What do you think when someone says the word :gillnet:? I don't know about you, but most people will say, one gillnet will catch everything from dolphins, turtles and every kind of fish there is, they do not discriminate.
If that were true, then I ask why did we need a different net for each type and size of fish we would target. Target being the keyword.
All of our river nets was 3 to 6 feet deep, or shorter.
If we wanted to catch a fish called spots, we would make a net out of the size of mono would catch just them it would be #208 mono, which is like 30lb mono fishing line, and mesh size would be 2 and 7/8 inch.
A summertime mullet net would be mono size 104, which is 10 or 12 mono line, and the mesh would be 3 inches.
In the fall we caught roe mullet and used two different sizes of net one was mono size 169 which equal 20-pound fishing line and the mesh size was 3 and 1/2 inches that is what we circled them with and then we had a different size mesh to put in the middle of the circle and it was 3 and 3/4 to catch the bigger fish. The bigger fish will not catch in the smaller mesh size.
We caught pogies, they are also called bunkers or menhaden, we used mono size 208 and the mesh size was 3 inch and a net with 3 and 1/2 inch would go in the middle.
To catch whiting we hung in a 2 and 7/8 net made from 169 mono, this net was not very tall, just 3 foot.
We hung in 2 different size nets for jacks they were 3 and 1/2 and a 4 and 1/2 inch mesh from 208 mono.
That is just an example of some of the different nets we used, it was rare to be able to use the same net on a different species of fish. When we set our net around fish, that species was 99% of the fish we caught. The other one percent could be catfish, occasional bluefish, or others. We caught what we were targeting. We did not rape the sea, as we have been portrayed of doing, "they" say one net catches all of the species. If it was that easy, then I ask, why did we need a different net for each kind of fish? Fishing is how we make our living, if we are not being responsible and doing all we can to not catch the undersize fish then the fish will be depleted and we would no longer have a job. It is very important to use the right size mesh in our nets to ensure the too small and too big will live to make more fish.
The problem is anyone can get a commercial license and buy a net already hung in. They have no clue what they are doing and if they put it around catfish or some other junk fish or even if they leave it too long and it fills with rolling grass or slime grass, they would just leave it in the river and over time a bird trying to get the fish out, has someone's fishing lure hanging from it and the lure gets hung in the net and the bird dies. The news media picks this story up and when they report on it it goes like this. A commercial fisherman net was found, it had dead fish, and a dead bird in it. From this, all commercial fishermen are labeled as bad. In no other job, are all condemned by which one person does, if there is a bad doctor this does not mean all doctors are bad, one bad carpenter does not mean all are bad but one bad fisherman and people think all are like this.
A true commercial fisherman has a lot of work and money in their gear. They are not going to leave it no matter what. The nets we used all cost from five hundred to fifteen hundred dollars depending on what all we had to buy to make it.
We made all our nets ourselves. The fish house would order the webbing for us and they would take a little each week from our paycheck to pay off whatever we ordered. Sometimes we would need to order corks, leads, and the rope to put the corks and lead on. If at all possible we would cut out an old net that had gotten to ripped up, had rotted because it was too old or rats had found. (We had a brand new net that we left on the fish house dock so we could get to it quickly when needed. The rats made a nest in it and they chewed huge holes which totally ruined it). We would re-use the lead line and corks and cork line, adjusting the corks to which species we were going to catch with it. It would scare me if I could ever figure out the hours we had spent cutting out old nets and hanging in new ones. If we were not fishing, that is what we were doing.
I was not sure if it was 1994 or 95 so I googled when did Fl pass the net ban and this is what google had as the first search item.
(When the net ban was passed,- On election day in 1994, Florida voters passed a state constitutional amendment banning Florida commercial fishermen from using gill nets. The law made any commercial fisherman in the state an outlaw who used a gill net to catch mullet, as fishing families had done for generations.) This statement is so true.
These waters had been fished by commercial fishermen for over 200 years and they never depleted the fish. It has been 26 years since the net ban and there has been a huge decline in fish populations, I wish someone could explain that to me. It is almost as if God said you have taken the fishermen away so I have taken the fish.
We would not only be an outlaw but it is also a felony to be caught with a net. We can still use a net in federal waters which is past three miles out in the ocean, but while crossing state waters, which meant from the time you left the dock until you got passed three miles and back when you got to the three-mile limit, we had to cover our net with a tarp and have chains across it with a padlock. If you failed to lock it you could be charged with the felony.
