Treasurer of Granite State Fish
“The only reason I’m still here is because I’m good at it. If I wasn’t good, I would have been gone a long time ago,” says Jamie Hayward as we head out to sea in the early hours of the morning. Jamie has been fishing for the past 25 years and gill netting for the past 20 years. Today he fishes off a Novi that his father had built for himself in 2000 by McGray Boat Builders LTD, Cape Island, Nova Scotia. Jamie grew up gill netting with his father, but when his father switched over to lobstering, Jamie bought his boat in 2004, and hired a crew to operate his previous boat, the Rolling Stone which also operates out of Badgers Island.
His crew jokes, and suggests his nickname is, King Cod. Jamie smiles, and shrugs them off. “We have a finely tuned machine here,” he responds when asked about his success as a fishermen. Targeting dogfish, monkfish, cod, and pollock, Jamie is well-known by other fishermen for fishing up and down the edge of a 900 square mile section closed off to all fishermen just over 20 miles out to sea. A closed section can serve different functions, but more often than not, they serve as a refuge for different species, helping to maintain their populations.
Jamie describes a good day fishing as when he can sell everything that comes up in his net. “A good day fishing? Westbound is a good day fishing; when we’re able to go out, fish, and come back. Any day when we don’t get over dogged really.” Over dogged, an issue many NH fishermen have been dealing with the past couple of weeks. NH fishermen are only allocated 3,000 pounds of dogfish a day due to regulations assigned by management, but as of lately dogfish shark have been hard to avoid, and many have been pulling in a great deal over their allocated quota and very few fish since the dogfish and the more valuable species, like Atlantic cod, don’t always coincide. “Today, slightly cloudy with a chance of dogs,” suggests Tommy, Jamie’s deckhand, a man who has been in the business 30 years himself.
When asked what a sustainable fishery means, Jamie responds, “To maintain a certain amount of fish. It’s just a scientific term that says fish will be here forever as long as the government maintains a certain level of regulations.” When asked about a sustainable fishery in NH he replies, “It’s already sustainable, it’s not being overfished, but the annual catch limit is based on science and that changes all the time.” He pauses, gazing out to the open water, “The government’s in control now, you can’t blame the fishermen anymore.” He pauses, and one of his deckhands jokingly fills in, “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” There are laughs all around.
Jamie is a big fan of the New England Patriots and goes to their games any chance he gets. When I ask if he has any other hobbies, he responds, “Maintenance.” I look confused, and he clarifies. Maintenance: mowing the lawn, doing the laundry, working on the boat, etc. “We fish 13 hours a day, 7 days a week. That’s all we have time to do.”
“Then why do you do it,” I ask.
“If I had any kids, I would say I fished to feed my kids, but it’s really just a means to make a living. It’s not really fun anymore,” says Jamie Hayward of Eliot, Maine. There’s mention of fishing not being what it used to be, and of regulations creating new challenges each year in regards to their ability to make a living. For many fishermen, it’s the only way of life they have ever known. He looks over his shoulder from his seat at the helm to his crew filleting fish on the open deck. “I fish to give these guys jobs.”
Jamie is one of the few NH fishermen that endures the piles of paperwork to maintain his dealer’s licence, allowing him to cut out many of the middle men from the equation, and sell directly to the markets and fish auctions. He sells the majority of his fish off the boat directly to Seaport Fish of Rye, or the fish auction in Gloucester, MA. To NH seafood consumers: “Buy fresh and local fish, but how to find it? You’ve got to look for it because it’s not everywhere you look. It’s not in every supermarket or in every restaurant, it’s not even in every market. You’ve got to look for it.”
Visit Seaport Fish to buy Jamie Hayward’s catch of the day. Support him and his crew, as well as the future of a Sustainable New Hampshire Fishery.