Dave fishing in Alaska

 

I was raised, until my mid teens, in Alaska. Moving back and forth between the Aleutians and Kodiak, we lived a very subsistence lifestyle. I started hunting with my father when I was 7. By the time I was 9, I was hunting on my own as well. I had a skiff and outboard of my own by the time I was ten, and purchased my first commercial fishing boat at 13. Although I have lived in Astoria, Oregon off and on for many years, Kodiak, Alaska has always felt like hometown to me.

I was logging, falling timber in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado with my father when I was 16 years old. But, I was a fisherman, and although I loved the Rockies, I couldn’t stay away from the ocean. I gillnetted on the Columbia River and also purse seined for the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries. By the time I was in my early 20s I was back in the Aleutians, King crabbing out of Dutch harbor and Unalaska.

In 1971 a King Crab boat I was running caught fire and burned, forcing my crew and me to abandon ship. We spent 4 nights adrift in the Bering Sea. It was before the days of survival suits. High wind and waves, driving snow and numbing cold, made our survival a miracle. But early the forth morning the life raft was run down by a Japanese trawler. Although they hadn’t seen us, someone aboard heard us yelling and we were rescued.

I spent a month in the hospital and two years recovering from frostbitten feet. During that time I took up scuba diving commercially to keep my family fed. Couldn’t walk very well but I could swim all right. We also ate a LOT of venison. I helped pioneer the Prince William Sound Herring Roe Dive fishery during that time also.

Once I was able to walk and be on my feet again, I bought a salmon troller to fish off the Oregon/Washington coasts. I’d noticed there were lots of family operations in this fishery and I liked that idea a lot. We fished salmon and Albacore tuna as the seasons offered. The winter my son was 7, I took him out of school for several months to be on the boat with me.

In 1980, after going through a divorce, Pat and I and my son Skeeter, moved back to Kodiak Island, living and fishing in Uyak Bay near the village of Larsen Bay. Pat and I were married November 25, 1981 in Kodiak, 10 years to the day, after I was rescued from the life raft in the Bering Sea. On June 28, 1985, my father and son drowned in Uyak Bay, Kodiak, Alaska, in a skiff accident. It was my son’s 14th birthday.

Although I currently live in Astoria, Oregon, I fish summers out of Larsen Bay. My wife Pat no longer fishes with me; she claims to be “retired.” She raises Arabian horses and has a custom haying business. I tried it, got ‘tired’ and had to get back to fishing.

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