Interviewee: Ronnie Beckham

Role: Commercial Fisherman

Date of Interview: 2/1/06

Collection: In Their Own Words

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

Abstract: Ronnie Beckham is a former gillnet fisherman now involved in clam aquaculture. He was born and raised in Cedar Key, Florida, and grew up fishing and catching turtles with his father before they were banned. Ronnie is passing the fishing tradition onto his four daughters, but is also encouraging them to explore other livelihoods. He fears the family will not be able to make a decent living fishing much longer because of new regulations and the development of the Cedar Key coastline.

Transcript: “I'm married, uh four daughters. Been here all my life. The life, for me, it was a good life you know growin' up. Lotta places you can go that has a charm but Cedar Key has a charm of its own. This is just home to me, and everything that I done was on the water with my father. School was all right, you know, but hands-on on the boat is where I like to be. Me and my wife, we commercial fished for, well all our life, but at one time we really got involved. We got a bigger boat and fishin' day and night, you know? Fishin' jacks in the mornin' and the mullet in the evenings. She had to be there and do what that had to be done that I couldn't do or I had to hire a man. You know, she did make money and save money for the family, and uh, my kids was involved, yes, all the way through. They cleaned my boats just like my father made me. You know, my old man had been fishin’ all day and I'd been in school, and you come home from school, you know, you clean the boat, and you clean the nets, and you sold the fish, all the horses or whatever you add together. And same thing with me, when I got home, the kids got out of school, I was waitin' for 'em. They had to help me do everything until it was time to do home, you gotta do homework. It was a family business.

I found out in livin' in Cedar Key you had to have strong crab traps, you had to have oyster tongs, you had to have things to scallop with, you had to have the fishin' stuff, so you're doin' whatever the most money was in that season. On the water, you know, things come and go. It's like farmin'. And if you have a bad year oysterin' you can go stone crabbin'. If you, if it's a good year, whatever the most money is you can make at the time. I don't think I dislike any of it. It's a joy just to get on the boat and go fishin', and most of the time my wife and my children was on board. I just hope it lasts as long as it does, because I don't see it goin' on for much longer.”

To listen to Ronnie's interview, click here.