idea is to help crew a sailboat from Panama to Puerto Rico.  We shall see.  Having never experienced such freedom before, I’m overwhelmed with the possibilites.  I could go anywhere!  The only catch is I have to be back around the beginning of April to help set up a future business endeavor with my business partner Josh Wiersma, the NH fishing sector manager.  Yes, you guessed it, the business will involve fish.  How did you know?!  I promise to share all the details once we have things more tightly locked down.  Our hope is to be fully operational by May 1st.

Josh Wiersma

Josh Wiersma

Until then, you can follow my future travels at my new blog site:  www.seavhtravels.wordpress.com.  But don’t get too excited, I haven’t posted anything yet.  That being said, don’t start mourning the loss of Fishues; I hope to semi-regularly post any fish issues I swim upon throughout my travels along the way.

End of the day Paper Work

End of the day Paper Work

 

Now that you are fully qued in to the future of Fishues, I’d like to take this time to wish you all a Joyous Holiday Season.  In the case of f/v Sweet Misery, the spirit of Christmas does not end where the water meets the land.  I’d like to share a few moments from the opening of each crew member’s stockings aboard Jay Driscoll’s boat, Sweet Misery yesterday.  Bare with me, there’s a lot of inside jokes.  I’m pretty sure Jay’s heart grew three sizes that day.  From the crew of Sweet Misery and myself: Wishing you all a MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR wherever your home may be, whether it’s on a boat, in your house, or along your travels.  And if you get the chance to read this, Merry Christmas Alex.  Hike a mountain for me!  Much LOVE to all.

Seabrook Represent

Seabrook Represent

 

Trying it out for size

Trying it out for size

Secret's out. Pete loves Twilight.

Secret’s out. Pete loves Twilight.

 

The Crew

The Crew

The crew

The crew

My favorite gift of all

My favorite gift of all

Fishing Made Easy!

Fishing Made Easy!

Personalized Poncho

Personalized Poncho

Poncho

Poncho

Gangster Poncho

Gangster Poncho

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT!

 

 

 

 

 

Julie Ann II, Gloucester Harbor

Dennis Robillard

Fisherman: Dragger

Dennis Robillard, Dragger

Dennis Robillard, Dragger

Three months after working on the docks of the now closed, Portsmouth Fishermen’s Cooperative at Portsmouth Harbor offloading boats, Dennis accepted a job working as a deckhand gillnetting on a vessel out of Portsmouth Harbor.  His first day on the job the winds consistently blew 35 mph and he spent the entire day miserably bent over the side of the boat.  “After that I said I’d give it one more day,” Dennis continues matter-of-factly, “and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Pulling in the first tow

Pulling in the first tow

First catch of the day

First catch of the day

Sorting Fish

Sorting Fish

By 1995 Dennis Robillard had a fishing vessel of his own.  Since then Dennis has owned three different boats, and currently fishes off of his 2004, 44 foot Novi, Julie Ann II, built in Yarmouth, Maine.  Though he has a berth in Portsmouth Harbor, as of lately he’s been fishing out of Gloucester around 4-5 times a week, heading south with his deckhand of 2 years, Kevin, around 2 am each work day.  A brief stop at Dunkin Donuts enroute is a must for the two of them.  “I like fishing for the independence of it,” shares Dennis during the early morning commute.

Pulling in the tow

Pulling in the tow

Primarily Dennis targets cod and flounder, but he also catches dogfish, monkfish, lobster, skate, and scallops from time to time.  Every now and then he’ll pull in something out of the norm. The craziest thing Dennis claims to have ever caught was a 17th century vase, fully intact while gillnetting one day.

