In our December issue, we salute our 2013 Highliner Award winners, Robert Heyano of Dillingham, Alaska; Robert Hezel of Clinton, Wash.; and Jerry McCune of Cordova, Alaska.
Heyano has been a leader in the Pebble Mine battle to preserve Bristol Bay's bountiful salmon grounds. Hezel, a captain aboard the factory trawler U.S. Intrepid, has made his mark as a top-notch skipper and distinguished himself with his efforts to reduce bycatch and trawl impacts on the seafloor and to support the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial. McCune is a Prince William Sound salmon gillnetter who serves as president of both Cordova District Fishermen United and United Fishermen of Alaska, and has long been active in fish politics.
I got to write McCune's profile, and thought I'd share some more things I learned about him.
For example, there's Family Man Jerry, who lives in Cordova with his wife, Georgia. He has three sons — Gerald, 38, a gillnetter, and Casey, 34, both of Cordova, and John, 33, who lives in Oregon — and two daughters, Mary, 26, who lives in Spokane, Wash., with her husband, Chad, and Georgia's daughter, Jamie Fariss, 34, a commercial fisherman, who also owns her own business and lives in Mammoth Lakes, Calif.
Granddaughters, Evyn, 14, who lives in Brookings, Ore., and Jordon, 14, who lives in Wasilla, Alaska, have both fished with McCune.
"All the kids fished with me when they were young, when I used to seine," McCune says.
Fisherman Jerry knows about starting young. He began fishing at age 9, and by the time he was 15 in 1963, he got his first gillnetter, an 18-foot skiff.
After graduating from Cordova High School in 1966, he got a $2,500 loan from a local cannery that he used to purchase a gillnet plus a 26-foot Charlie Moore skiff with a cabin. Those early boats fed his passion for fishing.
He has a passion for his work in fish politics, too. That's Advocate Jerry.
Julianne Curry, executive director of the United Fishermen of Alaska, says McCune takes the industry and his work seriously, but is also lighthearted and has a kind heart. And maybe a sense of style, too. Meet Tie Guy Jerry.
"He has a favorite tie," Curry explains. "He told me that when he first started working as a lobbyist, 22, 23 years ago, after the first year, he finally bought himself a big-boy tie. It cost about $75, which would probably cost $200 today."
He wears the tie, which she describes as a "blueish-greenish thing with an elegant pattern," when he's got a really big day going on.
But Curry appreciates Highliner Jerry for far more than just his sartorial splendor.
"If you wanted to sum up Jerry in one sentence, every fishing association needs a Jerry McCune. One guy who cares really deeply, wants the industry to survive, who understands that it's a great job, that there's an incredible story to tell, and recognizes the need to retain public access," Curry says. "He's proud of the product he harvests, and the industry. There's not that many of us out there. Everybody needs a Jerry."