“I go by, the nice guy from Rye.” Meet Mike Anderson, the younger brother of fisherman Rick Anderson, a dragger who has been fishing ever since he got out of high school. Mike shares stories of his old man being a crafty guy who would piece together old parts from the marina to build boats among various other projects. Mike and his two older brothers, grew up on a river in Dover, New Hampshire where Mike and his brothers would spend their days designing traps to catch lobsters out front of their house. After graduating high school, Mike worked full-time fishing, first dragging, then gillnetting, only to go back to dragging. He later went on to study to be a gym teacher at the University of New Hampshire, and soon following got a job as a gym teacher at Portsmouth High School working alongside fisherman, Tom Lyons, who taught science at the time. 5 years down the road he decided to return to fishing full-time for economic reasons. Today Mike typically fishes 7 days a week off of his 51 foot, Novi stern dragger built in Nova Scotia in 2003. “I usually fish for groundfish; anything with eyeballs really,” he jokes as we come up on the last 30 minutes of the first tow of the day.
When I ask Mike what makes a good day fishing, he responds, “When the sun comes up and goes down I guess.” The average fishermen is known to work 75-90 hour work weeks. Mike fears that fishing is not anything like what it used to be. “It’s nice being out on the water because you can escape all the people, but now the government’s following us out here.” His cell phone begins to ring. “Ahhh…hold on the government’s calling, ‘Good Afternoon.'” He answers the phone with a cheerful grin. Nothing but jokes aboard Rimrack with Mike Anderson. His phone conversation comes to a close and he continues. “All these people are chasing us around like parasites and putting us out of work, but in the long run, they’re going to be putting themselves out of work.” Mike shares talk of a potential mandate starting May 1st that would require the fishermen to pay the randomly assigned onboard observers, rather than the taxpayers who are currently paying them. “If they cut our cod quotas by 70%, there’s no way we’re going to be paying them and ourselves,” vents Mike. “We’re all going to be out of a job.” He pauses, acknowledging my grimace. “I’m not an optimist, I’m a realist.”
Mike spends a short period of time making the most of the shrimp season each winter putting in 14 hour days every single day of the open season. He describes last year’s shrimp season to be a short 19 day-long season, commenting on the fact that the shrimp fishery has not been doing so well, and there’s a possibility the season may be even shorter this upcoming year. “I love when I get back to the dock and the people are lined up to buy our shrimp in the winter time,” he shares. Mike also speaks fondly of his adventures fishing for squid out of Hyannis, Cape Cod with a few friends aboard Rimrack, where they live off the boat for the entire month of May. All their catch off the coast of Hyannis is shipped to China for processing and then back to the United States to be sold. When asked about sustainable fisheries, Mike believes there’s a certain level of responsibility involved by each individual fisherman in order to maintain a steady harvest. “Don’t catch them all this year, so there aren’t any left for next year. It’s common sense.” However he also believes there’s a certain level of competition that comes with the territory of fishing. “Whether you say you’re competitive or not, we’re all competing with each other; we’re all fishing out of the same body of water.”
Fishing with Mike that day we hit the cod jack pot on the first tow, with mostly cod in the net after nearly 4 hours of towing. There were very few other kinds of fish mixed in and not a single dogfish shark, despite the dogfish mayhem being reported on the radio by the surrounding fishermen. “I just feel so bad for those gillnetters this year. They’re working themselves to death, pulling in all those sharks and they’re not even making any money,” says Mike in response to the ongoing dogfish complaints. The second and third tow, though successful pulled in a greater variety of fish, with fewer cod. Mixed in with some really beautiful cod were squid, monkfish, torpedo rays, skate, whiting, flounder, lumpfish, red fish, crab, and lobster to name a few. Like many of NH fishermen, Mike’s catch is picked up by the Yankee Fishermen’s Cooperative at Rye Harbor and distributed around the seacoast from there, or sold in Yankee Coop’s new fresh market that has just recently opened at the coop itself.
Mike Anderson is married to his wife, Padi Anderson, founder of Granite State Fish and has 2 grown daughters who spend much of their time traveling around the world. Mike occasionally visits his older brother Rick at his winter home in the keys, joking about their time spent recreational fishing. “Rick goes half way to Cuba and back on a 20 foot boot,” he says. When asked about his hobbies, he says that he loves to do anything in the woods: hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, and that he prefers to do it all in the great state of Maine, claiming there’s no need to go anywhere else. He pulls out a full book atlas of Maine, and begins flipping through the pages showing me all his favorite spots. Pages and pages of the book, are highlighted, noted, and marked with dates, in order to help himself track where he’s been over time. “I’ve been all over the state, camping out of the back of my truck; west of 95 where no one goes,” he states with a sense of pride for his time spent throughout the state.
I ask him where he sees the local fishing industry 5 years from now, and he immediately responds, “You’re predicting 4 years past the end of the fishing world. You realize that?” He pauses. “There’s no way of saying what 5 years down the line is going to look like.” We continue discussing the issues with the future of fishing and he interjects, “I can fish in the woods just as much as I can fish here, and have just as much fun.” I ask him what the craziest thing he ever caught was and he responds, someone’s license, but even better, the same person’s wallet was caught the following day. “That was something,” he exclaims. When asked why he still fishes, he responds, “To feed hungry people I guess, and it’s fun.” He emphasizes the fact that complete strangers are always welcome aboard his boat, either to take a look around, or join him for a day of fishing.
And I exclaim, “Strangers like me.”
He quickly retorts, “Oh, but I’ve heard about you.” And he lets out a laugh. “You’re no stranger around here.” We exchange smiles, and I continue.
“If you could share anything with NH seafood consumers what would it be?”
He thinks a moment, and responds in all seriousness, “Come on down to the harbor and see what’s going on. We let anyone come on down during shrimp season and check everything out. And go to Fishtival on September 22nd!”