National Fisherman

Mixed Catch 

jerryJerry Fraser is NF's publisher and former editor.





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."

Sperl, 68, who fishes for salmon, halibut and shrimp on his wooden 58-footer, the Saga, caught the fishing fever as a youngster. On the book's back cover, Larry Lindstrom tells a story that illustrates how the fever still grips Sperl, whom we profile in the upcoming June issue of NF.

Lindstrom writes that once in the middle of a shrimp trawl, he asked Sperl if the excitement and anticipation of pulling in a net full of shrimp or hauling in a line full of salmon or halibut ever lessens with time.

"As we awaited the beam trawl to break the surface," Lindstrom writes, "he said, 'It might, but I have only been doing this for 50 years, so I'm not sure.' (His huge smile and pumping fist when he saw a good haul of shrimp in the net, proved that 50 years of experiences did not dampen his enthusiasm.)"

I'm betting all commercial fishermen can relate. Ultimately, Sperl's stories and poems illustrate the concept of loving what you do. You become so completely absorbed in what you're doing, hours pass and you hardly notice. And like Dennis Sperl, commercial fishermen are truly, fully, madly, deeply in love with their craft.

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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