Since the market’s been decent at $6 a pound, they also have been taking the time to harvest the livers of monkfish, fulfilling the demand in the Asian market.   On an average day Dennis aims for 2 long tows generally 3-4 hours each around 15 miles offshore, but his catch sensor often suggests pulling the catch in earlier than anticipated.  For those who don’t remember from Lisa Ann II of Newburyport Harbor’s article posted previously, a catch sensor is a small capsule attached to the cod end of a trawl and electronically transmits a signal to the system onboard alerting the captain when the net appears to be full.  This way no additional fuel is wasted towing an already full net.  Not all draggers have them for various reasons such as the expense and the regular maintenance they can require, but they are becoming increasingly more common.  While onboard, the catch sensor suggested we pull in the second catch early, and for that reason we ended up doing a third tow, although shorter than the first.

Gutting Fish

Gutting Fish

Basket of Redfish

Basket of Redfish

All of Dennis Robillard’s catch is offloaded at the end of each day, typically sometime between 3 and 5 pm at the Boston Display Seafood Auction at Gloucester Harbor where it is processed and shipped to seafood auctions throughout New England.  When and if there’s a shrimp season he spends the entire season, shrimping.  He also spends some time in the spring, usually around May, fishing for squid off the coast of Hyannis, Massachusetts.

Dennis and Kevin Sorting

Dennis and Kevin Sorting

Measuring Fish

Measuring Fish

When asked what he’d like to share with New Hampshire seafood consumers, Dennis responds, “Be careful what you buy, because a lot of it is from overseas.”  He believes this is an important concept for the general public to understand, which in addition to  other reasons such as unreasonably low market prices, has led Dennis to help run a Community Supported Fishery, more commonly known as a CSF, based in Kittery, Maine.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, perhaps the mention of the acronym CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture may ring some bells.  The overarching idea being that individual families buy a share from a farmer, or in this case a fishermen, at a flat rate and for a period of time they receive weekly shares of the farmer’s harvest or the fishermen’s catch available for pick-up from a central location.  Though the actual consumer does not get much say in what types or varieties of harvest they will receive, with the right state of mind, that aspect of it can be considered half the fun.

By subjecting yourself to an ever-changing variety of foods, you are encouraged to expand your palate and perhaps try something new, but most importantly you are eating seasonally.  For example, in regards to participating in a CSF, rather than grilling out-of-season shrimp (most likely from the far south) for the 4th of July, perhaps you could be grilling some dogfish kebabs or maybe marinating a locally and sustainably caught cod fillet.

Boston Skyline

Boston Skyline

Filling out Government Vessel Trip Report

Filling out Government Vessel Trip Report

Eastern Point Lighthouse

Eastern Point Lighthouse

Dennis Robillard is the main supplier of fish for the Kittery Community Supported Fishery, organized by members within the Kittery Point Congregrational Church.  Dennis drives his catch, previously filleted at the Boston Display Seafood Auction in Gloucester, to the church in Kittery every Thursday where members are able to pick up their weekly share of fish.  Members can purchase a 1 or 2 lb. share lasting 8 weeks at a time.  This particular CSF is now in the midst of their second season with just over 45 members.   In the next year they’re hoping to expand to York and Portsmouth.  “I had read of Cape Ann Fresh Catch doing it, and thought it was a novel idea, and I knew I would get paid more for my fish,” comments Dennis.  By selling his fish directly to the public in the form of filets he’s able to get several more dollars per pound than he would if he sold the fish whole to auction.

Gloucester Harbor

Gloucester Harbor

Offloading at Boston Display Seafood Auction

Offloading at Boston Display Seafood Auction

When asked what a sustainable fishery means to him, he responds, “We have to harvest the fish correctly and fairly so there’s a future in fishing, not just for myself, but anyone else who wants to participate in the fishery, whether it’s on a boat, on the docks, in a market or whatever.”  By managing a CSF he is able to share his ideologies of a sustainable fishery with his members, and they in turn support the future of the fishery by eating not only locally, but seasonally.  From his daily catch, Dennis enjoys eating redfish and whiting most, and will never say no to a plate of fried clams.  His one and only hobby he claims is fishing, but strictly salt water, and he jokingly adds, “and making Kevin’s (his deckhand’s) life miserable.”  They both share a a quick laugh on the ride home.

