All in the Family

Cape Cod Life  /  August 2022 /

Writer: Joe O'Shea / Photographer: David Hills 

Cape Cod’s commercial fishermen are passing the hook to the next generation. As the eternally conflicted Michael Corleone said in the third Godfather movie, “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.” That scene, in essence, captures the nature of family-owned businesses. When a blood relation works for “the family,” it’s not just a job, but a moral commitment—an emotional blood debt—that’s exceedingly difficult to escape.     In some families, though, like the Linnells of Chatham, multiple generations have embraced the family business, commercial fishing, as a true vocation. According to young Sam Linnell, captain of the 44-foot Great Pumpkin, there’s a lot to love about commercial fishing. Captain Tim Linnell and his son Sam, taken before Sam became a captain himself. “I love the sense of community and friendship that we have in the [Chatham] fleet, the feeling that it’s not just work,” says Sam. “I love seeing my father and brothers at the pier almost every day. And I love targeting and landing fish, but driving the boat is my favorite part of fishing. I’m always happy to be on the ocean; that’s good for me.” The Linnells’ involvement in fishing and seafaring dates back multiple generations and, may, in fact, date back to the Colonial Era. Sam is at least the fourth consecutive generation to take to the seas in search of his livelihood. His two brothers, Jonas and Caleb, are also fishermen, as is their father, Tim, a longtime captain who has been hunting the waters around Cape Cod, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard for more than three decades. “Fishing and a love of the ocean are in my blood,” says Sam, who credits his father and two years of “big-league” fishing in California’s Half Moon Bay for preparing him to lead his own vessel. “You are your own captain who…

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