Coolidge Judah, who owned Judah's fish house, where I used to fish, fished old school. He was the only fisherman who still took three boats and two nets. He had an old inboard wooden boat and towed two skiffs. He would anchor the motorboat and he and one of his sons would row the nets around where he wanted to make a drag. They made a big circle and when they came together he would get overboard pulling the inside net while walking around inside of the outside ring of the net. He did this making his circle smaller and smaller until he had a very small area and the last piece of the net was what was called the bailer, Coolidge and his son would get the lead line and cork line of the bailer net and bail the fish into one of the skiffs, they caught all kinds of fish but they also threw back all that they did not want, or undersized these fish were very healthy when he tossed them back.
Fishing like Coolidge did was very dangerous, he had been stingray stuck several times, one time if he would have listened to the doctor he would have lost his leg. He had a CB radio on the motorboat and one in the fish house. His son radioed the fish house that Coolidge had been stuck and it was very bad, he told them to have an ambulance waiting for him and they would be to the dock as fast as they could. When they got Coolidge up the dock and into the fish house the ambulance attendants asked him to remove his hand from the wound, he told them it hit an artery, he removed his hand and blood shot across the fish house. They took him to the hospital and got the bleeding to stop.
Everyone knows that if you are stuck by a stingray it rots the meat around the stick. Coolidge said this doctor must have been right out of medical school and knew nothing about stingray sticks, he told Coolidge he was afraid he was going to need to take his leg because it was rotting and he was afraid it was going to turn to gang-green. Coolidge told him it was doing what's supposed to do, but the doctor did not think so. Coolidge wanted another opinion so he called old doc Kelso who was the only doctor in our area for many years, he was then retired but told Coolidge he would come to his house and take a look at it. Which he did and he told Coolidge, yep that is a nasty stingray stick and it looks to me like it is healing as it should be. It took several months to heal and left a not so nice scar with a big indent around it, but he did not lose his leg like the young doctor wanted to do.
Coolidge went back fishing doing the same thing, he got stuck again but it was not nearly as bad They called the dock and told them to put a pot of water on to boil. You do not put the injury in boiling water but you want to stick it in as hot as you can possibly stand, and yes it rotted the skin around it and healed just fine.
After the net ban, Coolidge never went back on the river. He would sit at his kitchen table looking out at the river and you could see he was broken. We were so sad for him.
We tried to fish offshore, but none of our river nets would work out there so we had to buy and hang in all-new nets, which was a huge expense on us. The only species we could catch offshore was bluefish and Spanish mackerel and we could only catch them as they were going by. They are both migratory fish, they go south in the winter and north in the spring. All the other fish that we used to catch stayed in state waters, they would follow the reef, so we could never catch any of them again.
The Spanish mackerel net was thirty feet deep and my husband and I pulled it back by hand. One day we were picking it up and noticed one of our buoys was missing, we put a buoy on each end of the net so we can find it. We were picking up the net and when we got close to where the buoy was to be we could feel something tugging on the net. A huge hammerhead shark hit the very end of the net and got tangled in the buoy line and the end of the net.
We have never left a piece of gear in the ocean and this was not going to be the first. It took us 45 minutes to untangle him. We would get his head up and unwrap what we could, his hammers were over three feet across. Then we would get his tail up and unwrap it. We never got a good look at the whole shark, we could see his head to dorsal fin and about three feet from its tail up. He was one you never what to see while swimming, I am guessing it had to be 15 feet.
After leaning over the side of the boat for that long and pulling on the net, my back was hurting. It hurt all night and was still sore the next day so my husband asked his brother to fish with him and I went to drive the boat which made it easier on them picking up that big net. My back kept getting worse as the day went on. When we got home I called a chiropractor and made an appointment for the next day. I went to the chiropractor for several weeks and my back kept getting worse. I was to the point where I could not stand up I had to crawl on the floor. My husband would help me onto the toilet but I could not push to start the pee, I was in more pain because my bladder was full. I can remember sitting there crying until gravity took over.
