Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Risk and Reward on the Gulf | Hard Work and Fear Come with the Territory for a Stone Crab Fisherman on the Gulf

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Risk and Reward on the Gulf | Hard Work and Fear Come with the Territory for a Stone Crab Fisherman on the Gulf

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

Brian Lacey is Hunter's dad. He is a 34-year-old stone crab fisherman who quit his job, sold his house and invested it all in a business full of risk, danger and exhausting physical demands. His livelihood, in essence, is at the mercy of the deep.

"I'm scared every day," he says. "I've put my entire life into this. Everything I have and will have comes from the Gulf of Mexico. There are nights we pray a lot."

Lacey is new to the stone crab game. He grew up around the water in Sarasota as a kid, but later moved to Virginia to work in construction for a Fortune 500 company. One day his father called and said a fishing business was for sale in the area. Lacey and his wife Nikki both

resigned from their jobs and paid $30,000 for the company.

Lacey first went to Key West to learn the profession. It was there he bought a 34-foot Crusader and named the boat "Miss Nikki" after his wife. He is now in his second season fishing for stone crab in Cortez, where he brings his haul to AP Bell.

Lacey figures he has $300,000 invested in the venture, $15,000 on ropes alone. Stone crab fishing is an expensive business. According to state law each trap must have a tag, and Lacey paid $35 per tag on 2,500 traps.

He buys the bait too -- pig's feet and mullet. Pig's feet are used when the weather is warmer because it holds up better. He loads 1,800 pounds of bait some days.

Lacey and his partner fish from Venice to Clearwater and usually go two to nine miles out in the Gulf. Lacey says the physical demands are challenging, and this comes from a former offensive lineman in college. If football players get tired in the fourth quarter, he says his fourth quarter starts about 10 a.m. each day.

Living the dream

The traps have cement on the bottom and weigh 50 pounds each.

At the end of the season, when the physical properties change with the weather, the traps can weigh as much as 80 pounds. …

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