In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers
Fisherman on a boat spearing salmon
Fisherman on boat spearing salmon. Namu. Circa 1960.
City of Richmond Archives 1985 4 274
A Fisherman holding a large salmon Fisherman on a boat spearing salmon

In Their Words:

“In the old days, we didn’t have any barometer, nothing, we sensed the weather. A fisherman had a fisherman’s sense. But you had to like the work to do it. After all, there’s only cedar planking between you and hell.”
Unosuke Sakamoto in Steveston Recollected.

“You have to be a self-starter, independent, an innovator, a hard worker and mentally tough.”
Vince Fiamengo, Reubina from The Westcoast Fisherman (August 1996).

"As the season progressed we followed the salmon up the river. Then it became real work as we fished in strong shallow tidal waters infested with rocks, sandbars, snags and sunken logs. Bucking the tide with nine foot oars was always a must to reach some vantage point for a single 'set'. I can yet hear that Japanese coax me on by yelling, 'Come on White Boy, you strong, pull hard, pull some more, you berry strong boy.' I was thirteen years old, and this was my first year as a full-fledged fisherman."
Walter Wicks in Memories of the Skeena.

“A sense of humour is the most important part of being a fisherman, but sometimes you have to be tough as well... to stand up for who you are and what you believe in. the other important quality you must possess is being cheerful. Long hours, lack of sleep and hard work do not usually make for a happy crew.”
Kariann Kiehl, Deep Sea, Pacific Ray and Ocean Roamer in Saltwater Women at Work.

“People are different when you live in close quarters. You get seasick. You’re not feeling well. You’re tired. You have to work hard. You get to know the real person real quick.”
Raema Rafuse, Ocean Joye in Saltwater Women at Work.

"B.C. Packers, they don't like to lose me. I was teasing these two foremen building the new cannery at Oceanside. 'I guess you don't need highliners any more,' I said. 'There's lots of places I can sell fish on the water now.' 'No, no,' they say, 'We'll build you a [canning] line of your own in the new cannery.'
Gillnetter, Maurice Nyce in Skeena: A River Remembered.

"We had five men on the boat in those days and we fished all over the place... Hard work. We had to pull by hand. Just the purse line, that's the only one we pulled on the winch. I worked too. Skipper can't just stand there and watch. When you have a good crew, it's lots of fun though. Everything works."
Seiner, Herbert Ridley in Skeena: A River Remembered.

“I had no idea what I was getting into...I had envisioned a fishing rod off the back of a boat for a couple of hours out of each day. The reality was 20 hours a day for 12 days straight. When people complain about their 9 to 5 jobs, I just have to laugh.”
Kariann Kiehl, Deep Sea, Pacific Ray and Ocean Roamer in Saltwater Women at Work.

“There’s nothing easy about halibut. It’s all hard work... I never said I’d never go halibut fishing again, but I’ve said lots of times I wished I was never going halibut fishing again.”
John Newton, Dovre B in Working the Tides.

"I know it sounds stupid, but I hadn't really pictured how much fish bleed. I didn't realize they were regular animals like pigs. That was pretty horrifying."
Fisherman, Carol Sowerby

"Seasickness is dreadful... when people ask, 'do you remember when you landed your first fish?' I tell them, 'No.' What I remember was trying not to throw up on it."
Lynn Prestash, Relief and Flika in Saltwater Women at Work.

"In those days there were lots more fish and when they were using heavy nets, linen nets, they could fish five days a week steady all season. But these days, lots of boats and fancy gear and fine nets, we're cut down - two days a week - to let all the fish go up [to spawn]."
Fisherman, Hideo Kokubo in Steveston Recollected

“I think the greatest changes I’ve seen in the industry are hydraulics, nylon and electronics. They’ve had a great impact on the fishing. We don’t do the volume of fish we used to because now we’re interested in the quality. It’s amazing how much fish we used to catch, and how few people were employed. How little revenue was derived from it. There is much more employment now with much less harvesting.”
John Brajcich from The Westcoast Fisherman (December 1990).

“Fishing was really exciting then because it was you and the fish. It was just before radar was starting to come in so when we found some fish we could hide from the rest of the fleet. In those days you could do something. Now Fisheries herds you into an area like a bunch of sheep and you try to do the best you can under the circumstances. But that’s the way fishing has evolved. It used to be lot’s of fun. We’d go wherever the boat could go.”
John Brajcich, Nordic Queen from The Westcoast Fisherman (December 1990).

“For this racket, you’ve got to have lots of patience. This is where I can make it and the big boats can’t. They need good production to meet their costs. I can keep scratching and make a go of it. A few more passes, another dozen coho and a couple of smileys, and that will be something anyway.”
Gubby Gudbransen, Seabird IV in Working the Tides.

“If concern about finances is going to make you stay awake at night and ruin your enjoyment of fishing, then maybe owning your own fishboat is not the right thing for you. Fishing is first and foremost a business.”
Kit Fowler, Debbie, Dora Mae II and Sundance II in Saltwater Women at Work.


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