National Fisherman

Hooked!: True Stories of Obsession, Death, and Love from Alaska's Commercial Fishing Men and Women
Edited by Leslie Leyland Fields

Everybody's a greenhorn at some point: Mike Crowley (National Fisherman's boats and gear editor) had been working dockside at Seward Fisheries when he got his chance to sail out of Petersberg on the halibut schooner Attu. The promise of a quarter share if he proved his worth was more than enough for Mike, who admits he would have gone for nothing (even though he spent the first part of the trip hanging over the railing, puking). Before they set gear, he was told to watch the water and "holler out" as soon as he saw the first halibut come to the surface. After hearing laughter from the fo'c's'cle, he very soon leaned that halibut are bottom feeders.

iThat story is part of the new anthology Hooked! True Stories of Alaska's Commercial Fishermen and Women edited by Leslie Leyland Fields. What I liked most about these stories was the honesty of the writers: Nobody comes across as a know-it-all or preachy, and they freely admit their mistakes — which of course make for good stories. On his first time out as a skipper, Sig Hansen tells the story of dropping two lines of 20 crab pots into 400 fathoms of water that he thought was 120 fathoms because of a double echo off the fathometer (that's $50,000 worth of pots gone forever). And Mary Jacobs admits that her bitchiness didn't disappear with maturity.

These are stories about fishing, the good times, bad times and sometimes tragic. I think Hooked! could be helpful reading for the next generation of greenhorns as a reminder that everyone has to start somewhere. We forget this over time, but we've all experienced that knot of anticipation in our stomachs and sleepness nights.

On his next trip, Mike remembers being nervous that he'd end up like the greenhorn he had heard was so incompetent that the crew put him the fish hold for a couple hours then sent him to his bunk for the remaining two weeks of his trip (allowed out only to use the head).

As you can probably guess, Mike turned out all right.

You can find Hooked! at or on Leslie Leyland Fields' website.

Inside the Industry

NMFS recently released a draft action plan for fish discard and release mortality science, creating a list of actions that they hope can better inform fisheries.

We know that fishermen have to deal with bycatch by discarding or releasing unwanted catch overboard, but there is a data gap regarding how those fish survive.


A new study has identified a set of features common to all ocean ecosystems that provide a visual diagnosis of the health of the underwater environment coastal communities rely on.

Together, the features detail cumulative effects of threats -- such as overfishing, pollution, and invasive species,  allowing responders to act faster to increase ocean resiliency and sustainability.

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