Interviewee: Mike Bruce

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 9/24/06

Collection: Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: A New Bedford ground fisherman talks about learning the trade and the end of his family's fishing legacy.

Transcript: "So my grandfather and grandfather before him and before etcetera, etcetera have been fishermen since the beginning of time – back as far as I go –

My father, uh, owned fishing boats, and, uh... let me see, the first things I did was come down the boat and paint the pin boards.

I painted the pin boards when I was, oh my god, I'd have to say nine, ten, eleven years old, painting the pin boards on the boat for... what did I get, I think it was ten dollars. I was tickled pink.

And then I'd get jobs lumpin' too, I'd, uh... when I was big enough to dump the basket on the chute I'd dump the basket on the chute...

I guess in a way I'm born into it, you could say, and, uh...school time, when summer was out, I went fishin' in the summer... uh... let me see, I was seventeen when I went actual fishin' and uh...when I graduated from high school, the next year, I went fishin' full time. So I've been fishin' now thirty-one years.

The first trip, I got a quarter share. Then I got, when I could do somethin' like, uh... not fully mend yet but once I could do stuff like splice wire, splice rope, anything, got a half share. And when you could mend twine, and put a patch in, then you were considered full share.

But today, there's no men to really go – you know, there's no – not a lot of tradition like there was years ago, and like fathers, sons goin' fishing...They're more or less taking different people. They give 'em full share 'cause they – it's hard to get somebody to go dragging where it was, you know what I mean, as it was before to find somebody that's, you know, gonna do the job because there's – now, there is no benefits. You don't have no medical. You don't have no pension. You don't have no nothin'. If you go on a non–union boat, which most of 'em are, now, you have nothin'. So who is gonna come into dragging? Who's gonna want to go dragging?

I got one son, and he's not gonna to go fishing 'cause there's nothing for him so it's the end of my family, the Bruce family...to not be fishermen. Here's where it stops, right now. Here's where it stops because it – he'll never make it, he'll never own a home, he'll never own a thing, he'll never be able to... make any American dream."

To read Mike's full transcript, click here.