Category Archives: Fishtory

Commercial Fishing Video Of The Day | Florida Crabbin 1970’s

There is no denying the strong southern influence in this throwback to commercial crabbing in the 1970’s.

Via Youtube:  This film shows the many types of commercially harvested seafood in Florida. Scenes include: commercial fishermen; oystermen; crabbing; shrimping; and seine net fishing for mullet. Additional scenes include a folk singing couple at the 6th Annual Apalachicola Seafood Festival. Produced by: Barton Films; U.S. Dept. of Commerce; NOAA; Florida Department of Natural Resources; and National Marine Fisheries.

Check out the 28:00 version here.

Find more Fishtory Related videos at our new site

Commercial Fishing Photo Of The Day |Net Mending Artifacts

Astoria’s Maritime Museum is a treasure trove of fishermen history. I have a whole series of photos from my recent adventure along the Oregon coast.

Fishtory | The Days Of Salmon Traps And Fish Pirates

In the late 1800s, salmon traps dominated the landscape of commercial fishing in Alaska. For nearly 70 years, the salmon traps efficiently harvested massive volumes and controversy eventually ended the practice when Alaska gained statehood. The traps were primarily ran by large processors in the lower 48, which angered Alaskan locals and spawned the days of “Fish Pirates,” who would steal from these traps in a Robin Hood style liberation of resources. With the advent of statehood, fish traps were retired and and the limited entry permit system that we all know today was put into place. A few relics of fish traps exist today in Excursion inlet and many fishermen still frequent the locations of the old salmon traps, but those days have passed. However, Metlakata recently implemented a modern fish trap that might be an example of the future of fish traps. Is it possible that fish traps could return to Alaska waters? Only time will tell. Enjoy the video below to get a perspective of what it was like when fish traps were everywhere. Also, there are links below to explore the history on your own.

Summer Salmon 2013 | The Summer Of Nevers

There are rare moments in a person’s life when they realize that they are actually living part of history. This summer in Alaska broke every preconceived notion about commercial salmon fishing. Was it the weather? Was the sheer volume of fish? Actually, it was a combination of a few inconsequential factors that made the summer what it was. The Summer Of Nevers!

Over 267 million salmon were rallied into fishermen’s hands this season, making it the single largest run in history. Southeast Alaska broke numerous two day harvest records, topping out at over 9 million pounds. Prince William Sound also pounded away at the pink salmon. The sheer volume of fish prompted many canneries and processors to institute limits of the amount of salmon each boat can catch. Rumors hint at limits of only 30,000 pounds for some of the Prince William Sound seiners. In southeast Alaska the limits affected nearly every cannery, with the exception of Ocean Beauty. Even the highly touted Silver Bay Seafoods, which is a recent fish buyer founded by fishermen, wasn’t able to keep up with the volume. Canneries were plugged for days and were challenged to find the workers to keep up with the pace. Icicle Seafoods in Petersburg had a mass walkout of nearly 60 cannery workers who felt the long hours were just too much to handle. Also, Alaska General Seafoods, which is based out of Ketchikan with some Canadian roots in Prince Rupert, couldn’t keep all of their canning lines running due to lack of canadian labor force. The overwhelming volume of pink salmon surprised everyone this season, including the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The run was upgraded twice over the season, once ADFG realized the full potential of the “humpynami.”

The sun just never stopped shining! Southeast Alaska experienced the single best summer for weather in ages. Temperatures soared throughout the region for a record-breaking numbers of days. The lack of rain caused a few problems with fish dying in dried up streams before spawning. In fact, Petersburg’s Blind Slough Hatchery experienced a huge die off of Chinnook salmon, as the heat and low oxygen content of the water was just too much for the fish to survive. The state’s all time record high was set in Talkeetna this summer at a whopping 96 degrees. Cordova also broke their all time heat record in July at 90 degrees. The swooping jet stream is to blame for the abnormal summer and the pattern leaves many meteorologists scratching their heads in amazement. This trend doesn’t bode well for southeast alaskan salmon, which thrive off of the moisture that the temperature rainforest provides. Only time will tell the full impact of this summer’s crazy weather.

On a more personal note, I would like to extend my gratitude to the captain and crew of the mighty F/V Quandary. After sixteen consecutive years of seining, I thought I had seen it all. This summer astonished me in so many ways that I can barely describe my joy. Thank you, Captain Tom, Taylor, Steve, and Kris! It will never be the same. I think this song will sum it up best! Enjoy. Also, stay tuned for daily updates and videos from the past season. I have an incredible tribute video coming up for my late friend Jay Fisher. Also, I have huge plans for the ComFishFilmFest this year.

Fishtory | When Crab Was King

The history of King Crab fishing in Alaska is an incredible story that spans only a couple of generations.  The Japanese  were the first to harvest King crab with tangle nets in tiny schooners.  A few small US King crab trawl operations harvested crab throughout the 40’s and 50’s with mediocre  success.  In 1959, Alaska took control on the fishery and a plant was opened in Adak the following year.  Lowell Wakefield is credited with being the father of the red king crab industry.   His ingenuity and perseverance embodies the spirit of commercial fishing.  These early efforts paved the way for the boom in king crab production.   By 1966, peak production of 135 million pounds  of king crab were harvested, with a value of 31,665,000 dollars.  There were roughly 300 U.S. vessels that year, with 1,200 crew members.

