Interviewee: Jim Rose

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 7/15/00

Collection: Long Island Traditions

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

Abstract: Jim Rose was born in South Hampton and has lived for most of his life in the Blue Point and East Patchogue areas of Long Island. He started clamming during junior high to earn some extra money and clammed full time from 1973 to 1985, when the industry slowed down. At that point, he started gillnetting. Jim built his own boats—one for fishing and one for duck hunting—and makes his own nets, which gives him a sense of satisfaction and feeling that he has “beat the system.” Jim loves his life on the bay, and hopes the fishing will last “forever” so that his sons, too, can learn the ways of the bay. 

Transcript: “Gillnetting is a wall of monofilament, well I use monofilament, you can also use nylon netting. It's the wall of netting that's placed out in a straight line in the bay and the webbing is tied between a lead line, which is on the bottom and has leads in it so it sinks to the bottom, and then on the top there's a cork line which has corks every four, five feet or so, and that holds the wall upright. And when the webbing is attached to the lead and the cork what it does is it, when you stand it up it looks like a diamond because that's pretty much the shape of a fish if you look at a fish head on.

A small size mesh will catch a small fish because what the gillnet does is the fish hits the net and can't back up so they swim into the net and they try to swim harder to get through it once they have resistance. What they do is they go past their head and a narrower part is right around the gills and they get caught on the gills, so you know, thus the name gillnet. You can also catch a fish on the nose if the fish is smaller so the fish's head can't go in there, so with a smaller size mesh that you would normally catch [gilla?] fish in, you can catch bigger fish in it because they might get caught on their nose. And what you want to do is adjust the knots far enough apart or close enough together to get that diamond shape so it's open enough to catch a fish, but not too far open so that when the fish hits it, it won't have the tendency to fall out. You want some sideward pressure on it, too, but you also don't want the webbing so close together that it looks like a wall instead of like fish are looking through the water. They say that in front of a fish they have a feeling out in front of their nose, they can feel the water passing in front of them and I guess as they approach a net or an object they can feel like a rebound coming back at them, so if you have a stiff wall of net, they'll feel a little rebound and might turn away, but if the net is a little bit more loose in the water they won't feel the rebound as bad and they'll, they'll get stuck. The tightness of the wall would be having more or less corks on the net.

For fifteen, twenty years I've been playing with the, you know, how far apart to stretch your webbing to catch what kind of fish. You know, that's what each fisherman does is try to figure out how they want to do it. I used to hold the webbing closer together, then it seemed like the fish got caught so well that it was hard to take it out of the net, so I would stretch 'em out a little bit more and then it's easier to pick the fish out. You want to catch fish, but you also want to be able to get through the net fast so you can get to the next piece of net before the crabs get it or, or whatever. What I do is in the springtime the fish are usually bigger, you use a bigger mesh to catch the bunker, week fish, bluefish, and then in the summertime things get a little bit smaller because the bigger fish go out to the ocean and the smaller fish stay in the bay, so I bring it down to a smaller sized mesh.”

To listen to Jim's interview, click here.