HUNTER OF THE YEARS: RANDY FRY
usual measures of this feature Randy Fry was a notably ordinary
diver. He had no great legacy of spearfishing for fifty
years, no world records, no celebrated wins in competition.
He never dove hundreds of feet down on a single breath or
freeshafted a giant tuna. And unless you followed the often-esoteric,
ongoing fisheries issues that permeate California and the
West Coast, you might not have even heard his name.
Randy was huge, a fact that can be summed up in a single
spring, in California, spearfishermen were legally shooting
fish that no one else could take.
the commercial fishermen were siting idle on their boats,
and the recreational fishermen were at home oiling their
reels, spearfishermen, usually the last in line, were hunting.
that we can thank Randy. As the primary representative of
the Recreational Fishing Alliance, a non profit, grass roots
lobbying organization funded on a shoe string, Randy attended
dozens of meetings at the federal and state levels, traveling
up and down the West Coast advocating for the rights of
divers and recreational fishermen. While he received tremendous
help from a dedicated group of CenCal divers like Bob Humphrey,
and other recreational fishermen, make no mistake that Randy
was the engine that pulled the train.
started as an advocate several years ago, when the overall
picture for recreational fishing in California was, at best,
bleak. With amazing energy and passion, he attacked each
hurdle in a relentless fashion. Undaunted by setbacks, he
opened eyes and ears and brought our voice to places where
it hadn't been heard before. Hopping from fundraisers to
meetings it seemed, at times, as if he was more than one
person. And when the money ran short he reached into his
own pocket to take care of expenses. Somehow, he managed
to turn the enormous inertia of the regulatory bodies around.
We began to see results, results that will, over time, have
profound effects on our sport nationwide. He was proof that
one man could make an enormous difference.
did it on warmth and personality, with humor and good grace.
He could take people who were bitterly divided, and convince
them to sit down at the same table. And when others were
ready to throw in the towel, his optimism would be the buoy
that kept things afloat.
2003 Fry was appointed to a Federal Fishery Management Panel
on Groundfish, which included species important to the recreational
nearshore fishery. Randy was also instrumental in the appointment
of Darrell Ticehurst, a friend of recreational fishermen,
to the Pacific Fisheries Management Council (PFMC), the
body that sets most saltwater fishing regulations. It was
the culmination of years of hard work.
said that the problem with divers is they are too busy diving
(to go to meetings). So it's a measure of Randy's dedication
that Sunday, August 15th, was his first dive of the year.
He had helped run a fundraiser the previous evening, and
had gone salmon fishing that day. That afternoon he suited
up with a friend to pick abalone. A few minutes later he
was gone. A Great White Shark had ended his life in a flash;
it's doubtful he realized what had happened or even felt
the attack. He had told his best friend on several occasions
that if he had to go, he wanted to go in the water. In the
end his final wish was granted.
loss left an enormous pair of fins to be filled. It's time
for all of us, as Randy would say, to "Cowboy Up"
and continue what he started.
honor Randy's memory and support recreational spearfishing
please consider donating to the RFA: Checks may be made
out to "RFA", and marked "Randy Fry Memorial
Fund". Mail to:
c/o Jim Martin
Fort Bragg, CA 95437
Kurt R. Bickel
Senior Editor, Spearfishing Magazine