How One Man in One Small Boat Feeds South Texas

This article was published as part of a cover feature story for THE BEND Magazine highlighting local farmers and fishermen in South Texas.

This piece is short but says so much about this good man and where our fish comes from–our real seafood from our own local waters. This photo by Rachel Benevides was later used in a state-wide marketing campaign to promote tourism to South Texas.

David Fanchier was born to fish.  You might say he has saltwater in his blood.

Clyde Fanchier, David’s father, started taking him fishing when he was just out of diapers.  As a boy, David stayed with his dad on a houseboat in Baffin Bay several days a week, just to be closer to the fish.  David has been fishing for forty-five years.  He is a master of his craft with many good years ahead of him.

David’s commercial drum business is one man and one small boat.  Still, this fisherman catches nearly 50,000 pounds of fish every year.

David sustains his astounding production by going out six days per week, every week of the year.  In the summer, he catches between 200 and 500 pounds of fish per day; in winter, it can be double that amount.

His income is based on the sheer tenacity of math, the slow addition of one fish at a time hauled heavily into the boat, day after day.  There is no sick leave for David, no paid vacation, no time off.  It’s an old-fashioned equation for earning a living. 

David delivers his catch each morning to Morgan Street Seafood.  He carries the black drum, still living, into the market to be weighed.  Charlie Alegria, the owner, sits at his workbench to gut, head, and filet the fish as customers stand in line and call out their orders.  It is as fresh and good as any fish, anywhere. 

David is a man of faith.  His faith drives him to work hard and it lifts him over the rough patches.  He is also, like Charlie, a man of integrity.  David can leave his catch at Morgan Street Seafood and never look at the scale, because he knows Charlie will mark the exact weight every time.  That type of handshake agreement, that type of trust, is rare in business these days.

David is hearing impaired.  He lost his hearing to a fever when he was just a year old.  He overcomes this disability each time he sets out to brave the ever-changing and sometimes wild conditions on the water. 

Weather can make his days a joy or a terror.  Rough winds can push the waves into his boat and capsize it.  Lightning on the water is deadly.  But David has developed an intuition about the elements earned through decades of painful experience. 

David Fanchier is the real-life embodiment of Ernest Hemmingway’s Old Man and the Sea.  David goes out into the dark water every morning in a tiny boat to take his chances, to grapple with the writhing and slippery weight of big fish, to make his living from the sun-drenched waves.  He brings home his catch, a few dollars each day.  He is simple, humble, faithful, and kind. 

This lone man, this artisan of a by-gone age, supplies the folks of The Bend with some of the best seafood in the world, though few people even know his name.  But he is out there for us, every day, out on the glittering water, living his faith through fish. 

3 responses

  1. I always look forward to reading your articles, Justin! What a wonderful story of a hard working fisherman! One of the heroes behind our healthy food supply! Thank you, David, and you too, Justin, for an interesting story!

  2. Great article! David is is a man’s man for sure. We need more like him in today’s environment.
    Thank you for sharing the article.

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