When I pitched my first story to then-editor Jim Fullilove in late 1994, I had already been reading National Fisherman for several years. I had been attracted to the magazine because I loved boats and the ocean and all things maritime and especially admired the people of the commercial fishing industry. They reminded me, I guess, of folks in the rural farm community in the mountains of North Carolina that I grew up among in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the nearly 22 years since, none of that has really changed.
It wasn’t especially easy to gain the confidence of fishermen early on; a lot of them have been burned by the main-stream media over the years. But I soon realized that just saying I wrote for National Fisherman opened a lot of doors that would otherwise remain closed.
I began to see my own mission, not so much to be an unbiased journalist as to honestly and openly advocate for the welfare of fishermen and tell their side of the story. They try to feed us while being stewards of the environment and daily risking their lives in this most dangerous profession. There are plenty of other media outlets that tell all the other sides of the story.
The fact that I can still make cold calls to fishermen I have never spoken with and immediately note a positive change in tone when I invoke the name of NF tells me that we have been doing a pretty good job. Fishermen trust us, and I have tried to never betray that trust.
My long-time colleagues at National Fishermen – publisher Jerry Fraser, editor-in-chief Jessica Hathaway, North Pacific bureau chief Charlie Ess, boats and gear editor Michael Crowley (plus former senior editor Linc Bedrosian, who departed shortly ahead of me) – are a talented and dedicated bunch of people, and it has been my pleasure to work with them. For myself, there are some things I still want to do that don’t have anything to do with writing, and it is time to move on.
I have talked with a lot of fisherman from North Carolina down to Texas over the years and have come to enjoy first-name friendship with many of them. My admiration for them has only increased as the years have passed. Most fishermen I know take seriously their mission to meet a basic human need and preserve a historic and admirable way of life while trying to just make a decent living for their families. And they do it with great integrity and honesty.
Knowing you and working among you has given – and continues to give me – hope.
Godspeed, and thank you for the opportunities I have had to tell your stories.