2016 Highliners

National Fisherman has honored Highliners for almost 40 years. This year, we add to the honor roll our latest award winners representing the East Coast and Southern states — Robert T. Brown Sr. of Avenue, Md.; Ben Hartig of Hobe Sound, Fla.; and Sonny McIntire of Ogunquit, Maine.

In keeping with the spirit of the awards, each of our winners is a fisherman and then some. Brown, Hartig and McIntire have all made personal sacrifices in their contributions to the industry.

Brown has led the Maryland Watermen’s Association since his dear friend, longtime colleague and now fellow NF Highliner, Larry Simns, crossed the bar in 2013. Simns left big shoes to fill, but Brown has held the group steady and moving forward with some significant strides of his own, providing strong leadership that would doubtless make the watermen’s founding president very proud.

Hartig’s leadership also has a local effect, but his many terms on the South Atlantic council have afforded him a widespread influence on the region’s fishery policies and standards for data.

Although Sonny McIntire hasn’t held an explicit role of leadership through an official organization or management group, his guidance of young fishermen removed barriers to entry for a whole generation around his home town of Ogunquit, Maine. His skill and natural aptitude for fishing may have qualified him as a leader and fleet highliner, but it is his willingness to take on the role of teacher and mentor for the many young fishermen who learned from him that makes him an NF Highliner.


Robert T. Brown Sr. 
Working for watermen

 By Larry Chowning

As president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association for 40 years, the late Larry Simns lobbied for and battled political odds in support of Maryland’s commercial watermen. 

With Simns’ passing in 2013, Robert T. Brown Sr., 66, of Avenue, Md., took over the helm of the association, and he is aggressively pursuing efforts to keep Maryland’s commercial fisheries alive and financially viable.

Brown grew up in St. Mary’s County, Md., just across St. Patrick Creek from where he lives and runs his seafood businesses, Shop Cove Seafood and Shop Cove Aquaculture. 

His father, Frank, and grandfather, Sam, were Maryland watermen, too. “You can keep on going back, too, and you will find that most of my ancestors worked the water,” says Brown.

In 1964, Brown started haul seining in the summer with his brother, Tucker, on the Potomac River. “People talk about all the rockfish we catch now. By God, we would catch more fish in one night then than I’m allowed to catch in one year now. And that was an average catch on that night,” says Brown. 

Brown started working on his own in 1966 when he bought a 16-foot Deagle V-bottom boat, powered by a 50-horsepower Mercury outboard engine that he used to oyster after...


Ben Hartig
Pioneer in politics

By Maureen Donald

BH

Ben Hartig has been a full-time commercial fisherman since the mid-1970s — a profession that seemed natural to a young man who grew up in and around Florida’s East Coast fishing villages. One of his favorite childhood haunts was the Juno Fishing Pier. When he was old enough, he started working there. He quickly graduated to serving as a mate on a headboat, followed by a variety of marine-related jobs: managing a tackle shop, captaining a snapper-grouper vessel, becoming a partner in wholesale/retail seafood market. A stint in the Army served him well, providing the funds to purchase his first boat — the die was cast. There was little doubt Hartig would spend a life on the water, but as it turned out, also in the conference room. 

It was Hartig’s career on the water that spawned his interest in fisheries management — a combination he is the first to admit is quite the balancing act.

“I decided early on that we [fishermen] need to take an active role in fisheries management in order to preserve our industry,” Hartig says. “We can never forget that we are as much a part of the process as the resource. We can’t and shouldn’t eliminate our impact on the industry.” As a result, Hartig has been in the federal fisheries... 


Sonny McIntire
Teaching with tunas

 By Jerry Fraser

SM

It was a bluebird summer day in the late 1960s.

Carl McIntire Sr. idled the Priscilla Cameron across the harbor at Ogunquit, Maine, toward the dock where his son’s boat, Susan Ann, was tied. “Tuna! Tuna! Tuna!” he hollered.

Aboard the Susan Ann were Carl Jr., known as Sonny to most anyone who has fished bluefin tuna off New England, his two oldest boys, Bobby and Billy, then around 7 and 9, and three teenaged “Perkins Cove rats” — Steve Weiner, Tim Tower and me.

“Where? Where? Where?” Sonny hollered.Nearly 50 years later, it escapes me what we were doing sitting at the dock. I asked Sonny about it the other day and he didn’t recall, either. It must have been close to midday if his father was in. “Awfully late,” he said. One thing there was no questioning: We’d be heading out.

Sonny is among the most talented fishermen I have known, and when it comes to harpooning bluefin tuna, he may be the best that’s ever been.

Halfway out we blew a freeze plug out of the diesel and overheated the engine. Sonny carved a plug from a wooden gaff handle, added seawater, and we were...

Read full article in our November issue page 22.


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