By John Deming, Atlantic News Staff Writer
Atlantic News, Friday, June 24, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of Atlantic News.]
HAMPTON -- The devil himself, his dark red horns and pointy-tail a nefarious spectacle, once attempted to catch himself a haddock.
The astute fish, one legend has it, was able to slip from Satan's grasp -- but not before the sinner's thumb burned an imprint on the little sea-dweller.
Those who sail with Al Gauron's fleet usually have a bit more luck than Lucifer.
"Some days are better than others, but we always have plenty of catches," said Cory Gauron, 19-year-old captain of "The Starfish," one of Gauron's three large boats.
A family-owned business, Al Gauron's Deep Sea Fishing and Whale Watching offers a number of things to do at sea -- there are whole- and half-day fishing trips, whale-watching ventures with guaranteed sightings, even an Island Fireworks Cruise.
But out early on the "Starfish" last Tuesday morning, a cool morning following two days of heat, humidity and calm waters, it was pretty choppy —-and fishing was about the only thing on anyone's mind.
Cory Gauron, one of the youngest captains on the eastern seaboard, keeps charts and notes from past trips in order to keep track of the most fruitful spots, he said.
"I like being out here with the people," he said. "I just like being out here on the ocean."
Crew members on the Gauron voyages even fillet their guests' catches as the boat heads back to the harbor each day.
Haddock, cod and mackerel were the catches of the day, and are typically the catches of the summer. Gauron's is a local deep-sea fishing tradition that dates back to the late 1930s, when Al Gauron, hailing from a long line of lobstermen, started a small charter fishing business.
Other common catches include pollock, wolfish, cusk, hake, bluefish and sandsharks.
Haddock are distinguishable from cod because of a black smudge known as the "devil's thumbprint."
There are several versions of an ancient tale describing how the thumbprint came to be, one stating that St. Peter once went fishing with the devil. When the devil caught a haddock, St. Peter freed it. The devil, attempting to grab it, left only the black mark.
And as the sea is famous for its legends tall and small, all that several of Tuesday's fisherman could talk about was an event that happened only the day before.
One man was fighting a big one and came close to getting it up when the line went slack — followed by a huge heave downward by whatever he'd hooked, snapping the 50-pound test-line.
"Never seen anything like it," three or four of the sailors said.
Considerably more mackerel were caught last Tuesday than haddock and cod combined. They might as well have been jumping into the boat as fishermen hauled them in three and four at a time. Hundreds were caught in the four hours of fishing.
Al McGee of Worcester, fishing off the port side, was able to catch himself a codfish.
"I like the taste," he said when asked what he likes about deep-sea fishing. "I like to eat 'em."
At one point in the morning, showers set in. But with waves all around, water was all anyone could see anyway — so as sheets of rain bespeckled the ocean, most fishermen pulled on their rain gear and went right on casting their lines.
"I ain't afraid of a little rain," one shouted.
Al Gauron's gets a lot of regulars, Cory Gauron said — some who fish every day, rain or shine.
Don Robinson has worked on the boat for seven years now, he said. He used to fish recreationally, but now makes the daily drive all the way from Claremont.
"For me [the drive is worth it]," he said. "I just love being out here."
Josiah Beringer, a Winnacunnet student who frequents Gauron's, had little luck Tuesday — but he agreed with Robinson.
"I love to be out on the ocean," he said.
Though Al Gauron himself has passed away, his tradition is being carried on by his sons Rocky, Ronnie and Randy, who run the business now — and by grandsons like Cory, who ushered in yet another generation pitted in a love affair with the sea.
Turning Hampton Harbor's largest vessel back towards land, leaving the ocean and its legions of uncaught fish behind, Cory Gauron thanks his guests and the harbor comes slowly into view.
"This is just a great job," said crew member JD Karlson as he finished filleting the guests' fish, ready to head back inland — a mere reprieve from the next trip out to sea with a destination of limitless sea and sky.
The Gauron crew, located at 1 Ocean Boulevard, has been in the fishing industry for generations. Now operated by his three sons Rocky, Ronnie and Randy, the family business has grown considerably.
It has three large seafaring vessels; "The Whitestar," "The Starfish" and "The Northern Star." The boats take customers fishing and whale-watching, take them on fireworks cruises and sometimes go out on chartered group outings. For more information, call Al Gauron's at (603) 926-2469.