Moving up from Boston, Massachusetts in the 60’s to Hampton, New Hampshire, it didn’t take long before Tom Lyons found himself on the water, however unlike many other fishermen in the area, he didn’t always fish. It wasn’t until later in his life that he began to lobster, switching over to gillnetting in the year 2000. When asked how he ended up as a fisherman he responds, “We live in a beautiful area. We have lakes, ocean, mountains; it’s a great place to live. I’ve always liked boats and being on the water, so why not try fishing?” Tom fishes 7 days a week starting June 1st making the most of the short season until the beginning of winter off his 40 foot Young Brothers Boat built in 1982, Marion J, which he named after his wife.
However, Tom is a man of many trades. At the University of Massachusetts Tom majored in math and minored in science and went on to take some grad classes at the University of New Hampshire. He then went on to teach high school students at Portsmouth High School and worked as a cop in Hampton during the summertime. “I never would have thought I would have become a fisherman, a cop, or a teacher. It’s strange how things happen he says,” reflecting back on it all. Come winter, Tom and his wife Marion, drive to their home in St. Petersburg, Florida for 3 months, bringing their 2 cats, 2 dogs, and bird with them. “Driving down to Florida, I swear it’s like a traveling menagerie,” he comments. “The cats are looking at the bird, the dogs at the cats, and the bird’s just sitting there chirping the whole time. It’s crazy.” Tom’s wife, Marion, is a professional dog show judge, and because of it, they have had the opportunity to travel all around the world: New Zealand, France, Norway, Austria, Mexico, just to name a few. However, traveling is not his only hobby, he also enjoys following the New England sports teams, as well as raising race horses, a past time of his that his only daughter now carries on with her two children. He also has a son living in the area.
A good day fishing as described by Tom and his deckhand Chris consists of pulling in 3 or 4 strings of nets fulfilling their quota for dogfish shark, accompanied by a couple hundred pounds of groundfish: cod, pollock, monkfish. Fishing with him today, he pulled in the one string of nets he had set in the water 24 hours before, and it was loaded with dogfish and very few groundfish. “It’s amazing to think dogfish used to be an endangered species,” he comments. “It just goes to show you what can happen when management over-protects a species.”
When asked about the future of fishing, he responds, “It’s a way to make a living that is dying. 10 years from now it will be all big boats.” Tom views sustainability within fisheries as a means to maintaing a certain level of fish stocks for future generations to come. “You have to think of the future, but there’s so few local fishermen left now, you don’t have to worry about us anymore.” With regards to his own future fishing he replies, “I’m going to be fishing a couple more years, but I want to see which direction the fishery goes to be honest. When it’s not fun anymore and I’m not enjoying myself, I’m going to get out of it.” Tom pauses a moment, and continues. “You’re asking me all these questions… it’s making me think, have I lived a good life?” He looks out to sea and responds more to himself than anyone, “I’ve had a good life. I’ve worked hard, but it was good.”