Henry Gore, 56, is an independent sort of guy — that’s how he got swept up in the shrimping life.

That was right after high school and just two days at the local community college in Fort Myers, Fla. “A buddy of mine was going shrimping, and he was always making money. He asked me if I wanted to go, and I said sure.”

It wasn’t so much a romantic lure of the sea or anything, he says. He was drawn to the independence — and decent money. “You’re your own boss, go where you want to go, leave when you want to leave,” he said. “You’ve gotta work, but you don’t have to punch a clock… I did a few other things, welded for a while, drove a truck,” but it was the on- and offshore job of shrimping that stuck.

Today, he’s one of a handful of independent shrimpers operating out of Fort Myers Beach on Florida’s Gulf Coast. Independent, but not exactly solo. He owns his own boat — the 75-foot Desco trawler Lexi Joe, named for his daughter and son — but readily admits, “It’s good to have friends.” No matter who has owned the boats over the years, he’s always known many of the captains.

That was a blessing in early January, when he took out a borrowed boat — the Lexi Joe was docked for an engine block and crankshaft rebuild — and it broke down. “For two days. No engine, no generator, no AC, no lights, nothing,” he said by satellite phone a few days later. “And it was rough.” But friends towed him and his two crewmen to Key West, and soon they were back on the water mining the gulf for mostly “pink gold,” the prized nocturnal pink shrimp found off the Florida Coast.

It’s not the life his dad, a local doctor, had in mind for him. “But after I started making some money and doing well on my own, he was onboard with it,” Gore said.

So, eventually, was Tracey, who grew up on Fort Myers Beach and now is his wife and a member of the town council. And for quite a few years, she has headed up the annual contest that names the queen of the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival.


National Fisherman's "Who we are" briefly profiles fishermen from fisheries around the United States.

Dayna Harpster is a Florida-based freelance writer.

Join the Conversation