Retirement isn’t for everyone. A perfect example is 71-year-old Peter Darna who has fished his whole life, as did his father and grandfather before him. A Florida native, he grew up on a boat fishing for a living and follows in their footsteps to this day.

Darna’s only time away from fishing was as a Marine serving in Vietnam — then it was back on the water. Even the state’s controversial net ban didn’t stop him from doing what he knows and loves. The day the referendum banning nets was approved he packed up and headed to North Carolina where the coast is dotted with commercial fishing communities that celebrate the profession. That was 23 years ago and Darna hasn’t looked back.

Peter Darna with his grandson Riley.

“Before permanently moving to North Carolina, I fished here often and knew our profession was respected,” said Darna. “I hated leaving my home but the state put me out of business and disrespected my heritage all in the name of money. That was enough.”

Darna admits there were challenges.

“When you grow up fishing the same waters every day, it’s difficult to start over,” said Darna. “On the other hand, I’m a fisherman and not fishing just isn’t an option.”

He says one reason he’s adapted well is by being patient — learning the waters, tweaking his gear and getting used to different weather conditions.

For over two decades, Darna has gillnetted the inshore waters of central North Carolina for mullet in fall months, spots, croaker and flounder in spring and bait fish in the summer months.

“Winter is the toughest for me,” says Darna. “After all this time, it’s still hard to get used to the cold and not being on the water every day.”

“That said, I can’t imagine doing anything else, and that includes retiring.”

Maureen Donald is a freelance correspondent for National Fisherman.

Join the Conversation