Jimmy Siebold, 27, grew up on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, home to many commercial fishing families.

As with many fishing communities, the skills needed to make a living on the water are passed down from generation to generation. The Siebold family was not one of them. That was about to change.

“I’ve always wanted to be a commercial fisherman,” says Jimmy. “I idolized watermen from an early age and thought a lot about one day working on the water.”

But it was simply a dream.

At 17 years old, Jimmy joined the Marines, serving five years, much of it in Afghanistan. Returning from his tour, he was stationed at Cherry Point, N.C., where he met and married Suzanne Ward. The dream persisted but now was put on hold.

“I thought a lot about what I would do after my tour, but with little fishing experience, I turned to something I knew would make us a living,” says Jimmy.

He became a power company lineman and spent many days and weeks away from home.

It was a good living, and he fished part-time when home. Then Charlee Rae entered the picture. Now 8 months old, Charlee Rae was the reason the dream turned to reality.

“I fully committed to full-time commercial fishing a year and a half ago. I wanted to be home every night and be self-employed,” says Jimmy. “It was a very tough and extremely scary decision, knowing I had a wife to support and a baby on the way. But it turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made.”

Armed with a new sense of purpose and a gillnet, Jimmy set out on this new path. First stop was the purchase of a 1979 20-foot Privateer set up as a mullet boat with a tower.

“The boat needed a complete rebuild when I bought it in 2016,” says Jimmy. “When complete I put on a Yamaha 150 and headed out.”

Since then, Jimmy has focused on gillnetting for mullet while he planned his next move. That move is currently sitting in the family’s backyard — a 1983 24-foot Privateer.

When complete, the net-reel boat will head out in the ocean for the ocean spot, sea mullet and Spanish mackerel fisheries.

“I haven’t questioned my career choice once,” says Jimmy. “There is no better way to make a living than being on the water.

“The best part of commercial fishing is it relies solely up to me to make a paycheck. I can work as short or as long as I want, day or night, seven days a week.

“I may be the first in my family to embrace this profession, but definitely not the last. Suzanne and I are embarking on a new tradition for our family and do our part to support our industry.

“As long as the state uses science, and not politics, we should have no problem continuing this way of life for generations to come.”

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Maureen Donald is a freelance correspondent for National Fisherman.

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