Bruce Erickson, Swordfisherman

July 14, 1941 - April 24, 2014
Bruce Erickson, Swordfisherman,  July 14, 1941 - April 24, 2014

Bruce Erickson, a lifelong fisherman and longtime resident of Montauk, died last Thursday at Heartland Health Care Center in Fort Myers, Fla. Mr. Erickson, who was 72, had been ill with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease for the last nine years.

“Bruce grew up on his father’s fishing boat,” said Darby Doerzbacher, a family friend. Early photographs, Ms. Doerzbacher said, depicted Mr. Erickson tethered to the foremast so he would not fall overboard while his parents fished. “He was an amazing fishing talent,” she said, adding that it was often said that “he could smell swordfish.”

Bruce Petty Erickson was born on July 14, 1941, at Southampton Hospital to John Erickson and the former Dorothy Petty. He grew up in Amagansett and Montauk. He attended East Hampton High School before joining the Navy, serving as an officer. He was stationed in Morocco.

After leaving the Navy, Mr. Erickson returned to Montauk and bought a boat, the Marge-E. He later sold it and moved to Florida, where he bought a shrimp boat, the Skimmer. He sailed the Skimmer back to Montauk, added a pulpit, and rigged it to harpoon swordfish.

One summer, Ms. Doerzbacher said, he and his father became the subject of a photo essay by the author and photographer Kevin McCann. According to Mr. McCann’s website, the project had started as a book and documentary film project in 1975, “photographing two seasons on the Georges Bank in the North Atlantic with a legendary father-and-son harpooning team.”

Mr. Erickson left Montauk for Florida in 1979, where he continued a life on the water, both fishing and delivering boats to South America. Ultimately, he settled down on the land, running Villers Seafood, a shrimp-packing plant in Fort Myers Beach. He returned once again to Montauk, in the early 1990s, before retiring for health reasons.

“He was such a part of Montauk fishing history,” Ms. Doerzbacher said.

Mr. Erickson’s marriage to Penny Cidlowski ended in divorce. He leaves a daughter, Cynthia Wanamaker of Clearwater, Fla., and three grandchildren. A sister, Brenda Schmittinger of Barnegat, N.J., also survives, as does a niece. Another daughter, Kim, died in childhood.

Mr. Erickson was cremated. A private memorial service will be held in Montauk at a date to be determined.