In Mixed Catch, NF Senior Editor Linc Bedrosian spotlights a wide range of commercial fishing-related news items from coast to coast.
Tuesday, 02 September 2014
Of Sea and Clouds
By Jon Keller
Tyrus Books, 2014
Hardcover, 336 pp., $24.99
Maine's lobster fishery is apparently fertile ground for novelists. Not so long ago, I reviewed "Vacationland" by Nat Goodale, which was an enjoyable read. "Of Sea and Cloud" by Jon Keller, also set in the Pine Tree State's most profitable fishery, is a darker ride, but no less of a page-turner.
Things get ugly in a hurry. Nicholas Graves has raised his sons, Bill and Joshua (known as Jonah), to be lobstermen. But when Nicholas is lost at sea, the mystery of his death sparks a chain of events resulting in a war between the Graves boys and Osmond Randolph, a lobsterman and former Calvinist minister, as well as their father's business partner for more than 20 years.
With Nicholas out of the picture, the powerful and unsettling Osmond, aided by his grandson and heir, Julius (a deeply unsettling guy in his own right), moves to push the Graves family out of the lobster pound Nicholas and Osmond ran at any cost. A trap war develops as Osmond sets lobster traps on the Graves family grounds mere days after Nicholas is lost at sea.
Jonah cuts about $5,000-worth of Osmond's traps. In retaliation, Julius sets his gear directly on top of the Graves' traps. And as the Graves try to figure out what happened to their father the war escalates from there.
But the story isn't solely about an ugly trap war. Keller worked aboard a Down-East Maine lobster boat for several years after graduate school, and during that time, he said in a Tyrus Books interview, he "began to see within the land and people something nearing on the epic."
"When I started writing 'Of Sea and Cloud,' I fell immediately into a voice that felt to me to echo this epic starkness — and more importantly than echoing, I hoped that the voice would resonate in and through the novel in the way the coastal landscape resonates in and through the Down-East world," he explained.
Keller said he he's lived in enough small towns to be aware of when a place is undergoing a serious shift.
"I'd call it a cultural unraveling, perhaps, and it results in loneliness and desperation that I hoped to capture in the book," he said. "It's the confusion that results when a sub-culture doesn't evolve as quickly as the culture that surrounds it. The technology has changed, the standards of living have changed, the world has changed... yet the way of life has not, and the result is a cultural tailspin, a potential breakdown."
Furthermore, Keller said the region's isolation doesn't protect it from a changing world as much as it exposes it. In the book, Osmond sees that global markets are going to affect the lobster industry and the aging lobsterman is desperate to protect his family and ensure that they will survive those changes.
Keller says "Of Sea and Cloud" is "a book that asks something of the reader, just as the coast of Maine asks something of those who inhabit it." It's a story that should be food for thought for 21st century fishermen, be they veteran harvesters or young bucks trying to make their mark on this historic industry.
Tuesday, 22 April 2014
Man Plans, God Laughs
By Nat Goodale
Bowditch Press, 2013
Softcover, 242 pp., $14.99
When I think of Donny Coombs, a fifth generation Maine lobsterman who's the hero of "Vacationland," the immortal words of Popeye the Sailor Man, pop into my head — "That's all I can stands, I can't stands no more!"
It will take him awhile to get to that point, though. Coombs is pretty much an independent live-and-let-live kind of guy. He's largely content to go lobstering, accompanied by his ornery, territorial, yet faithful and loyal dog, Tut.
However, Coombs' placid life is about to become more stressful on several fronts.
First there are his new neighbors, Delano and Eliza Nelson. The Nelsons are, as Mainers say, From Away. And the missus in particular is hell-bent on, as Goodale puts it on his website, "saving Maine from the Mainers."
Job one in this quest is getting Coombs to remove some items they deem unsightly from his yard. Thus begins what will blossom into an increasingly ugly battle between the two neighbors.
Then there's Shelly Payson, an attractive junior at Harvard, where she's an outstanding member of the crew team. Shelly's impetuous, and like her well-to-do father, Chase, used to getting her way. She's attracted to Coombs, which displeases daddy greatly. His mission is to kill the growing relationship between Coombs and his daughter.
And last, but certainly not least, there's lobsterman Stanley Maven, who covets Coombs' territory. He ignores signs to back off and becomes increasingly bold about setting traps where Coombs fishes.
