One has to be born to be a fisherman

Young fisherman Dennis Freitag is the future of Travemünde's fishing harbour. It is a rough life that the 21-year-old Dennis Freitag chose. Especially in Winter, when the early morning still feels like the deep of the night and the icy Baltic Sea wind can be felt in the Old fishermen's harbour, one or another white collar worker tips his head to those men who prepare for a long day at sea in those adverse conditions.

When this day will end cannot be foreseen in the morning. "When one casts off to the lake properly, a day can easily be 12 hours long", knows Dennis Freitag. "The lake" - that's of course the Baltic Sea, which shows itself in its full beauty here. The journey can be up to 28 nautical miles, that's about 50 kilometres: With an older boat and headwind it can take up to two or three hours. Young captain Dennis uses that time to take care of the logbook. How many metres of net do they have with them today, which mesh size, which fishing zone to head to. "That has to be done precisely. The controls are very strict", he says seriously. Generally one can hardly tell the young age of the incarnate future of the Travemünde fishing company. Of course, just from the outside one can see a sporty young man whose face hasn't been affected by sun, wind and waves yet - but after speaking only a few words with him, one quickly realises: He's somebody who really knows what he wants and mainly what he does.

"Harry always says: Becoming a fisherman isn't hard, but being one is quite so", jokes Dennis Freitag. He talks about Harry Lüdtke, an icon of the fishermen's harbour, who grew up in the old fishing estate by the Trave and who experienced times when more than 70 large boats set off from Travemünde to go fishing. The estate doesn't exist anymore and together with Harry Lüdtke there are only four professional fishermen who work in Travemünde today. The 65-year-old is something like a mentor for Dennis Freitag, a kind of patron who gave him the passion for this job. The vivid yet always calm North-German-down-to-earth hustle and bustle at the harbour is something that Dennis Freitag already experienced as a young boy. His father often took him here and soon he helped Harry out. When he was ten years old, Harry took him eel fishing in the Wik, a quiet fishing zone in the direction of Lübeck's Old Town. "Back then the Trave used to be the main fishing zone for eels", Dennis says like an old captain. "Our usual catches nowadays are cod and herring. For two years the Pollock has been losing its way to the Bay more and more". It sounds like the daily contact with experienced fishers and his love for the job has made him become a true sea dog on the inside, who will prospectively start his own business next year.

Well, the thing with the girls isn't that easy.

After receiving his captain's license in 2013, the only thing Dennis still needs for his happiness is the master diploma. But there aren't many young people like him who could imagine to work as a fisherman. There have to be at least five candidates. That doesn't sound much, but with around 150 professional fishermen in the whole of Schleswig-Holstein and four in Travemünde - what can one expect. It doesn't look good for the old profession of a fisherman and Dennis hopes that Lübeck's politicians will find the fishing harbour and its "citizens" worthy to be protected. "The people come here because the harbour is so old and traditional. Too much modern stuff isn't nice either. And freshly caught fish directly from the boat isn't something one can get everywhere." He prefers fried fish, which he can obviously prepare in all different variations. That's something the girls like to hear, don't they? "Well, the thing with the girls isn't that easy." Dennis admits. He's already happy when he meets fishermen of his age and women are rather rare in his field.

The loyalty of one lady is already certain for Dennis. That's his boat "Heike", who - until her captain gets his master diploma - patiently waits in the harbour for her first service. "Heike" is an experienced ship lady, who has been around the fishing grounds of Travemünde for 40 years together with her previous owner Heinrich Raddatz. "Heike" is in the best boat age with her 40 years. "They last forever" Dennis waves aside. Only when it's about her price, he doesn't really want to talk about it. "Professional secret" he jokes and the most valuable thing are the licences and fishing quota anyway." The equipment shouldn't be underestimated either: On the "Christoph", Harry's largest boat, which is being steered by Dennis at the moment and which will probably be taken over by him soon as well, lay countless nets which would drive an amateur into desperation only by the look of the hopelessly knotted mesh pile. For a single "haul" up to 100 gillnets are casted, usually with two men. "This has already been sorted", he says while pointing at one of those piles, "and our sailor Paul will get the other ones ready within two hours". Good, that there are experts!

It is even nicer when those experts and tough guys turn into a romantic from one moment to the next. We sit in a café directly at the quay; the chugging of a boat's motor is coming close. Suddenly there is uproar at the usually tranquil harbour: Nearly every seagull soars and heads for the long-desired food provider. A pain in the neck for the fishermen? Dennis smiles and says, still watching the water: "We work together with nature, sometimes there is even a sea eagle among the seagulls. That looks amazing - that giant bird in the middle of them", and then after a short break: "I love the colours! The sky at sea is so incredibly beautiful, you can't put it into words". Silence. One has to be born to be a fisherman.

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