The wild blue yonder

By the time most of you read this, the presidential election will be over. But I type this as I watch the final debate. 

The last several decades have seen devastating constriction of many American fleets but also a slow climb back to strength in some unexpected places. Our fisheries are stronger than they’ve ever been. That’s something to be proud of and do our best to build on, ideally by strengthening access to working waterfronts and visibility in American homes.

I started working for the magazine almost 11 years ago. Ten years ago I was preparing to head to Seattle for my first Pacific Marine Expo. In that time, I have watched this event and the surrounding West Coast and Alaska fishing, seafood and maritime industries flourish.

Nothing screams success like launching a cutting edge vessel for a fishery so healthy it can sustain the fishing power contained in a whole fleet of 100-plus-foot vessels. Enter Blue North Fisheries’ new flagship for the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands longline cod fishery, the 191-foot Blue North and our cover story on page 38. If you haven’t heard about its thoroughly modern moon pool, accommodations and filleting capacity by now, then you must have been cut adrift. The Burns brothers founded Blue North Fisheries and take great pride in their boat built for the future but also in the tradition of using old-fashioned hooks, albeit about 75,000 of them, to fill their holds.

On the other end of the spectrum is a 36-foot bluefin tuna harpoon boat that shoots just one big barb at a time. In the feature on page 28, Capt. Corky Decker finds himself trading his harpoon for rods and reels on a solo trip to Jeffreys Ledge. As wild as Corky can be, he takes safety seriously and shares tips on how to set up your deck, gear and communications for a safe solo fishing trip chasing giants on Georges Bank. 

Whatever you do to prep for a trip, you might consider looking into a custom bag from Homer, Alaska’s Nomar manufacturing and showroom. The company, famous for their durable brailer bags, was founded by Kate Mitchell in Ketchikan 40 years ago and has grown steadily into an Alaska workhorse. Read the full story by freelancer Emilie Springer on page 50.

It’s been said that when a fleet is on the fish, everyone is a rival. But when someone is in need, they pull together and do whatever they can to help. Maryland boatbuilder David Mason has firsthand knowledge that the same is true on land for the folks who build fishing boats. When Mason lost his shop to a devastating fire, the proprietors (and local competitors) of Evans Boat Construction & Repair offered one of their sheds for Mason’s crew to get back to work while they rebuilt their business. Boats & Gear Editor Jean Paul Vellotti’s profile on the Chesapeake Bay Boats loss and revival is on page 46.

Whatever the landscape of Capitol Hill looks like for the next few years, I know that when it counts, the people of the fishing industry will stand together through the tough times, on shore and in heavy seas.

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