Photo Dec 31, 12 34 03 AM


King crab production suffered many dramatic decreases in the following years.  Many fisheries were closed and numerous management plans were put in place to combat the decline.  On the brighter side, the value of King crab continued to rise, as demand for the quality product increased prices.  In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the King crab harvest bounced back with huge hauls and booming prices.  This was the second coming of the king crab fishery.  Crew shares soared and boats were bought and sold with ease.  Sadly, the good times rarely last.  By 1983, king crab suffered its largest declines from which the fishery has never recovered.   Crab Rationalization was instituted in 2005, which allows for more safety and timely delivery of product.  Gone are the days of the grueling “derby” fishing and record crew shares.   These days, the fishery is at its height of popularity, due to the hit reality show on Discovery Channel.  The Deadliest Catch has brought the crab fishery to the living rooms of the world, but few know the rich history that surrounds this industry.  Explore this timeline and video  to get a better impression of “When Crab Was King.”


Fishtory | The Saga Of Alaskan Salmon

Pacific salmon play a vital part of our worlds ecology. Over 22 different species feed off the bounty of the salmon‘s epic yearly migration. For millions of years, the salmon ruled the pacific ocean and populations flourished thought out the Pacific Rim. Native cultures revered these massive returns as gifts and celebrated each season’s salmon return with art and ceremony. In 1779, Captain James Cook discovered the Columbia River and its salmon bounty while searching for the inside passage. Once the Europeans hit the west coast, large-scale salmon exporting by the Hudson Bay Fishery ramped up. In 1876, the first salmon cannery opened in Astoria and there were 70 more along the coast by the turn of the century.

Salmon production vigorously continued along the coast well in the next century. By the mid 1900’s, it was obvious that the salmon stocks were in serious decline. Mismanagement by the federal government was blamed for most of the problems, then in 1959 Alaska became a state and took control of the fisheries. New management techniques included escapement, which ensured that sufficient numbers of salmon escape capture to ensure the health of future spawning generations. Even with new measures in effect, salmon stocks declined to record lows in 1972. The Limited Entry Act passed in 1973 to regulate the overall number of permits. This system has proved successful in rebuilding the salmon runs to today’s epic standards.

The history of salmon is full of flaws and mistakes, yet the saga of salmon defines the west coast. This majestic fish still dominates Pacific waters and provides the world with one of nature’s greatest proteins. Salmon have survived through all the hardships man has delivered over the years and remains one of natures greatest events. Next time salmon is on your dinner plate, think of the history of a truly amazing fish.


Grunnlovsdagen | The Vikings Are Lose | Petersburg’s Little Norway Fest 2012

Every year in May, the little fishing village of Petersburg, Alaska celebrates the local Norwegian heritage. The town is transformed for a four day festival that embraces the inner viking in all of us. Check out the local webcam and you might see a few vikings roaming the streets.  Click thru on the KFSK link to hear local audio.  Enjoy the youtube pick from last season’s festival.  Ha en fin søttende mai!


Main Street will be lined with concessions and food booths. Vikings and Valkyries will parade through the streets with their ship, the Valhalla and their Viking mobile. Other residents will show off their traditional Norwegian costumes called Bunader. All this and more is coming up as the 54th annual Little Norway Festival goes into high gear on its second day – Friday, the 18th. Matt Lichtenstein asked Festival committee co-chairs Holli Flint and Katie Eddy for a preview of Friday’s schedule.

via Little Norway Festival in swing | KFSK.

Fishtory | Southeast Alaska and Herring

The history of herring in the southeast reaches back nearly 4000 years to the subsistence uses of the of the local Tinglit and Haida who harvested the herring roe on the branches of Hemlock trees. This tradition still exists as a huge part of the spring ritual in Sitka each year. The commercial fishing history and uses of herring date back to the late 1800s, when herring was typically reduced into oils to be used in soaps and fish meal for agricultural needs. Herring was also salt cured for the various food demands. By 1905, almost 50 different canneries were operating in Southeast Alaska and the advent of halibut fishing put even heavier demands on herring stocks for use as bait. With all of the numerous uses for herring, production peaked around the late 1930s. However, the intensive harvesting devastated the herring stocks and by 1942 all herring fishing had stopped in southeast to hope for rebuilding stocks. In 1966, the last oil reduction plant closed down in southeast alaska. Many of the largest herring biomasses have been devastated by poor practices in the past. However, the Sitka biomass is at its largest ever. The only way to ensure a better future is to understand the past. It’s no doubt that our fishery practices were flawed in the past. The only real question is. Will we repeat these mistakes in the future?

Herring have supported some of Alaska’s oldest commercial fisheries, and subsistence fisheries for herring in Alaska predate recorded history. The spring harvest of herring eggs on kelp or hemlock boughs has always been an important subsistence resource in coastal communities throughout Alaska. Traditional dried herring remains a major staple of the diet in Bering Sea villages near Nelson Island (Pete 1990) where salmon are not readily available.

Alaska’s commercial herring industry began in 1878 when 30,000 pounds were caught and prepared for human consumption. The early European settlers in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska caught herring and preserved them with salt in wooden barrels, as they had done with herring from the North Sea. Salted and pickled herring production for food peaked after World War I, when about 28 million lb (12,700 mt) were harvested annually (figure of historical herring sac roe harvests).

Reduction fisheries which “reduce” herring to meal and oil began initially in Southeast Alaska, where a plant at Killisnoo in Chatham Strait was producing 30,000 gallons of herring oil annually by 1882. During the 1920s herring became increasingly valued for oil and meal. Herring reduction plants sprang up along the Gulf of Alaska from Craig to Kodiak near locations where concentrations of herring could be found. Harvests during the 1920s and 1930s, as high as 250 million lb (113,400 mt) per year, were probably too high and may have caused the stocks and fisheries to decline. During the 1950s, lower-cost Peruvian anchoveta reduction fisheries severely impacted the oil and meal markets. Alaskan herring reduction fisheries quickly declined, and the last Alaska herring reduction plant closed in 1966.

via Commercial Herring Fisheries, Alaska Department of Fish and Game.