Fisherman, Columnist, Cook & Educator
I’ve been a naturalist my entire life, even when I was a little boy growing up in the city of Detroit. I went to Harvard, and one day I took the subway to Revere Beach. I was just overcome by the vastness of the ocean, and the idea that you could theoretically go from there by boat to Singapore, or Madagascar, or who knows. Anywhere.I came here to work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 1963. I was a research assistant in the biology department. I wanted to go to sea once I saw the ocean, and the oceanographic institution seemed the best way to go. I got a job there and I stayed there 11 years. I’ve never been away from the sea since.
I was just starting a family in 1963. We rented a place in West Falmouth, but I thought the Cataumet section of Bourne was really pretty, not too expensive. I enjoyed the cranberry bogs. There are great places to walk. It’s close to fishing—there’s terrific shellfishing in Bourne to this day. There’s also the Cape Cod Canal. That was a big attraction—you could catch world-record fish there without any money. You didn’t have to hire a boat or a guide. It was accessible and exciting. And I enjoyed the camaraderie, or whatever you want to call it, between the fishermen once you are accepted—which takes a while.
Bourne is at the conjunction of two glacial moraines. One moraine runs north to south from Bourne down to Woods Hole. Another one runs from Bourne out to Chatham. Some of the highest hills on the Cape are in this area. It doesn’t have a single town center. It was just overlooked, which I think is a good thing because it made it possible for me to afford to come here, and stay here to this day.
The population has doubled twice since I moved here. There are four times as many people here as when I first moved here.
When I came down here, the very first night I cast a lure into the Atlantic Ocean and I caught a striped bass. The lure was 10 inches long and the bass was nine inches long. And then I went 30 evenings in a row when I didn’t even have another strike.
To this day, I enjoy fishing greatly. I especially enjoy the moment of making contact with the fish, this mysterious thing on the end of your line. You never know what it might be. That is still a great attraction. Especially night fishing for bass, when it’s very quiet and you move very slowly, and then all of the sudden you’re in touch with a fish that could be anywhere from two to 65 pounds. It’s very exciting—even more than catching them.
I was with a guide in the Florida Keys, fishing for permit, which is very sought-after by fly fishermen. This guy saw the fish, told me where to cast, and I hooked the fish. It took an hour and 45 minutes to land the thing, and it was within four ounces of the world record. It was 39 pounds and 12 ounces, and the record was exactly 40. That was the closest I’ve gotten to a world record. I’ve caught a giant tuna around 900 pounds. But that’s not much fun. It’s like catching a Volkswagen. You might as well hire a tow truck.