Interviewee: Tom Ruhle

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 4/3/97

Collection: Peconic Estuary

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

Abstract: Tom Ruhle was born in Montauk, New York. He is a trained scuba diver, and used to skin dive for clams and other shellfish in Accabonac, Napeague, Three Mile Harbor and Lake Montauk. He works for the Town of East Hampton, but still goes clamming two to four times per month, and also harvests oysters and scallops.

Transcript: “Personally I was not your typical bayman. I used to skin dive for clams. I used to skin dive for shellfish. I'm a trained scuba diver, among other things. So the old timers were like, ‘I'm going to run you guys over,’ because they, they always thought we took all the shellfish. I was not your typical, ‘all right, we've been doing this the same way for a hundred years.’ I was like, more like ‘hey, there's shellfish and I have an efficient way of getting them so I'm going to go get them.’ I've clammed about every way you can think of.

You dive down, with a snorkel, and using your flippers with or your hands you move enough dirt away from the clams so you can see them and you flip them up with a knife into a half-bushel bin. When that's full you cull them on a cull rack, which is an aluminum pipe surrounded by CCA lumber, you grade out all the little ones, throw them back so that there's something to get next time, and you keep doing that until you get the limit or until you get what you think is an adequate living for a day, and then take 'em in and cull 'em. Clams generally are sold in, they're either littlenecks, cherrystones, or chowders depending on thickness. Five hundred littlenecks in a bushel, three hundred cherrystones, and whatever fits in the chowder clams.”

To listen to Tom's interview, click here.