Mother Nature wins, always….
Anyone who has visited www.YANKEECAPTS.com lately has noticed I have not posted any reports or updates over the past few months. For that, I apologize, as I should have made brief comments concerning both current and upcoming fishing trips, especially as I do know that many of you look forward to reading what I post on the site. During this same period, I made few, if any, comments on social media. Hopefully this post will explain and clarify what has been going on, as we come to the end of the second month in 2022. I am a man of few words on the computer, but I feel it’s time to get this out. I choose my words carefully and base my opinion on my experience in this industry, and I will try not to turn this into a 5000-word essay, but I have some important topics to cover.
First, let’s talk about the weather, specifically the higher-than-normal winds which have not only impacted us here in Key West, but have also wreaked havoc along the east coast, right up to New England, keeping many party boats tied to the dock over the past few months. The cold fronts this year have been unrelenting, cycling back at us almost through. We have been trying to work around small weather windows when opportunities arise for a few days of light winds, but of course it does not always line up with scheduled trips. When we do get out on the fishing grounds, we usually only grind out a catch. The crew and I try our best to make it as comfortable a fishing day as possible, but sadly there have only been a few trips like this as best as I can remember.
The comment I keep hearing most is, “Man Greg, you’re canceling more trips than usual,” and I try my best to give everyone as simple an answer as possible to understand. As we travel further distances from the dock to more remote locations offshore, it becomes a much different ocean. As I keep repeating, our fishing conditions as well as your comfort are dictated by the Gulf-stream and the Loop Current, both of which are their own weather maker. Neither are to be taken lightly, or to be gambled against during the winter, especially due to how far we are from any shoreline. After over three decades operating offshore fishing vessels, I have learned to have a healthy respect for both, as I have personally seen what they are capable of doing to those onboard, as well as the vessel. It’s easy to second-guess my decisions, but trust me, it’s for the best. I like to work, but I also love to sit on my couch and give thanks that I’m not out there when it is so windy that everybody eventually is miserable and wishes they were back on land. This time of year, anyone that books our multi-day trips takes a chance with the weather, and this leads to more trips than usual being canceled. At this point, while reviewing how many trips I have cancelled this winter, it’s clear we have a much higher probability of nice stable weather, and more likelihood of “reasonable fishing conditions” during the summer months.
So, you may ask, “What have the crew and I being doing during this extended down time from fishing?” Well, the weather has allowed us to catch up, and even get ahead, of the necessary labor and maintenance that must be done to the boat. With any working fishing vessel, there always is something to do it seems, but we have a good handle on things at this time. Over the past few years we have made many improvements to the YANKEE CAPTS and it shows when you see the pictures and read the comments of those who have fished on the vessel. I understand that some still may not be able to see the difference from what has been posted on the website or on social media, but with all the days we sail throughout the calendar year, Greg is happy where the boat is at.
My current project this week on the YANKEE CAPTS is in installing VMS, which is a vessel monitoring system. You may wonder what this is and what it does and simply put it is the proverbial ‘ankle bracelet’ for the YANKEE CAPTS as it monitors the 24/7/365 movement of the vessel. The commercial fishing industry has been mandated over the years by NOAA and the NMFS or what we call the ‘Service’ to have this electronic monitoring position system onboard for them to be able to go fishing. Do I think it is a little heavy-handed for this to be required for a party boat to go fishing offshore? Hell, yes. However, and this is very important in 2022, it does give greater real-time accountability for both catch and landings, and for providing the fishery service with much more accurate data on the health or what they term ‘stock-status’ of a particular fish species. This provides those in the survey science and technical committees with greater certainty in shaping regulations, in either increasing or restricting what we can harvest (in theory) every fishing season. But to answer the lingering question here, whether I like the fact some fishery regulator in an unknown location now knows my every move, direction of travel and locations I fish throughout my trip right from the time I leave the dock until I return… the answer again is “I don’t.”
But after all these decades of working on the water especially with the time I spent with the YANKEE CAPTS fishing in New England, I can fully understand why this is needed, and the key word here is sustainability. ‘Mother Ocean’ needs to be watched for changes in nature that may benefit or impact a species, monitored on our fishing effort in order to prevent over-fishing, and sadly, often what is learned is that she needs to be protected in order for everyone to enjoy what we can harvest.
We all know there are those out there who literally are poachers who have caused the Service to mandate certain requirements to target and harvest valuable fish species, though generally I believe most operators and fishermen follow the regulations if they can. On the other hand, those who fished with me and my crew in my longtime homeport in Massachusetts will remember what happened to the YANKEE CAPTS in 2012. We were forced to make an extremely difficult decision to end our summer fishing in New England, as we were regulated out of an important fishery due to overly restrictive possession limits that were unrealistic for the trips we offered.
I can hear it now from those who have read this far, “But Greg, I look at your scheduled and see how busy you are: fully booked for months out; you must be rolling in the dough.” What people don’t know, and I have never publicly mentioned, is that I lost over 500k in sales in one year because of harvest restrictions, which essentially regulated my operation out of a fishery. Looking back, yes we came out on the other side OK, but there were many times over those years that it was not a pleasant ride due to the issues that had to be addressed in order to continue doing the trips we do with the YANKEE CAPTS.
In passing along my thoughts to all of you, I would chock our success up to a combination of luck, good timing with the opportunities I have had, and the hard work put in each day throughout the calendar year that were the keys for the YANKEE CAPTS fishing operation. I’ll let you in another little secret, since you have read this far, if you think I am a rich man at this time, well, in some sense I am: I enjoy what I do and make a living at it. I think that makes me rich. But it is comical to think that I am financially wealthy as there are high costs of operating a year-round, long range for-hire business for decades. Like any business owner, I have financial concerns. But I continue to believe in providing everyone who fishes with the YANKEE CAPTS with the best fishing experience possible, ensuring everyone brings home more than a few dinners of the best, freshest finfish seafood that the ocean has to offer. I am always open to your concerns, comments, questions, and as much, just in saying hello and passing along best wishes from time to time. E mail is best. I’m easy to get a hold of.
Wishing everyone the best for 2022. We are just a few weeks away from spring and the-ever-blowing winds and cold fronts in starting to let up, so with luck, we should finally catch a few breaks in the weather , and the fishing updates will resume. Thanks for reading. Stay tuned.