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.