, Gloucester, MA

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December 27, 2008

Ebb & Flow: Empty nets every day means higher pay

The words of the late Gloucester fisherman, John Aiello — "Every dollar made offshore (from fishing) has a blood spot" — now need a revision to also include some of the dollars made inshore, especially from the late fall into the early spring when cod are targeted off Gloucester.

About a half dozen skippers and their crews of small, local gillnetters often fish extreme weather, including the gales out of every compass point.

Yes, most of them were out in last weekend's snow and wind. Three of the captains, Phil Powell of the fishing vessel Foxy Lady II, Mark Byard of the S.S. Melon III, and Jimmy Santapaola, Sr., of the Amanda & Andy II, and their respective crewmen Robert Dion and Craig Walker, Mike Flaherty and Gregg Perry tell how and why they do it.

These fishermen share a fundamental goal, "to get out every day (that they have nets set), get our 800 pounds of cod (daily quota) and get home. The main reason we go every day is to land fresh product," said Powell, 43.

"You don't want to kill fish for nothing," adds Byard, 47. "If you go every day, you don't get any scalers."

"Many of the netted cod are still alive when you haul every day. Those cod netted around the gills often come up dead," adds the 53-year-old Santapaola.

The men's day-old fish usually yields them top dollar. Cod scalers are lesser-grade fish that have gotten beat up in gillnets not hauled every day, and they are worth less money. Low port landings also usually mean higher ex-vessel prices for what fish is landed.

"You go on days like this (Saturday's snow and wind) to also get the price," said Dion. Boat prices for a money fish like cod, which usually are more than $2 per pound for larger-sized fish, have sometimes increased by a $1 per pound or more during days of low landings.

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