Bedtime Reading on Fishing


From Fishfolk, with special thanks to Chris Finlayson for compiling





Asia Rip 

George Foy

A murder mystery set in the commercial fishery of southern New England.


Blue Fin

Colin Thiele 1969

Adolescents in South Australia in the days of pole and lining bluefin for the cannery.


Calm at Sunset, Calm at Dawn, a Novel

Paul Watkins 1996

Scallop trawler.


Captains Courageous

Rudyard Kipling.

A classic novel of the Grand Banks cod fishery in the days of wooden ships and iron men.


Coastliners; a novel            

            Joanne Harris 2002

Set in coastal France, it's a saga about an island
community suffering from erosion (and fisheries decline, etc.),
painfully coming together to deal with its problems--- including
building a tire reef


Far Tortuga

Peter Matthiessen 1975

Turtles rather than fin fish but it captures season, weather, sea conditions, boats and seafarers in a way few manage.


Fishboy: A Ghost's Story

Mark Richard 1993
Fiction written after 3 years crewing on trawler out of
Virginia Beach.
Maybe not so much about fishing as what it does to the mind.


Fishermen's Son (The)

Michael Koepf 1998

Koepf worked for 19 years as a fisherman.


Gaff Topsails

Patrick Kavanagh

Ann Shriver: [This] is the best novel of any sort I have read in a long time. It's about a Newfoundland outport, starting with the geological formation of the island through a series of vignettes from colonization and into the 20th century. It's beautiful and sweeping, and a little Faulkneresque. A great read.


Hunter and the Whale (The)

            Laurens Van der Post

A young Boer hunter ships out with a multi-cultural crew on a whaling vessel from South Africa in pursuit of sperm and blue whales in the southern Indian Ocean.


Manik Bandopadhyaya, Padma River Boatman

Barbara Painter and Yam Lovelock  (original 1948, translation 1973)
The boatmen, fishermen etc of a river community in Bangladesh.


Old Man and the Sea (The)

           Ernest Hemingway



Greg Billington 2003

Greg was an inshore fisherman then worked for the New Zealand Fishing Industry Board.


Polar Star

            Martin Cruz Smith

A murder mystery set on a Soviet factory trawler working a joint venture with US catcher vessels in the Bering Sea.


Royce, Royce, the People's Choice; the story of a young man and the sea

Peter Hawes 2002

The author grew up in Westport (the setting)
on the West Coat of the South Island (NZ). Its an account of the first
(alleged) bluefin caught by a New Zealander and tracks its shipment to
Tsukiji Market Tokyo.


Silver Darlings (The)

Neil M. Gunn 1941

"herring fishers of the wild Scottish coast".



John Casey


Stern Men

It's about life on two Maine islands and the lobstermen who live (and fight!) there. Not flattering, but so realistic that the author must have lived the life.


Three Fevers

Leo Walmsley 1932

The story of North-East coast (UK) inshore fishermen.



B.S. Johnson 1968

"a stranger on a fishing trawler burrows through the corridors of
his mind, recreating the past, trying to discover the reason for eternal





Against the Tide, the Fate of the New England Fishermen
            Richard Adams Carey


Alaska Blues

A beautifully written memoir of a Seattle couple's annual trip
SE Alaska in their gill-netter. They fished the late summer and fall
salmon runs in the Lynne Canal. Don't let the benign name fool you - the
Canal can be one of the nastiest bits of water in Alaska.


An Iceland Fisherman

Pierre Loti (1886)


Beautiful Swimmers

            William W. Warner

            Ecology and commerce of the blue crab fishery in the Chesapeake Bay


Book of the Cranberry Islands

Richard Grossinger 1974.

(and subsequent volumes). The journal of
an observer of lobster fishermen.


The Bottom of the Harbor

            Joseph Mitchell 1959

            This is an anthology of essays Mitchell originally published in the

            New Yorker in the 40s and 50s.  Most have to do with the NYC

            waterfront-- the Fulton Fish Market, oyster fishermen in Staten

            Island-- and some go a little further afield: dragger fishermen for

            flounder in Stonington, CT, and shad fishermen on the Hudson River.


Buried Dreams: The Rise and Fall of a Clam Cannery on the Katmai Coast

            Katherine Johnson

free from the Lake Clark/Katmai National Park and Preserve, 4230 University Drive, Suite 311, Anchorage, Alaska 99508



Randy Wayne White

Regarding the commercial net ban controversy in the state of Florida.


Cod: A Biography of a Fish that Changed the World

            Mark Kurlansky


Crisis in the World's Fisheries

            J.Russ McGoodwin 1990.

A critical overview of world's fisheries, their management problems, the science employed, fishing people and their cultures (Icelandic captain: "if you want to fish cod, you must think like cod"). Simply a classic; well-written, easy to read, and a great eye-opener.


