Coastal Angler Magazine
Articles by Lee Yeomans
|28 Jan 2013
September – Coastal Angler
“Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods.” (Jaws 1975)
As you remember the above quote, think about the movie and what feelings of absolute terror that whole story instilled in you. Whether you saw the original flick back in 1975 or viewed one of the many
yearly re-runs, you never forget the shark and its capabilities – and you never forget the men who were
at a loss about what to do with such a powerful eating machine.
Part of our Coastal Discoveries program is teaching kids about our aquatic food chain. Using a plankton net we are able to gather phytoplankton (plant life) and zooplankton (animal life) that is so tiny that we have to pull out the microscope to get a proper view. Kids are amazed with what they see under the scope – and a bit surprised to find that they have been swimming with these tiniest of creatures all their young lives, and probably have gulped a few mouthfuls along the way. During our week with each group aboard the Erica Lee II, the kids are introduced to new sea creatures every day. As we leave the dock and pass the clam flats, we head out to pull our lobster traps which usually contain a variety of crabs along with those delicious lobsters. Then it’s off to do some striper and bluefishing in the mouth of the Merrimack River. We are moving up a virtual food chain as we head further from the dock. We try to head offshore midweek and always try to pick a calm-weather day. Jefferies Ledge is our destination for catching cod and haddock and viewing whales, dolphins and seals.
Now remember, this is a camp for kids and they are doing all the catching while our crew is doing all the teaching. We believe in hands-on activities and want the kids to learn how to handle every type of fishing in our area – and to handle it with confidence while respecting the crew, other kids onboard and the watery environment that we are visiting.
Now, back to that quote about sharks. There have been many stories in the news lately about great white sharks off of the Cape Cod area. While we don’t often see Great White’s in our waters, we do have a fair amount of blue sharks and porbeagle sharks. While out deep-sea fishing with our camp kids in mid-August, the crew put one stand-up rod over the side with some cod guts on it for bait. The kids were busy trying to catch dinner for their families when the stand-up rod started humming – something had taken the bait – and that something was pretty big. The crew had to make a quick choice of who was going to crank that fish in. Within minutes, Ethan Lynch was strapped into a harness, handed the rod and………………….Ethan can really tell this part of the story better than I can. Here’s his version:
|6 Feb 2012
Sit back and enjoy..
February Coastal Angler
This is the time of year to sit back, put your feet up, grab a cup of something warm and soothing – and reminisque about people and events from summers past.
This month, travel with me to an island in the Isle of Shoals that has two names. Lunging island, sometimes called Londoners Island is situated on the New Hampshire side of the Shoals. While enjoying a warm summer’s kayak excursion around Gosport Harbor with a friend, we paddled over to Lunging Island and met Prudence Crandall Randall – the island’s owner and caretaker who had spent summers on the island since childhood. We got to chatting with the fascinating Ms. Randall and when I told her about our Coastal Discoveries program and how we had spent a couple of overnights on Smuttynose Island, she volunteered the use of her island. A date was chosen and plans for a tenting expedition were set in gear.
We had done many overnight trips with our teens and had weathered most anything that could come our way – from ghostly happenings to swarming rats (another whole story). We were prepared and our crew was excited. The teens arrived in the morning and before you could say welcome aboard, make yourself at home, the dashboard on the Erica Lee was lined with Teddy Bears! The cabin below was stuffed with rolled-up sleeping bags and everyone’s favorite pillow. The galley was overflowing with food – after all we had to feed 24 teens two day’s worth of meals and snacks. Lots of moms baked for the occasion so we had enough sugar on hand to put most of them in a state of sugar shock. And……….we had lots of tents and all the paraphernalia that comes with tenting.
We eventually found room for everything including the Teddy Bears and even fit the teens and crew on board. I don’t recall what we did for most of the day – it might have been fishing or whale watching, but we arrived at Lunging Island late in the afternoon ready to set up camp. We rounded the island, found just the right spot to set anchor and as we surveyed the scene, we were enveloped in darkness as thick, black thunderheads approached. The sleeping arrangements had been prearranged. The Captain always sleeps on the boat and the teen girls decided they wanted to stay onboard as well. The boys were thrilled to be setting tents up all over the island with the help of our crew.
