There was never any doubt Drew Sadler would fish for a living. Now 30 years old, he always knew he would work on the water, like five generations before him.
“I grew up on the water, starting out fishing with my dad,” he says. “I never thought of doing anything else.”
The Sadler family has long lived in Hoboken, N.C., a well-known fishing community situated on the Pamlico Sound. Known for generations of fishermen, the Sadlers have fished these waters for oysters, crabs and a variety of finfish. Drew fondly remembers his grandfather still fishing at age 80.
It was a foregone conclusion that Sadler would follow the tradition.
As early as 7th grade, Sadler would fish summers and weekends with his dad, learning all he could about the industry.
“I didn’t realize how much I was learning; it was all natural,” Sadler says. “By the time I was 16 years old, I could work the boat on my own.”
A short two years later, he purchased his own gear, including a 16-foot Privateer, which he fished for the next five years. With a focus on crabbing, Sadler routinely switched to gillnetting when markets opened up for flounder, trout and mullet.
His skill and tenacity paid off, and soon he purchased a 21-foot Carolina Skiff that he still fishes. While making a good living on the water, Sadler’s greatest concern these days is the increase of regulations that threaten the industry.
“We’ve had two really good years of crabbing,” says Sadler. “That’s a good thing, considering the cutbacks to the flounder and trout fisheries.”
“If I’m fortunate, I’ll fish the rest of my life,” says Sadler . “But I can’t say I see a future for the industry, not the way the regulations keep coming and the recreational organizations keep trying to put us out of business.”
Sadler and his wife, Courtney, have two children, Jackson, 8, and Scarlett, 4. While it would seem natural for Jackson to continue the Sadler family tradition of fishing for a living, he simply doesn’t see that for his son.
“I can’t see a future for Jackson as a fisherman,” says Sadler. “I’m sorry he won’t carry on the family tradition, but there’s no way I would encourage him given the restrictions and increasing opposition to our industry.
“I hate to say it, even think it, but I’m afraid our family’s fishing heritage will end with me.”