Interviewee: George Coombs

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 5/15/87

Collection: Long Island Traditions

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

Abstract: George Combs’ family has lived on Long Island since 1644. His family emigrated from England and settled first in Connecticut, and then in the towns of Hempstead and Freeport, New York. George’s father is a famous decoy carver, and duck hunting is a family tradition, as is working on the bay. George a twelfth generation bayman, though he fears he will be the last in his family to be able to make a viable living fishing.

Transcript: “As far as Long Island history, we go back to 1644. Right now I say that I'm the twelfth generation on Long Island and I'm the last one that will make a living off the bay. It's finished. I have a son, he's nineteen, but there's no future. The bay is finished as far as commercial fishing goes, it's it's changed. A big part of the problem is the people, too many people. You have too many people and it causes pollution and it causes all kinds of problems. Another ruination of the bay is the outboard motor. In the basin here we have a lot of shallow water and we have eelgrass. All kinds of little critters live there. The outboard motors, they cut back and forth and they just tear up all this eelgrass and then the eelgrass dies and lays on the bottom and it smothers other marine life. And the outboard has a lot of pollution in the water, gives off a lot of oil and gas.

Modern times have ruined the bay for the bayman. The bay is smaller, all along the shoreline it's all houses, used to be marsh, used to have different types of marine life. It's all changed. The environment's changed so much that there's really no future in it. Most of the bay is closed off to clamming. Every year the fish get scarcer, the bait is scarcer to catch, stuff is not there. So basically, I'll be the last generation, realistically, who could make a living off the bay and my days are numbered. You know maybe you can go out there and sail around or whatever, but I mean as going out there and depending on the bay for your livelihood, that's a thing of the past. So I would say that I'm the last generation that's a bayman.”

To listen to George's interview, click here.