Fisherman JAY DRISCOLL
President of NH Fishing Sectors & Board Member of Granite State Fish
“I love it out here. I’m too young to sit back and not fish,” says Captain Jay Driscoll when asked why he gillnet fishes 7 days a week just off the shore of the New Hampshire coast. With a crew of 3, the ’89 Canadian-made Novi, Sweet Misery, sets out to open water every dawn around 4 am recovering their sinking nets set just 24 hours prior. With the summer comes dogfish season, a time when a good day is described by hauling in a couple thousand pounds of dogfish shark most commonly shipped to England, and a couple hundred pounds of cod to be distributed around New England via the Yankee Fishermen Cooperative in Seabrook, among other miscellaneous sea creatures: spider crab, Pollock, lobster, redfish, whiting, grey sole. When asked what dogfish tastes like he proclaims, “I don’t know; I’ve never had it, but I would love to see it used around here. It’s always just shipped straight to England for fish and chips.” By mid-August they shift to fishing for Pollock and cod, and then to just Pollock a few months after. But it’s not all hard work aboard Sweet Misery; with Jay as captain, he finds time to lighten the mood. Whether it’s the crew’s traditional Gangster Monday where they pick through fish wearing backwards hats and thick gold chains jamming out to gangster beats, or it’s Jay playing pranks on sleeping deckhands on the way to their fishing grounds. There’s always time for a laugh aboard Sweet Misery.
Growing up in the area as the son of a marina boat mechanic, Jay began fishing with his uncles 22 years ago and has yet to stop. He continues to fish the same 30 square miles he’s been fishing since he started. When asked about his responsibility as President of the NH fishing sectors, he responds that it’s his job to keep the fishermen on the water doing what they love. When Jay’s not fishing he enjoys fixing things that are broken, scuba diving, and animals, including his two dogs Melvin and Frank, as well as offering his spare time to helping out the local animal shelter. Having dove in many spots around the world, he claims Duck Island, Isle of Shoals is still one of his favorite spots to dive.
When asked about sustainable fisheries, he agrees it is something that we should all support, but fears people’s perspectives of what it means to be sustainable don’t always line up. “Regulations in general are a good thing for the fish,” he says, “but the problem is they need to be more localized. I try to take care of the fish the best that I can.” The number of NH fishermen has dropped drastically from around 30 to approximately 12 fulltime fishermen in just the past 2 years. He claims he could sell off his small-scale operation’s quota and make more money than he does now, but he fears for the future of fishing. He imagines that 10 years down the road, there will be 1 large boat left to do all the fishing, no money in the industry, and people around the world will be left to eat previously frozen, tasteless fish. But as he tells his four kids, it’s important to question authority, and not always believe everything you are told. “I’m going to be around a while…one of the last guys standing. But I’m worried; at what point do you say enough is enough.”