HUNTER OF THE YEARS: RANDY FRY

By the 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.

But Randy was huge, a fact that can be summed up in a single statement:

This spring, in California, spearfishermen were legally shooting fish that no one else could take.

While 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.

For 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.

Randy 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.

He 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.

In 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.

It's 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.

Randy's 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.

To 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:

RFA
c/o Jim Martin
POB 2420
Fort Bragg, CA 95437

 

Kurt R. Bickel
Senior Editor, Spearfishing Magazine

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