Distant Water: The Fate of the North Atlantic Fishermen

            William W. Warner

            The story of the last years of the factory trawler fleets in the North Atlantic        prior to the extension of the EEZ to 200 miles.


The Driftermen

            David Butcher

Describes the bygone herring driftnet fishery of East Anglia, Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth


Entanglements: The Intertwined Fates of Whales and Fishermen

Tora Johnson, ISBN: 0-8130-2797-7, Publisher: University Press of Florida

Centuries of whale-human interaction have led to the crisis explored in this book about the battle between conservation, tradition, and economics in the waters of North America's eastern seaboard. Entanglements explores the clash of cultures and personalities among fishermen, scientists, and whale advocates struggling to save both the endangered North Atlantic right whale and the livelihoods of thousands of Atlantic coastal families. Visit for more information and to see reviews of the book.


First of the Flood

            Fred Normandale


Fishermen of Fiordland

            Paul Powell 1976.

            Lobster fishing in the sounds in the southwest corner of NZ's South Island.


Fishermen: The Sociology of an Extreme Occupation (The)

            Jeremy Tunstall 1962

            The book deals with the distant water trawl fishery from

            Hull and has a detailed description of community life of the fishermen's

wives and families.


 Fishing for a Living
            Alan Haig-Brown

"Fishing for a Living" is a somewhat odd assembly of essays, true
stories, interviews, anecdotes, short family sagas, and technical
description of boats. However, it makes a lot of sense, and after reading it
one feels strangely at home with the BC fishing community and the associated industries.


Fishing for Truth: A Sociological Analysis of Northern Cod Stock Assessments      from 1977 to 1990

            Alan Christopher Finlayson 1994


Fishing With John

Edith Iglauer


Follow the Whale

            Ivan T. Sanderson (1956)

            The history of whaling from prehistoric times to 1950.


Going Fishing

Wesley George Pierce


Great Lobster Chase: The Real Story of Maine Lobsters and the Men Who Catch Them (The)

            Mike Brown


Hedin Bru. The Old Man and his Sons.

Paul S. Eriksson. 1970.
"The skillfully told story of a handful of people, living their sea-washed,
daring and difficult lives on these remote islands, vibrates with a spirit,
almost at times a savagery, that recalls the ancient Norsemen and Viking
sagas. Yet this is the story of modern times...A pearl of glistening

Hungry Ocean, The

Linda Greenlaw


Hunters, Seamen and Entrepreneurs: The Tuna Seinermen of San Diego

            Michael K. Orbach 1977


In the Slick of the Cricket

            Russell Drumm 1998


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

            Nathaniel Philbrick 2001 (Penguin Reissue Edition)


Islandman (The)

Tomas O Crohan (Thomas O Criomthain)

An astonishing book on life in the Blasket Islands, Ireland

It’s All Politics: South Alabama's Seafood Industry

E. Paul Durrenberger 1992


Kon Tiki

            Thor Heyerdahl


Lament for an Ocean

Michael Harris


Last Cod Fish: Life and Death of the Newfoundland Way of Life, The

            Pol Chantraine


Le Crabe tambour

Pierre Schoendorfer 1976

Gives a picture of fish inspection off St Pierre & Miquelon.


Lobster Chronicles (The)

Linda Greenlaw


Log from the “Sea of Cortez”

            John Steinbeck


Lost at Sea, An American Tragedy

Patrick Dillion

I was very interested by the technical aspects of the modifications of the
vessels and the stability issues which arise.


Lovely she Goes - a Story of Arctic Trawling

Michael Joseph1969 

It's a raw description by journalist William Mitford of life aboard  the 'Arctic Fox', fishing for cod in the '60's out of  Grimsby, UK.


Men's Lives - The Surfmen and Baymen of the South Fork

            Peter Matthiessen 1985


On Whales and Men

            R.B. Robertson 1956 & 1961.

A most vivid and exciting story written by a ship's doctor on

board a whale mothership, about his 8-month long encounter with extraordinary people and the whales they were hunting. High seas fishermen (and their wives) would find in this book many features familiar to them.


  Oyster: from Montparnasse to Greenwell Point

            Nicolette Strasko  2000

            Oyster cultivation in Australia, biology, history, mythology, etc.


Pacific Troller: Life on the Northwest Fishing Grounds, Alaska Northwest

            Francis E. Caldwell 1982


Pecheurs d'Islande

            Pierre Loti


The Perfect Storm

            Sebastian Junger


Port O'Call: Memories of the Portuguese White Fleet in St. John's,Newfoundland

Priscilla Doel.


Power Begins at the Codend, Social and Economic Studies, No.261980.

             David MacDonald


The Raft Fishermen (in Brazil approximate title)

            Shepard Forman.