And then the storm came. I can’t describe the intensity of this storm or the pure fear that came over me as I looked around and helplessly watched all the tents blow away! Prudence Crandall Randall came to her door and saw me with a handful of boys trying to rescue some of our gear. She immediately invited all of us to stay in her home. After rounding up all 15 boys we entered her humble cottage on the rock we had hoped to call home for the night. Here’s what we found out right away – there was no electricity and the toilet could only be flushed once a day! The boys began laughing uncontrollably between streaks of lightning and claps of thunder and the relentless howling of wind. I gathered them up in one room and told them that although the situation seemed quite funny, we were guests in this wonderful woman’s home and we had to be as quiet and polite as possible.
The storm seemed to be circling the island for hours. The kids were getting restless and Prudence Crandall Randall decided to come to their rescue and read to them. At age 76, she was writing a book about her life on the island. So………..we ALL snuggled into her living room, the gas lights flickered, the storm howled outside and she started to read. As she read, she became quite animated with arms flailing and hair flying about. The boys started to snicker – and not because the story was funny but because her antics were so comical. I was horrified and did my best to calm them down. As I glanced around the room, I saw some of them had buried their heads in their pillows to stifle their noise – others were about ready to burst from holding back.
I glanced at my watch – one hour had passed and Ms. Randall was still only up to age 6 in her life story! I was moved by her wanting to do all of this for us, but felt the need to rescue her from this potential situation that was brewing. She stopped to take a breath and I jumped in with a huge “thank you for taking the time to read to us, but I don’t feel right about having you stay up late into the night on our behalf”. She seemed a bit relieved to be able to retire – after making sure all the boys were tucked in I spoke quite firmly about the need for silence in this refuge from the storm.
With flashlight and manuscript in hand, I headed to my corner and snuggled in for a piece of quiet. After about 10 minutes, I heard giggling coming from the room next to mine. Giggling that soon turned into louder guffaws that caught on like flames into the room where I was camped out. Leaping off my couch, I very quietly but very firmly said that if they could not quiet down, they were going to be turned out into the storm to find their tents. That worked for about 2 minutes and then they started up again. I had to ask what was going on. Their answer, “we can’t help it – all of this is just too funny – the bathroom, the storm, the old lady frantically telling her story – we just can’t stop laughing”. I pleaded with them rather than threatening them again (because I’m sure I was the source of some of their laughter). And, it worked. Peace at last. Only I didn’t sleep a wink, I had to finish the book! It was mesmerizing to be lying in that lonely cottage during the storm surrounded by 15 now sleeping boys and learning about a life lived long ago on an island that I had come to love. Morning came, the sun was out and I left my sleeping charges to step outside. The Erica Lee was swaying gently in the breeze, my husband, Capt. Bob was on deck. He waved. I waved back and wondered if he had a story as wonderful as mine to share.
|4 Jan 2012
What's in a Name
Coastal Angler – Jan. 2012
Lee Yeomans, Director
During our first year (24 years ago) of operating our Coastal Discoveries program, one of our goals was to incorporate a bit of history, marine biology and environmental education right along with fishing, hauling lobster traps, whale watching and visiting various islands. After all, we had a lot of information to share with our captive audience of 9-15 year-old children. What we didn’t count on was that they had somehow learned just enough in their day to day activities – like school, other kids and yes, even their parents.
Our day always started out with an on-board discussion of the activities that lay ahead. On one particular day we were heading out to Smuttynose Island, an island steeped in history located just 8 miles away – one of 9 islands that make up the Isle of Shoals. We were discussing some of the early inhabitants of the shoals – approximately 1000 in number – made up of fishermen and their wives and children. As year-round residents, these families were faced with some very tough living conditions, but they persevered and worked together using many of their learned skills to make living conditions easier for all. I was explaining to the kids how a person’s last name was very often linked to his/her special skills or occupation – such as Miller, Fisher, Farmer, Smith and Cook. A young lady looked up at me and with wide eyes blinking asked in quite a loud voice, “then how did John Hancock get his name”. The captive audience looked on, Elizabeth stared intently waiting for my answer. My thoughts wavered from jumping overboard to coming up with a quick, reputable answer. I suddenly heard myself say, “I really don’t know the answer to that one Elizabeth, maybe we can look that up later on.” Elizabeth seemed satisfied, the other kids were onto the next adventure and I was relieved to have handled the situation the best way I could.
