Tag archive for "gillnet"

Alaska, Books


No Comments 11 July 2013

McCloskey makes his last set as this fine trilogy comes to a close.  Raiders characters mature just as the subject matter comes of age.  Political drama, personal intrigue, cultural differences.  Even though the story and characters are fictional, the events and emotions are very real and certainly command center stage today just as they did in the 1980s.  One of the more interesting themes is the cultural interaction between the Japanese, native Alaskan and the American fisherman.  By looking at the evolution of the fishing community we can extrapolate to predict the future of the fishing industry.  A further generalization predicts the future of many industries.  But the old days, the last third of the 20th century in this case, are gone.  It was a bold time, when men could live large, when risk rode with brains and muscle into the eye storm seeking buxom reward.  Not just to make a living, but to make a point.  A very personal point, shared with crew and friends, often, spoken only with tears.  The romance, like that of the Old West, will live on far into the future.  With the same salt crystals at the corner of the eye as grace the gunnel at sunset.

Alaska, Books, Velkommen


No Comments 24 March 2013

The second novel in William McCloskey’s trilogy.    The characters mature and the fishing grows from smaller boats to bigger boats.  The politics get interesting, as foreign interests endeavor to use every loophole to obtain the Alaskan bounty they lost when the 200 mile limit on fishing was imposed.  Breakers is  a great read, factual in many aspects, but fictional and romanticized just enough to keep the pages turning rapidly.  It captures  the energy of commercial fishing, and superimposes human faces to weave the story.  Fishing fans should read it twice.  It is a well told story, McCloskey talking about what he knows and loves.  No more pretentious than that.  If you love big water  and big adventure.  This book’s for you!


Alaska, Books


No Comments 21 February 2013

A fun and entertaining read.  Nothing too weighty; just right for a cozy night at anchor.  Highliners is book one of a trilogy including Breakers and RaidersWilliam McCloskey begins the tale of Hank Crawford, August, 1963, fresh out of college on his way to a cannery job on Kodiak Island, looking for overtime and big dollars.  The volume ends in 1975, with the fisherman characters and the changing nature of the fishery filled out.  The story is timeless and well told.  Plucky, rebellious young man leaves home to follow a dream despite parental opposition.   Gradually he finds his sea legs and charts his course.  Gradually he becomes part of a dynamic close knit community.  A viking-like adventurous lifestyle is portrayed and a bit romanticized.  Fishermen competing among themselves and then bonding together as a group, lobbying government to protect their interests and limit foreign fishing.  The story builds on its own with little need for gratuituous language.  The rhythm of the sea underlies every chapter and although the characters are fictional the times they occupy are factual.  A must read for all salty fish lovers because it defines fishing commercial fishing in Alaska.  The last frontier.


Fish and Ships – this was fishing from the Columbia to Bristol Bay

No Comments 21 January 2011

If you love Northwest history and have a taste for fishing, here’s your book.  Most of the  stories are from grandpa’s, great-grandpa’s and great-great grandpa’s day, roughly 1850 to 1930.  What a fantastic and adventurous time to be part of the fishing industry in the great northwest.

Fish and Ships is a picture history with a cornacopia of short stories told in a refreshing matter of fact manner.  The past days of fishing are not cheapened by romantic reminiscing.  Long days, brutally hard work and all too many lives lost, but it was also a time of discovery and innovation.  More than just canneries and salmon.  It’s sailing, it’s steam, it’s early gasoline engines and primitive outboards.  Reef nets, seiners, gillneters,  longliners.  It’s the Columbia river, Puget Sound, Vancouver Island, inside outside and it’s Alaska.  It’s halibut, cod, sable, red snapper and even sealing and whaling.  No hand wringing,  no vegan morality or Greenpeace hauteur.  This book is life as a past generation saw and lived it.  I don’t doubt that future generations will look back on our enlightened times and see them much the same way.
I’ll bet you are envious of Hjalmar Wilson’s 83 pound King. The old pictures are worth 10 times the price of admission.  Don’t run to your local bookseller, unless it’s Powell’s or  alibris.  Most copies are under $20.

Does the gray wintery weather have you in a funk? I’ll bet the crew of the Zapora was glad to see Ketchikan.

The old fishermen now rely on myth and legend to fill the nets.  Boats decayed and gone, memories right behind. It’s a blessing that a morsel remains of this rich history, if only to remind us of the strength that lies in our genes.  Hmmm……a  road trip might be in order to see the restored lumber schooner-turned codfisher C. A. Thayer at the San Francisco Maritime Park.

Don’t wait…..treat yourself. Buy the book and enjoy it.  Give it as a gift, read it to your grandkids.  Best of all…….read it on your boat.  And expect to see the salty smiling faces of old fishermen when you taste the mist through an open hatch or peer through a fogged porthole.

Big thanks to Ray Robinson for loaning me his copy.


Catching the Ebb – Drift-fishing for a Life in Cook Inlet

No Comments 27 April 2010

I venture to say that Catching the Ebb is a book about metamorphosis.  Bert Benders metamorphosis from novice summertime fisherman:  young, adventuresome, risk taker.  Wintertime:  student, husband, father.  To someone else, an English professor, an academic…..a cardboard cutout. 

Having brushed with gillnetting, commercial fishing and the largess that is Alaska.  I really love the stories and descriptions of the fishing life and the the grandeur of the surroundings.  Those are the heart of the book, and the heart of Bert Bender.  And they are well worth the purchase price.

Just starting out, Bert envies the competency of some of the other fishermen, particularly a few who also fish the Columbia River.  They make everything look easy, they have built their own boats, do their own maintenance.  And after many years, many lessons and countless sets, Bert builds his boat and comes to understand that he had paid his dues, he has perservered, he has worked hard and has earned the respect of his fishing community.  But Bert has a conflict.  Two things are ebbing away:  his youth and the Cook Inlet fishery.  There are a number of poingnant vignettes, nicely penned, but two stand out:  his decision to cut-loose, sell his boat Ishmael along with the permit and also, the father and son tug-o’-war, magnified, as most are, by a failed marriage.  And then there is his dance with Darwin, his search for meaning, his ache to place blame.  His tears spot the last pages and detract from the book; he’s a liberal romantic, without Melville’s thunder (thank God), not a scientist.  He’s tossed his pipe over the side.

I love the final paragraph.  In a dream he calls on the radio for his old boat:  “Ishmael, Ishmael.  Do you read?……Call me.”  But I’m not conviniced it’s Bert making the call.  Maybe it’s Pip, or Queequeg from his coffin-canoe.  Or Ahab, like Jonah, from the belly of the White Whale.

Or shall Bert be cast as Father Mapple?…….then….”Yes, the world’s a ship on its passage out, and not a voyage complete; and the pulpit is its prow.”  H.Melville – Moby Dick – Ch.8

Hold on…..May 19 newsflash…….

The present owner of Ishmael wants Bert to fish her in Bristol Bay this summer. This is most excellent news and should give hope to all retirees that dreams really do come true. I’m looking forward to a sequel along about springtime 2011. Here’s to fishing, Bert – Once a highliner, always a highliner. Good Luck !!

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