Family portrait

The Susan Gale sets on a record catch of herring in Togiak, Alaska, on May 17, 1988. Anderson family photo.

Alaska’s Anderson clan finds definition and identity in a moment captured on a record-breaking 30-minute herring set

It was 1988, the end of spring and the dawn of summer in Togiak, Alaska, as fishermen were lined up eagerly awaiting the start of her-ring season. With only a half-hour window to set on fish that day, herring seining was one of the shortest and most intense fisheries out there — no place for amateurs. One of the 239 captains wait-ing to pounce was 30-year-old Dean Anderson on his boat the Susan Gale, a 49-foot fiberglass beauty named after my mother.

Within those 30 minutes, my dad would make one of the largest sets in herring history: 660 tons worth $600,000, a job that would take 11 tenders and 48 hours to pump out.There was no Internet, just one camera and a few fishermen to witness the scene. Serene yet so powerful, sentimental, nostalgic — those are the words that come to mind when I gaze at this snap-shot of one of the largest herring sets ever made. Almost 30 years later, we still reflect on this family gem: an immortalization of commercial fishing at its prime and a silhouette representing more than just a boat but a legacy shaped by the captain himself — my dad.

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About the author

Jessica Hathaway

Jessica Hathaway is the editor in chief of National Fisherman. She has been covering the fishing industry for 13 years, serves on the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s Communications Committee and is a National Fisheries Conservation Center board member.

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