As we get this issue all set to go to press, we’re also readying for what I like to call show season. That’s the wintertime. When the nation’s fishermen are more likely to be tied up, we travel around the country to regional fishing trade shows for the opportunity to see our readers face to face.
One of the first I ever attended was the Maryland Watermen’s Show in Ocean City. It’s officially called the East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Exposition, but I’ve never heard it called anything but Maryland Watermen’s.
Larry Simns is one of the biggest reasons for that moniker. When you say “Maryland Watermen,” you inevitably think of Larry, a fourth-generation Chesapeake bayman and a natural negotiator who has served as the association’s president since its inception in 1970 (though the group officially incorporated in 1973).
Larry was in his 30s when he started leading the group, and in many ways he grew up with it. He’s a faithful and respected community leader, but it wasn’t always that way.
Larry and Robert Rich Jr. have been working on Larry’s memoir for years. Like the association itself, the story of Larry’s life has taken some time to gel. But the final product was well worth the wait. And with a forward by Jerry Fraser, publisher of WorkBoat and NF, and our former editor, the book is near and dear to us, as well as to the watermen Larry has worked so hard to represent for more than 40 years.
The excerpt from “The Best of Times on the Chesapeake Bay” that begins on page 20 is exemplary of Larry’s approach to fishing and fish politics: take life as it comes, until things go sideways and then act with clarity, precision and purpose, but not arrogance. He took lessons from the commercial fisherman’s life and applied them to his leadership at the association.
At any moment at sea, a fisherman may have to transition from an almost trance-like state of repetitive motion (“Dip. Dip. Dip,” as Larry says) to fighting for his life or helping to save a crew member. Fishermen live with one foot on deck and one foot on the stage of human survival against the most ravaging elements of Mother Nature. Take your opponent for granted — even if she was your kind companion moments ago — and you’re done for.
One of the perpetual elements of the fishing life is the rumble of the engine. What’s your horsepower, how fast can she go, what’s the price of fuel, what’s the gph when you’re steaming or when you’re on the fish? And how can you improve on all of these variables? That’s the big question we tackle annually in our Diesel Directory. This year, the story starts on page 24.
And the next time you see me, I just might be standing next to one of those shiny new engines.
— Jessica Hathaway