My next appointment with the chiropractor I went in all hunched over and crying I told him not to touch my back, to refer me to a doctor, which he did. The new doctor told me to come right over and they would see me today. We get there and there were several people in the waiting room. It was some sort of rehab doctor and they had bicycles and other gym style equipment for people to work their muscles. I could not sit, I stood there leaning on a chair, the pain was unbearable, tears running down my face. They kept calling other people back while I stood there. Some people left. My husband went outside to smoke and a man came out and asked if I was his wife and he said yes, the man told him that it was total nonsense for them not to take me to the back. He also left. It was over an hour before I was seen and all he did was put some sort of shocking device on me. I went to him a couple more times and told him he was not helping me to please send me to someone who would help.
He sent me to the doctor who I still have, he is a pain management doctor. That was who I needed in the first place. I was in pain and it needed to be managed. I never knew a pain management doctor existed. Still having to crawl and the pain unbearable I called this doctor. They told me to come in right now. So I did even though I was worried if he could really help. He gave me a steroid pack to take, he told me to take so many the first day and then one less each following day, on the fourth day I was able to almost stand straight up but was still hurting just not as bad.
The next time I saw him he gave me a shot in my spine, I hurt worse after that. He did some kind of scan and I could see the screen that he was looking at and he was explaining to me what he was seeing. My disks were torn from the inside to the outside. He explained to me that the disk is like a donut around the spinal cord. My L-1 was ripped partway into, L-2 was ripped all of the ways across and L-4 was partway.
He did a procedure called radio-frequency-ablation. He told me the disk is like egg whites and what he was going to do was cook the egg whites and this will seal the tears in my disks. It worked but because I still do the kind of work that is bad for a hurt back I re-tore them all. He told me he could do surgery but there is a very good chance that I might not be able to get off of the couch afterward. So we manage my pain with meds.
I did not like this idea but it was the only way I could still work. I have known so many people who have abused their meds and in the end, they have lost everything that they had worked for, they were the lucky ones. Some have even lost their lives. So I made a pact with myself if at all possible I will not take more than I am prescribed. If I am having that much pain I will tell my doctor and he will adjust the medicine as needed. This has worked out very well, in the 25 years since I injured my back, I have had him increase it for me only once. I have even cut myself back on the number of pills I take. If the pain does not stop I will take an extra one but if it still will not stop I do not take anymore, I call the doctor and he will call me in the steroid pack and that does it.
One of the fish houses also had a mold for building a 20 foot Suncoast flat bottom boat. My husband asked them to make us a boat from their mold. which they did. We had to but the bulkheads and fish box in it. I remember someone coming up and asking where I was at and hearing my husband say, she's in the fish box. I was laying down in it marking the plywood that we were going to make the lid for. we still have this boat. It has hauled much fish to the dock. One day a man came up to us and said he wanted to buy our boat, he pulled a wad of cash from his pocket, my husband looked at it and then at me, I said hell no, not for any price.
We bought an old cabin cruiser from a guy we knew. He sold it to us for 1,000 dollars. We took it to the back lot of the fish house and started striping everything in it. We took it down to nothing but a bare hull and started rebuilding it. We put new stringers, the floor we put in it was made of something called nitacore, it was some sort of fiberglass in little honeycomb shapes and it was lighter than wood and would never rot. When you fiberglass, the honeycombs fill with resin and it becomes very strong. We built a small above deck cabin with a windshield. We put a new 350 chevy engine in it. All the gas inboards were 350 chevy engines, I guess they were the best engine for boats. I have helped my husband work on them enough that I believe I could change heads on my own. We had a different older boat that had the same engine and we were all the time working on it.
We built three boats from scratch. The Stamas which was the cabin cruiser we re-built. The three we built from scratch we had no plans my husband had the design in his head. One was a 24-foot bowrigger, it was called this because the motor was near the bow. Being in the front made it run in shallower water, it was used to catch mullet, they are usually in very shallow water. Next, he built a small 15-foot boat for him to trout fish out of. It came out so nice that we built one for me, too. We changed mine a little by putting a small vee bottom on it. I think the materials to build each boat was a little over 1,000 dollars. But being made from wood they only lasted about 15 years, my husbands' lasted longer than mine because it was fiberglassed on the outside. The problem with wood boats is the nails start working their way out and everywhere that a nail came out of creating a leak. Mine got too fragile to safely use and my husband got a Carolina skiff from his brother and gave me his boat. It had several leaks so I named it Sur Leaks A lot. It was a nice boat to fish out of and I loved it but it got too old and the transom had rotted, so we bought a small fiberglass trout boat for me to use. This is the boat that I now have.
** After writing and saving this post my computer crashed, I will try to make up the days I missed.**