            An anthropologist's account of his life and study in a northern

Brazilian fishing village and of what makes jangada fishermen and their

families tick. A social scientist's follow up, sort of, to Gorge Amado's "The Sea of Death".


Sea Around Us (The)

            Rachel Carson


Sea Fishing for Pleasure and Profit

R.C. O' Farrell

A description of coastal fishery in Wales.


Sea of Slaughter

           Farley Mowat


A Sea of Small Boats, Cultural Survival Report 26

            John Cordell (Ed) 1989 Artesinal fisheries


Social England Illustrated: A Collection of XVIIth Century Tracts

           Andrew Lang

Contains an argument for the building of commercial fishing boats entitled. "England's Way to Win Wealth, and to employ Ships and Mariners"; by Tobias Gentleman, Fifherman [sic] and Mariner. He costs the operation right down to the non-Furuno penant to tell which way the wind is blowing. He also gives good descriptions of the fishing technologies and of the English fishing ports at that time.


Terranova: The Ethos and Luck of Deep-Sea Fishermen

            Joseba Zulaika 1981


Texas Shrimpers: Community, Capitalism and the Sea

            Robert Lee Maril 1983


Trawler: a journey through the North Atlantic

Redmond O'Hanlon.
An English naturalist, traveller and writer (the author) going off
for a trip with an Orkney deep-sea trawler in some v. bad weather.



Vanishing species- saving the fish, sacrificing the fishermen

            Susan Playfair


Wake of the Great Sealers

            Farley Mowat

            The harrowing story of the seal hunt on the spring ice off Labrador and

Newfoundland during its heyday in the early 1900s.  Dramatically illustrated by David Blackwood.


Words of the Lagoon: Fishing and Marine Lore in the Palau District of Micronesia

            R.E. Johannes


World Fisheries - what is to be done?

            Fridman, A. 1998

            A book, which apart from his views on the management of world

fisheries, contains an array of amazing stories and recollections from his

work in the fishing fleet and research centres of the Soviet Union,

and in particular of the various people he met and worked with during his

long career all over the world. The book is an easy-to-read mix of

fishery science, fisheries management, and more than those, of reflections

on people, problems, and what not. Richly illustrated, it enables

the readers to fit photographed faces to many of the people Fridman

wrote about, from Hemingway to Puretic, and from a Chinese sage from the 5th century BC, Fan-Li, to the Norse god Loki, who turned himself.





Arthur C. Clarke, The Deep Range and The Ghost From The Grand Banks

            (Suggested by Kara)


James Connelly in the first decades of the 20th century....

William MacFarland...


Peter Matthiessen, Edgar Watson novel trilogy (Killing Mister Watson, Lost Man's

River, and Bone by Bone)

These are not about fishing or fishermen, but do feature some fisher folk and are set in the Ten Thousand Islands area of southwest Florida (a series of mangrove islands just west of what's now Everglades Nat'l Park). The books give a good feel for what life was like for the white settlers (or invaders if you prefer) of that region during the early twentieth century, many of whom were fishermen and gator- and bird-hunters...





Four Men on a Raft

in Orson Welles "Its all True" a series of 4 documentary films he made in South America about 1942. Four Men on a Raft was stunning! B&W. Artesinal fishermen off the coast of northern Brazil use balsa rafts made of 4 or 5 logs with a large sail to go fishing. Larger scale fishers were moving in and taking over the livelihoods of one fishing village. They decided to sail a raft to Santiago the capital some 1,600 miles down the coast. It took them 61 days and they arrived a month or so before Wells arrived in the same city. They were heroes. He was impressed. He'd arrived to make another film but when funding was cut he went to the village to film the story of that expedition with limited funds, limited gear and very small crew. What he produced was thrilling - classic!


In Fading Light, 1989. Running time: 103 mins, Colour, Optical, Available

in: 16 mm VHS Tape.

Silver Medal, New York (90)

Silver Anchor, Toulon (91)


It includes the poem:

"In fading light they homeward came windy dispossessed and ravaged and all the lovely ocean sighed in grief for darkness drove the world but some calamity drove the men".


Tuna Cowboys

Nick Pluker has one of the most dangerous jobs in the world; he is a wild sea-going cowboy who each year heads out into the perilous Southern Ocean to round up his herd - Southern bluefin tuna. The challenge is to muster the fish, defend the lucrative catch from sharks - eager for a taste of the valuable stock - and return safely to the tuna farm on the coast with every single fish alive and unscathed.


For the first time ever the drama of one of these treacherous musters is captured on camera. Tuna Cowboys ventures 250 miles out to sea to witness the action-packed muster and the fearless wrangles as the cowboys take on the sharks while slowly making their way home.


1 x 1hr (Commission for National Geographic US and National Geographic International)


It still seems to be shown from time to time, so if people keep an eye on NG programming they can catch it.