All of these battles get ratcheted up to a fever pitch. And when Coombs reaches his Popeye-esque breaking point, things get very ugly indeed.
Goodale's crafted a fast-paced page-turner, filled with strongly drawn characters. At first, I was disappointed in the ending. I suspect I'm too used to watching movies where Hollywood wraps everything up neatly to send us smiling out of the theater.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it really rang true. When it's all said and done, "Vacationland" proves to be a highly entertaining story that's well-worth reading.Add a comment
Tuesday, 11 March 2014
From Hooks to Harpoons
...the Story of Santa Barbara Channel Fisheries
By Mick Kronman
Santa Barbara Maritime Museum, 2013
Softcover, 261 pp., $24.95
When we embarked on producing North Pacific Focus, a Pilothouse Guide-inspired supplement for Alaska and West Coast readers that mailed with our April issue, we decided it'd be a good idea to profile fishing ports in the region. Conveniently, I'd just finished reading "From Hooks to Harpoons: the Story of Santa Barbara Channel Fisheries," which led me to profile Santa Barbara in the Winter 2014 issue of NPF.
The book's author, Mick Kronman, was a great source for the story. Kronman, 65, has been the city's harbor operations manager for 14 years. He's also a former commercial fisherman and he served as NF's Pacific bureau chief for a number of years.
He also proves to be the right guy to tell the story of the city's fishing history. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum asked Kronman to chronicle the port's fishing heritage, which dates back to the 1850s.
"The maritime museum wanted me to write 10,000 words," Kronman says. So he dived into his research.
As part of his research, he poured over the museum's voluminous collection of photos of local fishermen and boats that defined eras past. And Marla Daily, president of the Santa Cruz Island Foundation, gave Kronman access to her file archives, which contained letters, narratives, newspaper accounts and other data about the city's fishing past.
Eventually, Kronman's original 10,000 words would blossom into 75,000. Alas, his manuscript grew dusty sitting on the shelves for several years as the museum went through some changes.
But eventually museum officials realized it needed to be a book. His work made it into publication last fall, some 13 years after the project began.
Happily, the book is well worth the wait. It's an entertaining history of Santa Barbara's fishing history, told via the five gear types used in the various fisheries.
"I thought the only way I could get my mind and ability around the project was to break the story into gear groups," Kronman says.
The gear types that Santa Barbara fishermen still use today date back some 3,000 years to when Chumash Native Americans used early forms of nets, harpoons, hooks, traps and dive gear. Those gear types have helped local fishermen catch a wide variety of fish and shellfish, including spiny lobster, rock crab, ridgeback and spot prawns, squid, rockfish, swordfish, halibut, blackcod, sea cucumbers, abalone and sea urchins.
Kronman looks at not only the development of each gear type, but at the fisheries that spawned from them, and the people who helped them grow. The book is filled with anecdotes about the port's commercial fisheries and loaded with photos from the past and present.
"From Hooks to Harpoons" is an engaging and informative look at Santa Barbara's commercial fishing history. But I think the book may say as much about Kronman's affection for the city's fishing industry. And that affection shines through "From Hooks to Harpoons," separating it from garden-variety history books. You don't have to be a Santa Barbara fisherman to appreciate that.
Thursday, 05 December 2013
By William B. McCloskey Jr.
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
Hardcover, 400 pp., $24.95
You'll get a taste of "Warriors," the prequel to William B. McCloskey's previous novels "Highliners," "Brokers" and "Raiders" in our January issue. The "Warriors" excerpt that begins on page 26 focuses on fishing in the early days of Alaska's king crab fishery. But the novel is about much more than that.
The "Highliners" trilogy focuses on the story of Hank Crawford's journey from green cannery hand to respected fishing captain in Alaska, a tale that spans from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. Three important characters who appear in the three novels return as the main characters in "Warriors."
Crawford's future mentor, Marine Sgt. Jones Henry, Japanese officer Kiyoshi Tsurifune, and anti-German Resistance fighter Swede Scorden struggle to return to a normal life after World War II. Each man is wrestling with all they've endured during the war and want nothing more than to return to the fishing life.
For Jones, that means returning to Ketchikan, Alaska, to fish for salmon and king crab. Swede, too, settles in Ketchikan where he throws himself into work at a cannery, eventually becoming an executive. Kiyoshi returns to his family, trying to deal with the lost honor of his country's defeat, eventually helping his local fishermen get back on the water and becoming a seafood buyer. The three men's paths cross throughout the book, as Kiyoshi eventually becomes an ambassador for the Japanese trade.