Back to harbor with the setting sun

Back to harbor with the setting sun

Fueling up at the end of the day

Fueling up at the end of the day

Dennis lives in Eliot, Maine with his wife and his 2 kids who are currently attending Marshwood High School.  Learn more about the local CSF and how you could participate here.  

 

An Overdue Fishue

Shorter days, crisp cool air, pumpkins, and changing leaves.

Maine in October

Maine in October

As most New Englanders are fully aware, Autumn is officially upon us, and classes at UNH are in full swing, and as a result I’ve been neglecting my Fishues Blog.  Like every year, the the semester starts off slow, and I take it easy catching up with my friends, until I pause to look up, at which time all I can see is a Wildcat Transit Bus barreling towards me (figuratively of course), and within it, all the work I’ve been putting off for the first 3 weeks of classes: paperwork, lab reports, graduation forms, meetings, readings, first-round of exams. Perhaps I’m not the only one that knows the feeling. Then following is a week or two devoted to unburying myself from the wreckage to later surface for a breath of fresh air (imagine a whale breaching), where I reclaim my life, grudgingly taking stride alongside a familiar acquaintance, “Reality.”

But have no fear I have not been neglecting the seacoast’s fish issues.  Needless to say, there’s been a lot going on that’d I’d like to briefly share.

First and foremost, GREAT NEWS!

The NH commercial fishing industry has dodged yet another bullet. After a second meeting with John Bullard regarding the porpoise closure for NH gillnetters scheduled for October and November, they have made the ultimate decision to shift the closure to February and March, with the intent of minimizing the economic impact on the fishermen. It is now the second week of October and NH gillnetters have been able to continue doing what they love, without having to look for other jobs.

An October full of Sunrises

An October full of Sunrises

Read more about the change in the closure here.

Secondly, a FISHUES premiere film called BY/CATCH

For the past month and a half, I have been working with Brittany Debelis, a grad student studying film, to work on capturing an inside look at the fishing industry in NH with an emphasis on the missing link from boat to table and the overabundance of dogfish sharks.  To fulfill a school deadline, she just released as of yesterday this amazing short film, By/Catch, which you can watch below, however we have plans to continue filming with the hopes of expanding the film further down the line.  Regardless, Brittany has done an incredible job!  The film came out far better than I could have ever imagined.

Brittany Debelis

Brittany Debelis

Thanks for all your hard work Brittany, you should be proud.

Watch the film, By/Catchhere.

Thirdly, FISHTIVAL was a great success.

On September 22nd, we had the 4th Annual Fishtival: Fish and Lobster Festival at Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH.  The event was a great success, with a wonderful attendance.  Sector Manager Josh Wiersma and I had a table where we featured each of the different fishermen I’ve interviewed and helped to promote the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative, one of the best places to buy local seafood in the area.  We also raffled off some large prints of photos from my blog which were so popular at the event that I’ve been considering starting an Etsy site where larger prints can be purchased.  More information about that to come.  I’d love any and all input on the matter…If you have any suggestions, please share.

Here are some pictures from the event:

Josh Wiersma at our Fishues table w/ daughter Alba

Josh Wiersma at our Fishues table w/ daughter Alba

Mike Anderson at the "Name that Fish" Table

Mike Anderson at the “Name that Fish” Table

Tuna head and tale

Tuna head and tale

Sea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf's FishSea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf's fishing gear demoing Gear Table

Sea Grant employee, Ben Metcalf’s fishing gear demo

Trawl Gear

Trawl Gear

Josh Wiersma speaking at Fishtival

Josh Wiersma speaking at Fishtival

Kyle of Yankee Coop in the dunk tank

Kyle of Yankee Coop in the dunk tank

And Lastly, Know the Coast Day, October 20th.  

Josh Wiersma and I will have a NH fishing sector table at the Coastal Marine Lab in Newcastle, NH from 10:00-3:00 for the UNH sponsored, Know the Coast Day, where we will be raffling off more of my photos.  Please stop by and say hello!