During one of our later excursions we were fishing for flounder and catching skates. As the skates were being brought aboard, our crew would hold them up one at a time to show their size, their funny, almost human mouth and explain how to tell the males from the females. This involved a discussion about claspers – which the males have, but the females do not.
I had already researched claspers and here is what I found at www.seaworld.org “male sharks and some rays and skates have claspers – long appendage-like sex organs found along the pelvic fins of these ocean creatures. The males use the claspers to first hold the female down while he sinks his teeth into her back and then uses the claspers to pass his sperm into the female sex organ.” I decided that description was just a bit beyond what we had to pass on so I made the decision to discuss this on a “need to know basis”. When asked what the claspers were used for, I simply said to “hug the female skate while her eggs were being fertilized”. So far, so good
Lobsters have a story of their own that made me blush! I found this information online at www.bigsiteofamazingfacts.com. “Before molting, the female approaches a male’s den and stands outside, releasing her scent in a stream of urine. When he emerges from his den, the two spar briefly, then the female places her claws on his head to let him know she is ready to molt and mate. They enter his bachelor pad, and she languidly strips off her shell. He tenderly turns her limp, yielding body over onto her back with his legs and his mouth.
The male, still hard-shelled and passionate, passes his sperm into her body with a pair of rigid and grooved swimmerets, small appendages normally used for swimming.
Afterward, she sinks into the soft warmth of the ocean bed and stays in the safety of his den for about a week. When her new shell is hard again, she calls a cab and goes home.
The sperm she received from the male goes into a special repository, where it stays viable for two years. When she decides that conditions are right to settle down and have a family, she fertilizes her eggs, numbering from 3,000 to 100,000. She carries them first in her body, then for another nine to twelve months under the swimmerets attached to her tail until they hatch. Her larvae float for a month after hatching, then settle to the bottom of the ocean to turn into lobsters proper. Still, their odds are not good, for every 100,000 eggs hatched, 4 to 6 typically survive long enough to get up to a one-pound weight.”
Our crew decided to briefly explain how to tell the difference between a male and female lobster. It’s important to check the females for any eggs, and if any are found, she must be gently placed back into the water. Here’s the difference in a nutshell: When you turn the lobster over, there are swimmerets which aid the lobster in swimming. Moving towards the middle of the lobster there are a pair of swimmerets that are not the same as all the rest of them. Females have a pair of soft, fine swimmerets and males have a pair of hard, rigid swimmerets. This explanation has worked for many years even though we do hear a few guffaws from some of the older kids.
As you can see, a lot of thought has to go into what we are teaching the kids – we want to be factual, yet sensitive to all the different ages involved. It gives us a much greater appreciation for teachers in our public and private schools who walk this balance beam every day. Our hats are off to them!
|1 Aug 2011
Teens on a boat.
To: Coastal Angler Magazine
From: Lee Yeomans
August 2011 Edition
“Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day – teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime” – author unknown
It’s mid-summerin Newburyport and Coastal Discoveries, our marine-environmental education program is in full swing. Every weekday the Erica Lee II serves as a floating classroom for children ages 9 and up.
As I write this, we are just completing a full week of teens only. Yes – teens on a boat – for 8 hours – 5 days a week. We get mixed reactions from friends, business acquaintances and even the parents of these teens. Some think we are a bit crazy; others can’t thank us enough for continuing to do what we love to do.
So, I sat down this morning with our group of 25 teenagers and conducted an impromptu interview.