But the fishing world is changing. Engines are replacing the sails on fishing boats that Jones and other fishermen have relied upon for years. A new union calls a strike during the height of salmon season. And an impending deal to allow the Japanese to fish Alaska waters angers many Alaska fishermen for whom memories of the war against Japan are all too fresh.
Each character's perspective on the war is enlightening. The passages about life in post-war Japan are compelling. So are those in which Jones wrestles with his war experiences; Jones just wants to fish and be left alone, and not have to think about what he saw in the war.
Against the backdrop of the changes in their lives and Alaska's fishing industry, each man must find a way to make peace with what they've experienced and with the changes coming to the burgeoning Alaska fisheries. All in all "Warriors" proves to be a worthy addition to the "Highliner" novels.
Tuesday, 15 October 2013
Four Thousand Hooks
A True Story of Fishing and Coming of Age on the High Seas of Alaska
By Dean Adams
University of Washington Press, 2012
Softcover, 270 pp., $16.95
One of the neat things about Pacific Marine Expo in Seattle is the Author's Corner and Bookstore, where you can get your mitts on a wide range of books about fishing. Plus there's seating and a special section for book signings, discussions and more.
It's easy to see why Dean Adam's book "Four Thousand Hooks" was featured at Pacific Marine Expo last year. Want to find out what's on tap in the Author's Corner this year? Just click here and scroll down for the 2013 show's lineup.
Thursday, 18 April 2013
By Roderick Haig-Brown
Harbour Publishing, 1948
Softcover, 240 pp., $14.95
You will forgive me if I'm mildly puzzled as to why "Saltwater Summer" is classified as "juvenile fiction." What we have here is a story about fishing, plain and simple. Nowhere in this book appear any vampires, werewolves, zombies, dragons or sorcerers of any kind, which would seem an immediate disqualification for being labeled as teen fiction, or at least what passes for it these days.
Thursday, 21 February 2013
East of the Hague Line
By Gordon Holmes
Trafford Publishing, 2012
676 pp., hardcover, $35.44; softcover, $25.44; e-book, $3.99
There isn't a lot of down time on a fishing boat at sea, so it may take a fisherman some time to get through the more than 600 pages that make up Gordon Holmes' novel "East of the Hague Line." The good news is it's worth taking that time.
Thursday, 06 December 2012
Nathan and the Stone Crabs
By J.B. Crawford
Softcover, 216 pp., $12.95
"Stone crabs is the onliest things in the ocean that a man can take out, harvest, return to the water and then come back to harvest again," writes J.B. Crawford in his novel "Nathan and the Stone Crabs." "Stone crabs, they live on. Come back to fight another day."
Friday, 19 October 2012
St. Joseph and the Sea
Fishermen, Faith and Redemption by the Ocean
By Daniel Chiasson
Softcover, 206 pp., $8.99
It's one thing for a person to figure out what they'd like to do for a living. It's another to figure out who they are, and what kind of a person they want to be.
And if they are so fortunate as to develop concrete answers to those Big Questions, there's still the matter of taking action to fulfill those desires. That's no small task.
Friday, 13 April 2012
Living to Fish, Fishing to Live
Life and Trials of Fishing Fever in Alaska
By Dennis Sperl
Ensign Group International, 2011
Softcover, 404 pp., $12.95
Exploring the 'fishing fever' phenomenon
"This book tries to explain the fishing fever phenomenon by examples of how the infection gets into one's blood," writes Dennis Sperl, a Petersburg, Alaska, fisherman in "Living to Fish, Fishing to Live". His book's stories and poems, Sperl writes, offer examples of "a life-long affliction that has no cure."
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National Fisherman Live: 9/9/14
In this episode:
Seafood Watch upgrades status of 21 fish species
Calif. bill attacking seafood mislabeling approved
Ballot item would protect Bristol Bay salmon
NOAA closes cod, yellowtail fishing areas
Pacific panel halves young bluefin harvest
National Fisherman Live: 8/26/14
In this episode, National Fisherman Publisher Jerry Fraser talks about his early days dragging for redfish on the Vandal.
More than a dozen higher education institutions and federal and local fishery management agencies and organizations in American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Hawaii have signed a memorandum of understanding aimed at building the capacity of the U.S. Pacific Island territories to manage their fisheries and fishery-related resources.