James Phillips Photography


The Seafood Solution (excerpt)

(2001 Florida Magazine Association Charlie Award Winner, Best Article In A Magazine Under 50,000 Circulation)

As the world’s fisheries become depleted, an ailing seafood industry struggles to stay afloat…

The little fish wasn’t going quietly, which was fine by me. I was in the deck chair, working the heavy boat rod. We were pretty evenly matched at first; I’d crank some line in, he’d strip it back off. But after a minute or two I began to get the upper hand. I still couldn’t see him, but I could sense he was almost done.

I was thirteen. We lived in the keys, where almost everybody fished almost every day. My father and I were out on a friend’s charter boat, and after an unusually unproductive morning I was about to land dinner. Suddenly there was a violent jolt; the rod bent double and nearly left my hands. Then the line went slack and I quickly reeled it in. On the end there was only a bloody fishhead, trailing a few shattered vertebrae. Even the fish looked kind of surprised.

Dad examined the carnage. “Pompano,” he said. “Too bad, they’re good eatin’.” We scanned the quiet water for a clue to what just happened. Then we saw the black triangular fin maybe fifty feet off the stern, cleaving the surface like the conning tower of a nazi sub. It was a big shark -big to us, at least- hovering in the pale green gulf and looking for another handout. Dad’s eyes were bright. “You want it, boy?” he asked. I didn’t, but nodded anyway -when you’re thirteen, some rites of passage just aren’t negotiable. They strapped me in and rigged up “John Henry” -the heaviest rod on the boat. Dad impaled an entire mullet on a massive treble hook and tossed it in the shark’s direction. In an instant the fight was on.

It took about twenty minutes to land the shark. We brought it back to the dock so everyone could admire it, and us. Then we threw it away.

Reprinted from Water’s Edge Magazine, November 2001