Meet the Fisherman: Ron Borjeson
The Cape Codder
May 24, 2014
Meet the Fisherman: Ron Borjeson
Written by Laurie Higgins
Ron Borjeson fishes out of Hyannis Harbor on the 40-foot Angenette. He's been a fisherman for 44 years and jokes that his uncle hoodwinked him into it. Joking aside, he is proud to be a second-generation fisherman, and says he knew pretty quickly that fishing was a lifestyle that worked for him.
“It’s an adventure and something that gets into your blood and you love it,” he says. “Of course now it’s pretty discouraging with all the government regulations and the new management schemes they have. It’s come to the point now where you wonder if it is a break even business or not. So this could be our last year.”
This time of year, Ron and first mate Bob Ide leave the harbor every morning at 4 a.m. and travel an hour and 20 minutes to the Cross Rip in Nantucket Sound to fish for laligo squid, which are coveted for their large size. Ron fishes for squid with a trawl, which is a giant net with a small mesh that he tows behind the boat.
“There’s a very small by-catch with squid,” he says. “It’s a very clean fishery due to the gear. These nets just very lightly tickle the bottom and tickle the squid into them. We are allowed 800 pounds of scup a day and presently the black sea bass that we do catch, we return to the sea. It’s not open for us as of yet. When it opens we’ll have a 100 pound by-catch of black sea bass.”
The season for squid runs from April 21 until June 10, and this year has turned out to be a surprisingly good year for them. Ron was expecting a poor year because the combination of a very cold winter and a big year off-shore for squid usually results in few inshore squid.
Of course, an abundance of fish drives the prices down. Ron sells his squid to Red’s Best out of Boston. The squid market is normally a fresh domestic market, but when there are too many of them caught in one season some of the squid have to be frozen which drives prices down. This season the price started at $2 a pound, but now it’s earning Ron under $1 a pound.
He needs to catch a high volume every day because expenses are high to operate his boat. The Angenette burns seven gallons of fuel an hour and the fuel costs $4 a gallon. Then he has to pay $40 a day (a dollar per foot) to moor his boat in the harbor. Costs add up, so a good year has been a fortunate turn of events.
Ron loves to eat squid at home and has a variety of favorite methods to prepare it.
“I like squid chowder,” he says. “I had a Polish cook and he would boil it, dice it up and then he’d put some onions with it and cream and it would be so thick you could stand your spoon up in it. He would just season it a little bit with some salt and pepper. Of course I like it in spaghetti sauce too. Fried calamari is very good and stuffed squid, with sausage and rice.”
Once the squid season ends Ron switches to fishing for fluke. At that point he will fish for fluke five days a week, Sunday through Thursday with Friday and Saturday being forced days off. But the major part of his business has always been ground fish, and that’s where he’s suffering the most.
“We have an allotment on this new management plan, which is sectors, which has put a serious hurting on the ground fish fleet,” he says. “Whereas I used to be allotted 60,000 pounds of codfish, when we went to sector management my codfish allotment dropped down to 28,000 and over the past four years with the series of cuts that we’ve had, I’m down to 2,800 pounds.”
He’s afraid that the fishing industry will mimic what happened to the family farms in the 1980s, with two or three big chip companies owning all the fishing rights, the way a few big corporations like Con Ag control all the farming.
“It’s coming to the point where I can’t afford to go anymore because the allocations are so small.”
When he heard we were having squid as this month’s chosen local seafood, the Kitchen Genius decided he wanted to do a light appetizer that let the sweet and mild flavor of the squid shine through. This dish can be made in about five minutes, so it could also be served over pasta for a quick and easy weeknight dinner.
GARLIC AND LEMON CALAMARI
Serves 4 as an appetizer or two as an entrée
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
- 1 pound fresh squid, cut into 1/2 inch rings
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- Juice of half a lemon
Heat olive oil and red pepper flakes in a large skillet over medium high heat until oil is hot. Add butter, garlic, squid and parsley and cook one to two minutes, stirring constantly until the squid is cooked. Take the skillet off the heat and sprinkle squid with lemon juice. Serve immediately with some nice crusty French bread.