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2018 Annual Guide: Chatham

John Our Chatham

Photo by Paige Biviano

“I was really good at catching pollock—I was the guy to beat,” Our says. He adds, “When we used to catch cod, you had to think like a fish to know where to be. It was very competitive, and I enjoyed that competitiveness. Things were really rocking and rolling down at the fish pier.”

Today, Our says he knows of only one fisherman in the entire fleet making a living catching groundfish. According to Our, groundfish, particularly cod, have nearly vanished within the last 10 years (he attributes the problem in large part to the seal population). As a result, Our now targets different fish populations, including dogfish and skate, for which there is greater supply than there is demand.

“Before, I was hunting, and now it’s just factory work—you go to the same place day in and day out,” he says. “I remember what fishing was, and I don’t consider what I do now really fishing fishing.”

Government regulations also create a challenging environment, Our says. In order to go out fishing, fishermen now must notify the government 48 hours prior to sailing, and the government may assign a fisheries observer on the trip. Additionally, fishermen must fill out an online report of their day’s work before arriving back at the dock.

Although fishing is no longer what it once was for Our, he still takes pride in being a fisherman in his hometown. “I followed in my father’s footsteps, and I made it,” he says. “It’s neat to come in and still see the observation deck at the fish pier full of people watching what you’re doing—I think there’s been as many as 5,000 people in one day. The community is very supportive of fishing. They know it needs to be here.”

Haley Cote is the assistant editor of Cape Cod Life Publications.

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