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Fish Tales: Geal Roderick continues a family tradition

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 — One Saturday afternoon last month, Geal Roderick stood under the hot sun as he strung together skate to bait his lobster traps.

Over the course of the next few hours, he would fill several 55-gallon barrels, as a brown liquid from the rotting fish flowed off the table and onto the ground. The stink was pervasive in the humid air. Then it began to rain. 

"It's not the glamorous job that the Discovery Channel makes it seem like," Roderick said.

The 46-year-old comes from a long line of Rodericks who have been fishing and lobstering here since 1907. Four Rodericks are among the 41 men whose names are carved into the granite memorial at the Town Dock that honors local fishermen who have died at sea.

When he was 7 or 8, Roderick began helping his father, Walter, now 73, with the lobster pots. He always knew, growing up, that he wanted to work with his hands.

After graduating from Ella T. Grasso Technical High School in 1995, he worked for his father and on other boats in the fleet. He also plowed snow, repaired fiberglass and fixed heavy equipment. Later, he began to captain the lobster boat Stacy & Geal.

"An old farmer once said, that if you like your job, it's like you're on vacation every day," Roderick said, "But there's times I hate it and times I enjoy it." 

He works seven days a week, only taking a day off for bad weather.

Although he said he was never a morning person, his typical day begins at 4 a.m. Once out on the water, he and one crewman haul some of their 300 traps, pull out the lobsters and rebait the traps with the skate he buys from Town Dock fishing boats. He lobsters in an area that stretches from Block Island to south of New London and out to Plum Island and Race Rock. They typically get back to the dock about 1 p.m. Then there's work to do on the boat.

On this day his partner Jen, who works at Electric Boat, stopped by, as she often does, to help him bait traps. They share four children, ranging in age from 13 to 19, the oldest of whom is studying to be a physician's assistant.

But it appears none of them will be carrying on the Roderick tradition.

"They don't want to do this," he said. "Our biggest issue is getting people."

j.wojtas@theday.com

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