Joseph Higgins

A modern master of the art of gyotaku, Joseph Higgins is the owner and artist behind the popular design house, Fished Impressions.  With fish, ink, and paper, Joseph has created stunning works of art, ranging from full sized framed pieces to portable images such as those found on his sticker and clothing lines.  An angler intent on bettering the world around him, Joseph has donated countless works to various charities, including animal shelters, the Boys and Girls Club, organizations focusing on fish conservation, and tournament pools.

What first drew you to this style of angling? When was that?

I first became introduced to kayak fishing by a website called Surfcaster.com.  This was about 10 years ago. A guy named “The Riddler” was the first person from whom I had heard about fishing from a kayak. At the time I was surfcasting along a very crowded stretch of beach – I think getting away from the clam chuckers errant casts was one of the reasons I took the leap.

Do you remember the first fish that you caught from a kayak?

It was definitely a striped bass.

Kayak anglers have different motivations associated with their targeted catch. Often times, tournament formats dictate a pursuit of the largest example of a species. Anglers aiming for a meal have their own set of criteria with which to quantify a successful day. As a kayak-based fisherman targeting fish as an art form, do you engage in any atypical planning when it comes to your on-water outings?

Pretty fish hate me. Ugly fish love me.  When I catch, I sit with it on my lap, examining it for flaws. If its tail is split or its scarred up – back it goes. If its a great looking fish and I’m hungry for some fillets, I will photograph it and get it to shore quickly. I only tend to print slot fish in the 28-32 range, and will only keep one every month or so. My only prep is that i have a large styrofoam box. I will swaddle the fish in plastic and ice in the box. That fish will be printed in less than six hours, and eaten not long after that.

What food and/or music fuels your drive to the put-in?

Dunkin Donuts is my fuel.

Who, specifically, is shaping the future of kayak angling?

Right now, there are just so many kayak anglers. I think guys like Chad, Cory, and Kevin all put out some great videos – with the evolution of camcorders and editing software, everyone can put out their own shows. A few years ago, I would have said the guys at Kayak Fishing Stuff, but it’s really changed now. I also think it’s the clubs that are shaping it (like New England Kayak Fishing), forums like SOL, and the regional ones all across the country. I also think the innovators – places like Yak Attack – keep it fresh.

You are known for your propensity to donate your valuable prints to a variety of charitable causes, including Heroes on the Water and your local animal shelter. From where do you attribute your giving nature?

Not giving, just like to see people enjoy the art. There are lot of causes I support – I donate tuna tail prints to help manage and study bluefin tuna.  I donate striped bass to help the Boys and Girls Club get new equipment.  Dogfish print to help animal shelters. I’ve donated over a dozen at this point, raising thousands of dollars. I get a lot out of fishing – it’s a no brainer to donate prints.

With regard to kayak angling, what issues are important to you? What, if anything, can be done about them?

I think over confidence.  Lots of guys out there have no clue with a boat off shore.

Barring money or logistics, what is your dream kayak angling trip?

3 months of island hopping in Caribbean- fishing, eating, printing

What’s in your milk crate?

I have no idea; it’s a freaking mess.

Tell us about your best day on the water.

I’ve had a lot of good days, but a lot of great nights.  I think my best day was the first time I got a large striped bass.  It was the very first year I owned a kayak, which was a Walden Adirondack sit-in. I paddled and trolled about 4 miles without a bump, but then the fish hit like a freight train – it pulled and pulled, dodging lobster buoys and moorings, and sending eel grass up my line. I finally got it to surface and it was the largest fish I had ever seen.  I had no idea what to to do with it, so i bungee’ed it to bow of my kayak – like a deer on the hood. The fish measured close to 48 inches, and was over 30 lbs.  It took me forever to get back to the launch, but I remember proudly waving at the power boats as they went by – I wasn’t humble.  The bow went through the waves and not over them because of the added weight – great day. But in general, it’s not about the quantity of fish; it’s about the experience. I’ve had days where I’ve seen busting bluefin tuna next to the kayak.  And porpoises – those are very good days.

What is the kayak fishing lifestyle?

I am fortunate to live and work 1 mile from the ocean.  I put my kayak on the car in May and it doesn’t come off until November.  Last year was weird in that I managed to be selected to open a business and sell the fish I print.  I make gyotaku prints.  It’s nothing unusual down south, but around here there are only a handful doing it. I originally did it to give as prizes for the NEKF tourney I help run, but I kept doing it. The great thing was being able to spend the entire summer talking about how I fish, and showing people how to print a fish. The bad part was that I really didn’t have a lot of time to fish. Ironic.

In addition to your gyotaku prints, you have creatively added whimsy, humor, and an artful arrangement to Marcus Elieser Bloch’s 18th century illustrations. In doing so, you made people aware of the art within Bloch’s textbooks. From where did your interest in Bloch’s ichthyology work come?

That was just a fun thing to do. I don’t consider them more whimsical than anything.  Being an graphic artist and owner of an ad agency, I just like to keep the creative wheels turning. I spend a lot more time working on graphics and logos for fish items and related events than I do with the Bloch stuff.  I’ve got hundreds of logo and bumper stickers that I’ve designed. If you are passionate about what you love and can make it part of your work,  it isn’t work.

What does the future hold for you?

My print work is already in a bunch of galleries and shops.  I plan on exploring different ways to capture fish.  I will do a catch and release tail print this year – while on the kayak. I’m also starting to paint. Other than than that, I’m a terrible planner.

To learn more about Joe or his art form, visit his website at http://www.fishedimpressions.com/.

 

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