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Background photo by Greg Hinson

One time about three years ago, I was out on The Figs, about 25 miles from Chatham. This tuna fish hit the line and it screamed out. It took almost all of my line, then it turned and charged the boat. The guy that’s running the boat puts it in gear and runs from it so the line can get taut again. I’m cranking as fast as I can—this is all on video—and after what seemed like five minutes but was probably two, I thought, he’s got to be gone. The next thing you know, the rod bends over into the water. He was still on. I fought that fish for quite a while around a lot of boats. But it gave up. I won.

When it came up to the surface on its side, I started shaking because it was the biggest fish I ever saw. It was about 1,300 pounds.

• • •

Chatham is probably the major fishing port on Cape Cod. And what I really love about the Chatham fleet is the camaraderie. Everybody looks out for each other—we all act together as a family. I was just struck with cancer. And no matter what, every day when I got home from Boston after getting chemo and all that, there’d be a bag of scallops on my front step, there’d be a homemade lasagna, people would take my dog out, people would come over and take the trash out. These are all fishermen. These are all my friends. It’s not even said. It’s not asked for. It’s not mentioned. It just happens.

The only reason I’m able to stay involved in fishing is because of the Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen’s Association. I can go groundfishing because I can lease a share of groundfish through the sector. That allows me to fish, to actually be my own captain of a fishing vessel. Without the sector, it never would have happened.

I think the sector has been very beneficial. In the beginning, there was a lot of skepticism, but I think it’s really ended up working out for us. Only time will tell. There’s two sides to every story, and there are certain people who will rail about the sector system. But they’ve helped me out and that’s all I can say.

• • •

This town comes to life in the summertime. It’s crazy. But as a fisherman, you leave at four in the morning, when everybody’s asleep, and you usually come home when everyone’s having dinner.

The mixture of people in Chatham and how they all socialize with one another—there’s no turmoil. An extremely rich person with an amazing house on Shore Road that overlooks where I fish becomes a normal person who you’ll be sitting next to at the Squire.

As a Cape Codder, you need to be a jack of all trades. I’ve built houses, I’ve done landscaping, I’ve roofed, I’ve been in the kitchen. Fishing is no different. If there’s no groundfish, you go and dig clams. If there’s no clams, you scratch for quahogs. If there’s no quahogs, you go musseling. You’ve got to adapt and overcome.

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Jeff is the Managing Editor for Cape Cod Life Publications.

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