2013 Faces of Chatham: Like Father, Like Son

Fishermen often encourage their sons to follow in their footsteps. But with the problems the industry has been facing lately, some have not been so keen on their offspring making a career on the water. Here are the stories of some locals.

By Scott Lajoie | Photography by Jon Wall

2013-Faces_Jon Wall_0003Will and Will Martin

Will Martin, Sr. has been lobstering out of the fish pier since 1987. His son Will Jr. worked the traps with him throughout high school and college, and returned full-time to the Cape after he graduated. Now in his 12th season, Will Jr. will be the first to tell you that he learned a lot from his dad. It is interesting work, in that “every day, every trap is different.” They both run their own boats now and the senior Martin checks up daily on his son, who boasts that he often takes in the larger haul. Guess he was paying attention after all.

2013-Faces_Jon Wall_0001Jamie and Jeff Eldredge

Twenty-five-year fishing veteran Jamie Eldredge fishes almost exclusively for conch from April through December (except for some dogfishing in August when the conch fishery slows down). Even though it isn’t so popular here, conch has a healthy market overseas on Asian and Italian menus. (Eldredge says the Squire has tried conch on the menu, but it never took off.) Son Jeffery, 22, has been working with Jamie since he was 17. He hasn’t quite decided if fishing is to be his lifelong endeavor. “He sees what I go through, and I am sure he’ll make a decision that is best for him,” says the elder, who says they also collaborate on construction projects in the winter months when they aren’t on the water.

2013-Faces_Jon Wall_0002Ted and Willie Ligenza

Ted Ligenza, 60, got a job at the fish pier 38 years ago after he moved here from New Jersey. Times since have changed and Ligenza’s sons—Michael, 41, Willie (pictured), 31, and John, 26—are looking at much more challenging conditions in the fishing industry. “When I first started, the ocean bottom would be blanketed with fish in April,” says the father, who still catches cod, haddock, and dogfish as well as many shellfish. Ligenza blames the burgeoning seal population for the drastically depleted numbers, not overfishing: “They go from one end to the other, eating every scup, striped bass, and fluke.” He thinks his profession is dying here in the Northeast as a result. “Fishing has been a luxury men on Cape Cod have had for a long time, but not anymore,” he says.

2013-Faces_Jon Wall_0004Tim and Sam Linnell

Tim Linnell bought his boat Perry’s Pride in 2001. The forty-five-year-old has three sons, Sam, Caleb, and Jonas, and is thrilled to be in the fishing industry. “I have been able to watch them grow out there on the water,” he says. Sam (pictured), 18, has been making his living since high school fishing in the summers and spending his winters working in Winter Park, Colorado, where he skis during the day and works at night. Tim is not too worried about his sons’ futures. “The dogfishery is looking up and the skate market is strong internationally,” he says. “If they wanted to continue, I think they could. They know it’s a lot of hard work.” And Tim? “I’ll be doing it ‘til I die,” he says, laughing. “My dad’s 73 now and he still goes out every day.”

2013-Faces_Jon Wall_0000Leo and Hunter Maher

If fishing quotas continue to be reduced, both Leo Maher, 50, and his son Hunter, 17, have fall-backs. Leo does accounting and tax preparation in the off-season, and Hunter is off to college this fall to major in business or engineering (he hasn’t decided). Even though Leo’s wife was against Hunter’s pursuit of fishing, Leo bought a second boat for his son so that he could make money during the summer to help pay for college. Despite the damage to the industry, Leo has no plans to sell his boats. “Summertime fishing is something I hope to do for a long, long time,” he says.