Driving through Ocean Bluff, Mass., made me think of home- a town along the rocky coast with what felt like waves crashing from all directions. I pulled into Taylor Marine, a yard scattered with shrink-wrapped boats and a wooden ramp leading down to the marina. A young man greeted me on top of the ramp with a polite handshake and smile, “Hi, I’m Cody!” He reminded me of my brother- you could tell they both weren’t like most kids; he was motivated, determined, and excited to show me what working on the water truly meant to him. I’d seen that same look in my brother’s eyes- walking down to the boat like they had done it for 50 years, prepared, strong-willed, and ready to steam the boat out to catch the daily dawn break.

Michael Pratt's boat, the F/V Perfect C's.

I walked down the wooden floats of the marina to see mostly empty slips, but at the end of the float, a fishing boat sat, rigged up with scallop gear and a shucking station with the name “Perfect C’s” on the side. It was his dad's boat, named after his children, Courtney, and Cody. He showed me the way onto the boat, and inside the wheelhouse was great uncle Chris, his dad Michael, and his mom Lisa. We made introductions and stayed inside on the brisk February afternoon for them to share Cody’s fishing journey.

Cody Pratt is a fourth-generation fisherman who grew up on the deck of fishing boats. Like many New England families, the Pratts' shared their story and nostalgia for fishing the waters off Mass. Cody’s great-grandfather sparked the family fishing bug and began recreationally fishing out of Boston in the 1960s, and his son, Ralph Pratt, followed closely in his footsteps. 

Before we embark on Cody’s fishing journey, we must acknowledge the pivotal role of Ralph (also known as Bampy) in shaping the family's fishing legacy. Ralph was not just a fisherman; he was a visionary who saw fishing as more than just a profession. He used it as a powerful tool to unite the family and to create a shared identity. I was reminded of this when I received an email from Chris, whose brother-in-law was Ralph. Chris shared how he had brought the family together through fishing, unknowingly making it their way of life for generations to come. His email ended with a note that resonated with me, “If Cody Pratt is the future of fishing, then that future is very bright.”

But First, Bampy

Michael, Ralph, Courtney, and Cody with a bluefin tuna

Ralph commercially fished for Atlantic cod and bluefin tuna, and to spend even more time engulfed in the industry, he was also a spotter plane pilot for bluefin tuna. Watching from the beaches in Marshfield, Mass., Cody and his sister Courtney would look up to see a plane heading in or heading out to the fishing grounds in search of the migrating bluefin tuna further offshore. They would draw in the sand, leaving him notes as he swiftly turned the plane from right to left to wiggle his wings at the kids. Ralph was also the president of the American Bluefin Tuna Association (ABTA) and worked to influence the National Marine Fisheries Service on behalf of tuna fishermen.

Courtney and Cody waved to Bampy from the beach as he flew above in the spotter plan, wiggling his wings at them. Photos by the Pratt family

He would lend a hand to anyone in need and patiently taught the family the fishing trade. He understood the significance of sustainability in fisheries, knowing that this would be the only way to pass this heritage to future generations. Ralph passed away in November 2023, leaving a great wake behind him to all he touched, with fishermen from local communities expressing how much they saw his love for his family. Fishermen shared that Ralph would always graciously teach anyone who wanted to learn the ropes of tuna fishing. Ralph left a legacy that was carried through Michael, he has excelled in tuna, cod, mackerel, lobster, scallops, and many other fisheries.

“The connection between me, my father, and fishing started my eighth-grade summer. And since then, it's been nothing but fishing. He taught me from such an early age, and as time passed, Cody got to see me run my old boat, Lisa Marie, named after Lisa, while Bampy was out flying the spotter plane,” shared Michael. “I think that was part of the allure for Cody- ‘I want to work with my dad. I want to do this, too. I want to be part of this crew.’”

The Fishing Bug

As we got more comfortable aboard Perfect C’s, I spoke with Michael, Chris, and Cody about what it meant to grow up engulfed by fishing and the sea. Similarly to my brother, Cody believes the fishing bug was instilled in him, half thanks to Bampy and half thanks to his dad.

“Bampy always had something he needed to do on the boat. And even if he didn’t, I think he pretended he did. He would always set me up to fish in his boat slip, and I never ever caught anything until this one time we were down there. I think it surprised us both,” Cody shared.

Bampy accustomed Cody and Courtney to the boat and eventually started taking them on trips, including some overnights out of Provincetown. As Cody got older, he started going out fishing with his dad as well.

Young Cody Pratt getting comfortable in the captains chair. Photo by the Pratt family

“Those are some of my favorite memories, and I really think all the stuff my grandfather passed to my dad, he passed on to me. Fishing became something I enjoyed more than hockey, which I loved. But with fishing, I realized it wasn’t just a job. I enjoyed every part of it. I could see and learn so much more from being out on the water.”

When Cody was at a public school in Canton, MA, he approached his parents about wanting to attend Xaverian Brothers High School, a private Catholic school with excellent academics in Westwood, MA. At a young age, Cody knew he wanted more of a challenge and academic push, as well as the structure and support of a school like Xaverian, in order to align with the direction he wanted to go.

Lisa and Michael explained to him that there was a very tough entry exam and that he would have to meet the qualifications to enroll in the school. That didn’t slow Cody down, and much like his drive to be on the water, he studied and worked to get into the school.

“School has always been first for me and then fishing second. It’s another way to push myself and show my work ethic,” he shared.

