Fishing is more than a professional occupation. It is a source of individual and collective identity and the site of complex socioeconomic, cultural, political, and coupled human-natural processes – all of which are in constant flux. This basic observation is the starting point for our research. In particular, we are interested in the interplay between fishermen and marine resources and the tug-of-war between conservation and resource use. How do marine harvesters respond to changes in fish stocks, regulations, and markets? What macro-scale patterns emerge from these individual-level actions? How do they impact fisheries and other marine resources at different spatial and temporal scales? Under what circumstances do these patterns trigger system-wide transformations? To what extent do they influence resilience at the individual and community levels? Our aim in exploring these kinds of questions is to contribute to the theory and practice of sustainable fisheries by helping to inform the development of robust systems that sustain marine resources, especially fisheries, and the communities that depend on them. Our approach to studying these dynamics departs from the traditional armchair approach often deployed by the academic sector. Instead, we seek to position ourselves to study social-ecological dynamics in coastal and marine systems by actively participating in fisheries at different levels. We take this approach because direct experience provides a depth of understanding that is difficult to gain from afar. In particular, experiencing fisheries from multiple vantage points, geographies, and levels provides greater respect for and sensitivity to the diverse perspectives that are invariably tangled in marine resource management and policy in the US. These experiences also provided an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that different sectors face and how issues in marine policy are framed and problematized.