Commercial fishing is the art of catching fish for money.
The pursuit can be fun and profitable but it is also hard work.
Commercial fishermen have an expectation to catch and sell fish for profit but many days the fish have other ideas and long, draining hours are spent on the water without making a paycheck.
Capt. Van Hubbard of Boca Grande casts his fishing net.
Some commercial fishing boats are equipped to stay on the water for days and even months giving fisherman the ability to go wherever they need to follow fish migrations.
Restrictions on commercial harvest have been tightening since the early 1980s culminating in the controversial 1995 net ban that changed the way commercial fisherman and their families live. Commercial fisherman were forced to alter their methods of catching fish, which was not an easy adjustment for many.
Most commercial fisherman have a long family fishing history. Their fathers were commercial fisherman and their fathers before them. For commercial fishing families, it's not just a job, it's a lifestyle and a heritage. It is what they do and who they are.
Merry Beth Ryan, a member of the Florida Outdoor Writers Association, can be reached at www.merrybethryanphotography.com, by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone (941) 544-5023.
Boca Grande has many proud commercial fishing families with a long history of making a living on the water. Placida and Englewood, too, have several commercial fishing families still making a good living on the water.
People often think commercial fishing just means catching fish. But commercial fishing includes shrimp, crabs, clams and lobster as well.
Commercial fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations. Even in rough seas and bad weather commercial fisherman must work regardless of the conditions.
Navigation and communication have improved the hunt for those who work on the water. It takes teamwork to commercial fish successfully. You create a network of fishing friends on the water who can communicate back and forth to stay one step ahead of the fish at all times or at least try to stay ahead.
Commercial fishermen spend a lot of time on the water and they understand the patterns and migrations of the fish and other crustaceans they are trying to catch.
I have enjoyed the experience of being on a boat where the more fish we land on the deck the bigger our paycheck will be. The adrenaline immediately rises once you spot fish and are about to load your boat with them to take to the fish house to sell. It's thrilling when filling the boat with fish.
There are days when you can load your boat so full of fish that its barely floating then there are other days when the fish outsmart the fisherman and leave them scratching their heads and wondering where the fish are hiding. It is all part of the hunt.
Catching mullet for money is common around Boca Grande. I have fished for mullet many times and know just how much work goes into commercial mullet fishing.
Commercial mullet fisherman travel far and wide tracking mullet migrations. Cast nets are often used as well as purse seine nets that meet the regulations on legal net size limits.
Commercial king fishing, pompano fishing and mackerel fishing can be done in our area. Everyone has their unique commercial fishing styles, too. Oldtimers still use hand lines to catch fish and do quite well with king fish and Spanish mackerel.
Most commercial pompano fishing around Boca is done with rods and reels. Cast nets work as well as the rods-and-reel method in certain conditions.
Commercial crabbing is still going strong around Gasparilla Island with blue crabs and stone crabs still filling crab traps.
Commercial fishing is so closely tied to Boca Grande because it emphasizes conservation and augments our enormous appetite for seafood. We honor the commercial fishing families among us who have known no other life because fishing is the capitol sport sand pursuit in Florida.