Robbie Scarborough

There are plenty of challenges out there for commercial fishermen today, said Robbie Scarborough, who’s spent his career on the waters off the coast of Hatteras Village, North Carolina.

There’s changing regulations, dangerous weather, keeping up on updated technology, and following schools of fish as they move along the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council’s coast. 

But at the end of the day, commercial fishermen are businessmen, Scarborough explained, as he packed out a “fair day’s catch,” or about 500 pounds, of bluefish and butterfish at Avon Seafood Company in Hatteras Village. 

“Our biggest challenge is trying not to flood the market,” Scarborough said. 

It’s the proverbial catch-22. When the fish are running, “you catch them because if you don’t the guy in the boat next to you will. Besides, you don’t know if they will be back tomorrow. But then if you have too many fish at market, they lose their value.”

One fish species, Scarborough said, “could bring you $2 today and 90 cents tomorrow.”

After more than 30 years of fishing, though, you learn how to balance it.

Scarborough is a blue blood, born and raised, Hatteras Village fisherman. 

“Fishing isn’t just important to Hatteras, it’s the blood of Hatteras.”

It’s what Scarborough’s father did and what he figured he eventually would do. He didn’t know for sure until he was 15 and “was out on the boat and didn’t get sea sick anymore. Figured that meant I should be a fisherman.” 

Twenty years ago, he bought his first commercial fishing vessel and named her Shear Water. 

Fishing isn’t a job, Scarborough points out. 

“A job is something you do nine to five and hate going to it,” he said. “This isn’t a job, it’s a labor of passion. You’re not going to get rich doing it, but you’ll get to be on the water and will always have a good dinner.”

Scarborough will hook and line fish for some species, but largely, Shear Water is outfitted with gill nets. 

Keeping up on regulations, being a fisherman in a border area between two federal agencies, isn’t too hard, he said, “if you have a good wife at home,” Scarborough said. “I can read, write and sing, but my focus is fishing. She keeps me regulated.” 

Ask Scarborough if he fishes for fun, and you get a huge smile and hearty laugh.

“Fish for fun? Fishing for fun cost me my first two wives. My wife now likes me better when I fish for fun.”