Jul. 22—Editor's note: Today we profile the captains of Stonington's fishing fleet, whose occupation, arguably one of the most dangerous, is steeped in tradition. Some of their families have been fishing for generations, and some of their ancestors' names are listed on the Town Dock memorial of those lost at sea. Some augment their income with other jobs. All of them have a calling, and a love for the open water.
Stonington — After a recent day of fishing that began at 3:30 a.m., Dan Malone faced a tedious chore.
The openings in his net had become entangled with seaweed. So instead of heading home, he spent the next two hours picking seaweed out of the net so it would be ready to go the next morning. He figured he wouldn't get home to his family until 6 p.m.
As he worked, the 45-year-old Hopkinton, R.I., resident talked about why he fishes.
Click here for more stories in our series about the southeastern Connecticut fishing fleet.
"The freedom. But it's not as fun and free as it used to be," he said. "You just don't know what's coming next. We're at the mercy of everybody."
Malone grew up in Lyme and worked in his family's Hamburg Cove boatyard. He began fishing with a friend's father when he got out of high school, then bought a boat and started a charter fishing business. In 1999, when he saw a commercial fishing license for sale, he bought it. He's now had three boats, one of which he built himself. His current boat, a dragger, is named the Susan C. after his late mother. He's fished out of New London and has been at the Town Dock for the past eight years.
While many Town Dock fishermen have followed family members into the business, Malone is the first generation of his family to fish.
"I went out there, and with trial and error, I figured it out," said Malone, who also owns a boat building business. "If you own a boat, you have to be a lawyer, a mechanic and a welder."
Malone has configured the boat so he can fish by himself on day trips into Block Island Sound, where he mostly lands fluke, squid and skate that he sells to lobstermen.
"The money is good for an owner-operator like me. I'd be hard-pressed to find a job that would pay me nearly the money I make doing this," he said.
Married with two young children, Malone said he likes that he's home every night instead of being out on multiday trips. But he said the long hours means he misses things with his family.
With all the uncertainty in the industry, including the potential impact of offshore wind farms, Malone said he does not have any aspirations at this point to move up to a larger boat.
"I try to be optimistic, but I just don't see it," he said.
He's also afraid to get his son interested in becoming the second generation of Malones to go fishing.
"I don't want to leave him disappointed," he said.