Cody got all A’s and B’s for the beginning of this year and finished this past quarter with all A’s. He also won the Kindness Award at his school two years in a row. “That’s just who he is. He learned kindness from his mother and his grandfather. He learned the joking around from me.” Michael shared.

‘At first, you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die’ -Mark Twain

On a scallop trip, probably when he was around 11, something in Cody didn’t feel quite right. “I couldn’t stop shaking, and I swore I was going to die. I was traumatized even to step foot on the boat to scalloping ever again.” He wouldn’t be able to sleep at night before heading out for years and would even be dry-heaving. 

Michael and Cody stand on the deck of the Perfect C's during a scallop trip. Photo by the Pratt family

Cody would still go out scallop fishing but dreaded every minute. He was constantly getting sick and was anxious the entire time. “It was a huge hurdle for him. It was a lot of built-up anxiety from one bad trip, and the mind games that came along with it really were winning for quite some time,” Lisa shared. Every fisherman knows there are rough days, but for some, it’s hard to convince your mind that a fair number of good days can also be mixed in. As a young kid, Cody had always shown that he was wise beyond his years, and he knew he could conquer his fears, so he kept going. 

“Going into COVID, I proved to myself the first few trips that year that I was fine; it was just in my head, and then after that, I was like, oh, I can do this anytime I want. It doesn't have to be perfect weather or anything. I know I can do it,” he shared. “I don’t want to miss a day of fishing now. If I’m not in school, I want to be on the boat.”

Michael and Cody with a bluefin tuna. Photo by the Pratt family

“He’s heard his whole life that you must go when the fishing is there because you might have a week of bad weather. Nowadays, after fishing all day with his dad, he’ll come back in and go right back out on his own boat,” Lisa said.

Easy Tiger

Cody has his student commercial licenses for lobstering and striped bass and will continue to fish on the boat he purchased two years ago. He and his father fixed it up, making it more seaworthy for his late solo afternoon trips after fishing the mornings with Michael. School has always been Cody's priority, but any days off he has during the year are solely dedicated to being on the water.

Cody is on board his boat F/V Easy Tiger, which is named after memories of his Bampy. Photo by the Pratt family

He named the boat “Easy Tiger” after a childhood memory of Bampy: “He would never yell at us. He would look at me when I was all riled up and say, ‘Easy tiger’ in the most calm, collected way.” Cody got the boat the year before Bampy passed, and he knew it was meant to be named after the man who was responsible for passing on the fishing bug.

“He named his last boat Bampy because that was what Courtney and I always called him. I named mine after him because it was a way of always connecting me to him. He is now always by my side,” Cody noted. He was able to share the name with Bampy before he passed, and though he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, it brought tears to his eyes.

Ralph Pratt's boat F/V Bampy, named after what Courtney and Cody grew up calling him. Photo by the Pratt family

“Every boat I have or build will be called Easy Tiger. There’s always going to be meaning behind it,” shared Cody. Michael and Cody have mixed some of Bampy’s ashes into their hull paint since he passed about six months ago. “He didn’t just teach me everything he knew about fishing; he taught me about being a good person. Even though he’s not here, he’s still my best friend.” Ralph and Michael paved the way for the next generations, and Cody plans on doing the same.

The Future of the Fleet

Cody wants to keep his options open but is determined to be a full-time commercial fisherman when he graduates high school. “I know my drive is shown through more than just fishing for me. It’s my schoolwork and all I do. Everyone has always taught me to keep trying. The support system around me has really cemented that,” Cody shared.

“My grandfather, dad, and mom have all taught me that you must keep adjusting to what’s happening, or you won’t be successful,” he said. “If you haven't done it (fished), you don't really understand how hard it can be to make a living because it's unpredictable.”

Bampy, Courtney, and Cody on the F/V Bampy. Photo by the Pratt family

Michael has instilled in Cody the importance of diversifying fishing operations. Sometimes, these were options, and other times, new regulations made relying on just one fishery impossible. This applies to Pratt’s fishing areas and the entire industry. 

“I started lobstering and tuna fishing, and then we’d groundfish and longline all winter long, and then it turned into scalloping in the winters when groundfish slowed down for the smaller boats, and now it’s turned into mackerel fishing for us. Cody has truly been involved in so many different fisheries, and I’ve had to learn right beside him; we’ve adapted to this together,” Michael shared.

“It’s always amazed me seeing what Cody has learned from his dad and his grandfather and how much he has taught his dad. This community is just unique like that. You learn from those around you,” Lisa explained. Passing on the knowledge and passion for fishing can be challenging, but it was a task that has come naturally to the Pratts.

Watching fishing heritage carried along the coasts really emphasizes the importance of keeping this industry alive. Learning about Cody’s journey thus far has shown shared experiences and memories within a fishing family that is just one that defines this tight-knit community.

“The fishing industry is like one big family. There are a lot of older fishermen, and they watch Cody work in awe; I think they can trust that this community will be left in good hands when they retire seeing someone like him living this way of life,” shared Lisa.

This article wouldn’t have come together without Cody’s great-uncle, Chris, who took the time to write to the National Fisherman Crew to get one of us down to Massachusetts to meet Cody in his happy place—on the boat. Thank you, Chris and the Pratt family, for sharing your fishing story.

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Carli is a Content Specialist for National Fisherman. She comes from a fourth-generation fishing family off the coast of Maine. Her background consists of growing her own business within the marine community. She resides on one of the islands off the coast of Maine while also supporting the lobster community she grew up in.

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