SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Fish Traps
By Steve Smeltzer


January 14, 2009

You make an excellent point Rudy. As one who grew up in the era of fish traps, they were efficient, cheap to run, and you only needed two men to watch it. Called trap watchman. There were some interesting times during that era, which have been covered somewhat by Mr. Keiffer.

There were stories of fish pirates, which were true to some extent.

I especially like the idea of the traps being joint owned by the seiners who want to get out of the business, but have too much invested in their boats and gear.

Back in the 1950's diesel was under a dollar a gallon, but today it is outrageous.

I disagree though about fish and game folks running the traps. They should oversee the operation, but let fishermen run the traps.

I grew up at a cannery, and every year I would watch the crews build out the traps, make new leads, and tow them out to the grounds, anchor them up, and start fishing. Yes they were mismanaged, but that was a time of boom for the fishing industry. Before the days of canning, fish were salted and shipped out. Later, with "modern" machinery, which allowed the salmon to be cleaned, and canned easily, the business really took off. Unfortunately man tended to over fish everything. We see that even today.

Alas, statehood came to be and the fish traps also went by the wayside. (No I was not for statehood) It was a great time to grow up in though. With modern shipping methods, unfortunately, the old Alaska Steamship Company, went by the wayside.

I guess it came down to the fact that everyone wanted a piece of the action, but well to do businessmen in Seattle pretty much ran the industry. People who wanted to fish had to have an in to the big canneries, but if not, they had to fend for themselves. There were few seine boats before statehood. Trollers and gill netters did pretty good, if they had some place to sell their product. Mostly cold storage.

I really think this would be a "green" way to go. The tenders could rig themselves up with brailers again. Seiners could be hired to do shuttle work for the traps, provide maintenance, supplies, and relief.

The possibilities are endless.

There are probably a few old timers out there that don't agree with this idea, but I consider them as narrow minded today as they were back in the '50's. Sorry, but that's my opinion.

For those who are too young to remember those days, I suggest you look at back issues of Sitnews. The article on statehood the other day, was very good. But then he always comes up with some good articles. June Allen's article on traps, some time back was also very good.

Steve Smeltzer
Juneau, AK

About: "40 some odd year resident of Ketchikan, now living in Juneau. Grew up at a cannery."

Received January, 2009 - Published January 14, 2009

Related Viewpoint:

letter Fish Traps By Rudy McGillvray

Related articles:

Ketchikan Supported Alaska Statehood, Eventually; Chronicle, Daily News Fought The Battle Locally by DAVE KIFFER- Ketchikan, Alaska - When legislation creating the state of Alaska passed the US Congress on June 30, 1958, several hundred residents of Ketchikan gathered at the corner of Mission and Front Streets for an impromptu celebration. - More...
Saturday - January 03, 2009

FISH PIRATES & FISH TRAPS; Ketchikan's Real Melodrama! By JUNE ALLEN - There's something romantic and exciting about the word "pirate." That high-seas occupation called piracy must go way back, because the word itself is from Latin, and that borrowed from the Greek. The young Caesar was good at piracy, called it war in those days. The history of the new-world Atlantic and Caribbean is one of piracy in the name of the Queen!. whichever sovereign. - More...
August 30, 2002


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