“Living off the Pacific Ocean Floor”

Moscovita“In 1965, we found new fishing grounds for Ocean Perch off the Oregon Coast. We were running and I was watching the fathometer. Suddenly I saw a big black spot on the screen. I got pretty excited because I knew that meant fish. Boy, did it ever! In our first tow we got 50,000 pounds of Perch. Before the day was over, we had one hundred and fifty thousand pounds of fish on the boat. They filled hatches and were piled on the deck so the boat was nearly sinking. We ran into Astoria and pulled up to Sebastian Stuart Fish Company. The manager came out and was really upset. He asked why we had not called in told him we were coming. He said he couldn’t possibly sell that much fish. It would have to go for mink food. I hadn’t called because I knew he would tell me not to bring it in. and I figured if I was there, he have to deal with the fish. So he got on the phone and sold it all. We get five cents a pound for it. That the was the biggest catch of fish I ever made in one day.”

I’ve been reading a fascinating little book, “Living off the Pacific Ocean Floor, Memoir and Stores by Captain George Moskovita.”  The book is a collective family effort; they taped his stories, then his daughter, Jo Ann Williams, transcribed them. Jo Ann’s husband compiled the text and arranged the pictures, including copies of newspaper stories from the Daily Astorian, the Chinook Observer, and Pacific Fisherman.

The cover picture shows George standing on a net full of fish; he doesn’t say if it was the 1965 catch of 150,000 pounds. The picture appears to be taken on the ocean, but the water sure looks calm.

I’m excited about this little book for several reasons. It’s a great read on the volatile days of the early fishery. George is everywhere, from fishing tuna off California to crab in Washington, in a variety of boats.  He talks about the early days of trawling, fishing for the mink plant in Astoria in the 1950s.  But I also really like that his family collaborated with him on the project, bringing together their family history (there were four daughters, and great pictures of them, in matching costumes, singing at annual Christmas festivals in Astoria). It’s a project that more fishing families should consider doing, especially now that software makes these sorts of projects much easier.

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