The Doxsee Pound Trap
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Long Island N.Y. Trap Operator Predicts Excellent 1943 Season
The 1943 trap season of Long Island will get underway about April 25th this year, possibly a bit earlier, depending on weather conditions and greatly curtailed manpower. Like most of our other fisheries the trap operators suffer from inroads on their help but they plan to carry on, maintaining the same number of traps as last year, even though it may involve longer hours and harder work. The Long Island traps hope to open the season with a good run of shad. One of the leading trap operators on Long Island is Robert Doxsee of the Bright Eye Fish Co. located at Point Lookout, N.Y. “Bob” has been in the fish business all his life, as was his father before him and his grandfather even before that, although not always engaged in trap fishing. What Bob doesn’t know about fishing just isn’t worth knowing, and you can lay to that. Of the new season about to open, Bob is most optimistic. Last year, 1942, was one of the best years he had ever had, Bob states, and, if the fish arrive, this year should at least be as good. The life of a trap fisherman is not an easy one. It means getting under way each day not later than five or six AM. and, more often than not, working right through until six that night, often later if the run is big. The trap fisherman has a big investment staked out there in the ocean. Nets, ropes, floating equipment, and stakes run to a nice penny and a good heavy storm can sweep the whole thing out to sea in no time at all. It is all a big gamble when one considers the investment, the threat of heavy storms, the lack of fish, low markets and whatnot. It is only within the past year that the boys really got a fair break. Incidentally, Bob is not only a very practical business man but he also knows something about fish retailing. In conjunction with his plant at Point Lookout he also operates a very thriving retail sea food establishment. Bob operates four large ocean traps one to two miles offshore. He operates the trap boat Bright Eye Two, powered by a 90 horsepower Universal engine, 2:1 reduction gear; Hathaway hauling gear and Jensen hoist. This boat makes the daily trip to and from the traps to collect the fish. He also operates a dredge boat, the Bright Eye, which is powered with a 165 Lycoming engine, 3:1 reduction gear; uses a Mundy hoist and a Morris Machine Works centrifugal pump. It is 58 ft. x 20 ft. in size and of course, flat bottom. The traps themselves are particular interest. There are some sixth six stakes to a pound (trap), made of hickory and measuring from 55 to 85 feet in length. Each trap or pound operator has his own ideas on how to arrange his trap. Bob uses the square pocket, or pot, while on the east end of the island the operators there use the round type pot. It is all a matter of preference, Bob says, and doesn’t make any great material difference. The following description of a typical trap or pound net covers very closely the type of nets used by the Long Island Fishermen. Pound nets or traps---The investment in this form of gear is greater than for any other use in our fisheries. In its simplest form, the pound net consists of three parts—the leader extending from shallow water into deeper water, which deflects the fish into the trap enclosure; the heart, a heart shaped enclosure with its apex at the heart of the enclosure and its sides extending shoreward and outward from the end of the leader, its ends curved in toward the leader, as well as toward the apex. The heart serves to further deflect the fish toward the mouth of the trap. The third part of the trap is the pot or crib, usually rectangular in shape, in which the fish are captured. The leader is formed by poles driven into the bottom, connected with coarse meshed webbing, extending from the bottom to or slightly above the surface of the water at high tide. The leader may vary in length from about 150 feet to up to 1000 feet or more, the size of mesh varying from about 6 to 12 inches. In a typical trap, the leader is 400 ft. long; the wings 68 ft long, with two elbows nearly at right angles, and the pot 22 X 28 feet. The size of the openings between the wing ends is 16 feet and the depth of the net is 18 feet being set in water 20 feet deep. The leader is supported by 18 stakes and each wing by 14 stakes. The size of the mesh in the leader is 12 inches, in the wings3 inches and in the pot 2 and a half inches. The bottom of the pot is covered with netting which can be raised when the trap is fished. There are many variations to the type described. The wings of the heart may be curved or angular; they may project into the crib or pocket or the entrance into the pot may be by means of a funnel made by drawing the front wall of the pot inward, and the wings may or may not have a bottom. Instead of a single heart there may be several. Some pounds are provided with an additional pot, entirely closed for holding the fish for favorable market conditions or for some other purpose. In some traps, wire netting is substituted in all parts except the bottom of the pot which of necessity must be of flexible material. Traps of the type described are rarely set in water more than 100 feet deep. Bob is conservation minded and is constantly seeking ways and means of saving the small fish. To accomplish this he is a firm believer in the use of the sifter net, recommended by the Fish and Wildlife service as a result of a series of investigations under the direction of William C. Neville. The use of the sifter net is fully described in our issues of June and July, 1941, in the technical section. Briefly, the function of this net is to allow the small fish to escape through the larger meshes before they are taken into the boat. Bob has also arranged a series of ropes and pulleys that will permit the rising and lowering of the bottom. Of the net in a simple quick operation and which also keeps the net off the bottom. Nets must be taken up and thoroughly cleaned every five weeks. Nets become so fouled that they mat together and it takes a high pressure stream of water and beating (not unlike beating a carpet to clean it before the days of a vacuum cleaner.) Bob uses Plymouth, American, Wall and Columbian ropes. His nets are Linen Thread and Ederer. Paints are Baltimore, Smith and Olsen. Net preservatives (very important in this fishery) are Baltimore and Olsen. He has a Champion ice crusher in his shore plant, another important item, for the fish are iced down immediately upon being taken aboard the boat and for shipment to market.