Jim Hanson has been a commercial fisherman since before he needed a license.
He learned from his father, a very industrious guy who fished and farmed an orange grove in central Florida to pay his way through medical school, becoming a dermatologist.
But young James chose fin over skin for his livelihood, building a business first in Miami and then in the middle Florida Keys.
In Miami, he owned Captain Jim’s Seafood Market & Restaurant. He sold it some years ago, but it retains his name. And names are significant to Hanson, who’s 54.
Hanson’s current company is called God Bless You Fishing Co. “I’m a Christian,” he says simply.
Two of his five boats are named for his wife. His favorite, and the one he runs most often, is the 38-foot Monroe, Lady Ginger.
“I am so used to that boat, and I like the fact that it’s fast and can go in real shallow water,” Hanson says.
He fishes about five days a week. Depending on the season, he and his crew of 10 on five boats are out for lobster or stone crab, on the other trap boat, the 39-foot Key West No. 1 Hull named Ginger Babie.
Or they’re out for finfish — yellowtail snapper, kingfish, mahi, black grouper — on rod and reel from a 39-foot Key West No. 1 Hull or two 26-foot Goldlines.
A Christian might say that when one door shuts, God opens another. Such is the tale of GBU and Hurricane Irma, which slammed into Little Torch Key in September 2017 and played havoc with Hanson’s trap lot. Next door is his house, which was unscathed. But what Irma hath wrought, Hanson and insurance and hard labor rectified, turning the trap lot into a spiffed-up workplace with a rental property on site.
Irma also stole about half of Hanson’s 2,500 lobster traps. He has now replaced them, suffering through a shortage of trap wood and prices that climbed as high as $30 per trap (from $22 pre-storm).
But the expense was worth it. “I would say last year opening day (for lobster) I only brought in about 200 pounds. This year opening day I brought in 1,200 pounds,” Hanson says. “The state gave us five extra days of soak time, which helped us.”
“Some of the old-timers who’ve been here longer than me say the year after a hurricane, the fishing’s good,” he says.
Despite that kind of prediction, none of Hanson’s three sons plan to follow in his wake.
One son is a student at the University of Oxford in England and is set on being a college professor; another is at the University of Florida; another is “a finance guy, an entrepreneur type,” Hanson says. His daughter is 15, so maybe there’s a next generation yet