I told them no holding back. I wanted both the good and the bad. Remember, this is 8:15 in the morning and these are teens talking. They weren’t connected to any devices – they were voluntarily, enthusiastically communicating with each other and with me. Surprisingly they had a lot to say.
I’ll summarize the good first:
I heard comments such as, “Coastal Discoveries is the best thing ever”, “I love to fish”, “No, we all love to fish”, “I learned how to tie knots – lots of different knots”, “I love being on the ocean, being on the beach” “kayaking with seals was the best”, “learning about horseshoe crabs and their medical importance was cool”, “Coastal Discoveries is awesome – like sharing an adventure at sea with your friends – like a vacation – like getting away from it all”. “We really love the crew – they teach us something new every day”, “they inspire and motivate us”. “And Captain Bob – he’s the man – a good guy all around”. And one young lady, “I learned the importance of taking care of the marine environment”.
All of that was music to my ears, but I needed to know what could we be doing differently, better or maybe leave out of the program? I was both surprised and delighted to hear a resounding, “Don’t change anything”. “You’ve got it right”
Most of these teens were repeat offenders. One was on his 8thyear with us, most had been coming between 3 & 5 years and 3 out of the 25 were enjoying their first year with us. One part of our program involves kids 12 and older participating in a Safe Boating Education Program through the Mass. Environmental Police. The course is taught aboard the Erica Lee II, followed by a written exam at the end of the week. Those that pass earn a safe boating certificate which allows kids ages 12-15 to operate a motorboat of any horsepower without an adult on board. I was curious to see if any of our teens had really used their certificate, so I asked. Many hands went up and I was glad to hear that besides boating, many have been able to use fishing skills learned during their time with us.
I asked the kids if any of them could see a future for themselves in maritime studies. A few hands went up, but all agreed that they had learned so much during their time with us that they could confidently go forth and use these skills in many aspects of their lives.
Do we think it is better to teach a kid to fish than to hand him a fish? Yes we do! And, apparently this wonderful group of teens agrees with us.
|5 Jul 2011
We "cast" our spell...
July – Coastal Angler Magazine
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” - Jacques Cousteau
The above quotation by Jacques Cousteau is really what our mission for Coastal Discoveries is all about. Our goal from the beginning was to not only introduce children to our marine environment and the life it holds, but to care enough about that environment to want to preserve it.
Remember, this was back in 1988 – we were slightly ahead of the curve in environmental education, but we had a captivated audience. It was going to be a cinch to teach them to care about the little things in our vast ocean. Or was it? Remember, these kids are only 9-15 years old and I’m sure their parents had tried very hard to get them to just pick up their stuff at home and maybe keep the bedroom floor clear. Suddenly it seemed like a daunting task to get them to care about things in the ocean from microscopic organisms to giant whales. It was decided to take things one step at a time.
A hopeful quotation from TIME MAGAZINE 3-26-90 – “With the Berlin Wall down, the cold war over, the drug battle stuck in stalemate, almost everybody in the political world is waking up to the fact that the preservation and care of the land, air and water may rise and dominate all other issues. The environmental political flood is about to break over us all.”
Coastal Discoveries was ready to help. We jumped into the ocean of debris with both feet and decided to introduce the kids in our program to all things wild and wonderful in our watery environment, to teach them the thrill of catching many edible creatures and also to experience the magnificence of just being able to see some larger creatures – seals, whales, dolphins and even sharks – up close and personal. Out came the plankton net and the microscopes. Down went our scuba divers with catch bags. Suddenly the deck of the Erica Lee was turned into a floating classroom. Stations were set up to view our instant touch tank. Children were taught how to handle these critters that were plucked from their environment to be studied, passed around and then returned to the sea. Our crew swung into full gear, identifying zooplankton and phytoplankton – talking about the food chain and the importance of these tiniest of living things that keep the largest of living things – including humans – well fed.
The real clincher in getting the kids really excited about caring for our watery surroundings was seeing whales and dolphins up close – to actually make eye contact with a creature almost the size of our boat while being awestruck by the facts and figures we tossed at them over and over. It certainly helped when a mother whale gently guided her calf over to the boat. Were they people watching? Was the calf safe? How much food do they need to survive? Will there always be enough?
It was time to introduce the kids to some man-made materials that would float by our boat, wrap itself in our props, entangle marine life and pose as food for some unsuspecting marine life and birds.
Monofilament fishing line and plastic debris have made fishing a dangerous sport for many creatures in the environment – and not just the ones we eat. Fishing line that’s lost or thrown overboard is lethal for sea turtles and birds. Plastic trash, particularly six-pack rings, bags and nets can trap fish and birds and strangle them as they try to break free. Or these creatures mistake the debris for food and die from internal injuries, intestinal blockage or starvation. Some birds unknowingly feed plastic debris to their young. Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags and sheeting for jellyfish. Even the great whales are victims – many have been found dead with plastic bags and sheeting in their stomachs.
I think we had their attention now. They were both scared for the marine life and concerned about what could be done to stop the landslide of debris drifting by. We suggested keeping a logbook of debris sightings – maybe write down what they observed floating by or sitting on the shoreline waiting to be launched at the next change of tide.
Kids take things quite literally – I glanced in the logbook one day and found one group of kids had listed everything they saw – a Styrofoam cup here, plastic bag there, another cup, another bag, another, another and another. Instead of doing a summary of types of debris, they had listed them item by item.
They cared – they really cared. Now we were getting there. Not only had these kids had a lot of fun on the boat, caught all kinds of fish, hauled lobster traps and had a cookout on Wingaersheek Beach to wrap up the week, they unknowingly learned some important information along the way. They learned how to care about the ocean. We had cast the net of knowledge over them and I’m sure what they learned while participating in our Coastal Discoveries program will remain with them forever. We had succeeded in helping Jacques Cousteau’s famous quotation come to life in the minds of many who would continue with that legacy.
|1 Jun 2011
Here's What we Do!
To: Coastal Angler Magazine
June issue – Coastal Discoveries
As part of our Coastal Discoveries program, we teach kids how to fish. Our onboard lessons are not just about the thrill of the catch, but lots of background information about the species we are attempting to catch. Where does it live? What does it eat? What eats it? Are they endangered, protected, edible or even dangerous to handle? Understanding the lifecycle of a certain species is just as important as knowing what to put on that hook.
We have learned that kids minds are like sponges and they readily absorb an astonishing amount of facts and figures that we toss at them. Every onboard activity presents an opportunity to teach. Spot quizzes are given frequently onboard and all hands are raised in eagerness to spit out that answer that sits on the tip of their tongues. Do fish breathe underwater? How? Why are jellyfish and starfish now being called sea jellies and sea stars? Are fish slimy? Why? …….and on and on!
And then there are the questions from the kids: Why can’t we keep the small striped bass? Why can’t we keep more stripers? Will that fish bite me? Why are we fishing here? Why does it matter what the tide is doing? Why can’t we fish right now? Why did she catch a fish and I didn’t??
And now back to that hook! Our goal is to have the kids safely learn how to handle all types of hooks and bait and how to get the rig overboard without hooking onto another kid or themselves. We’ve found that the worst offenders (hook wise) are those flounder hooks and the worst offenders (kid wise) are the ones that show up at the dock with backpack and lunch and before you can say “good morning” he or she is saying “when are we gonna fish?” We love to see such enthusiasm, but have learned to regard the source quite closely. We have gone from the double-hook flounder dropline to a single hook on a light rod. This after so many kids would take the line at our command to drop them overboard and propel it into the water so you could visibly see two hooks and one weight spinning to the east and two worms heading west. And…..in our 23 years we’ve had 2 kids who took us quite literally and tossed the whole rig into the water when the crew said “OK to drop ‘em”.
Our “Flounder Derby” is held once a week – usually early on to introduce the kids slowly to the art of fishing, the necessity of patience and, yes, the thrill of the catch. And, can I tell you how excited the kids are departing the Erica Lee II with filleted catch in bags heading towards awaiting parents eager to hear the stories of another adventure at sea while nibbling on fresh flounder.