AHS Blog

Bless me Father, for I have Seined

Date Posted: December 19, 2015       Categories: Alaska's Historic Canneries       Tags: art, beach seine, purse seine, salmon, seine, seining, troll

compiled by James Mackovjak

Here are some excellent shorts on seining in Alaska (complete with references) from the 1890s through the 1930s.

 1890s: “In 1893, when our company started fishing, we found it very difficult to conduct successful seining operations at Karluk Spit due to large numbers of rocks and boulders in the fishing area which continually snagged the seines. Alaska Packers Association therefore found it necessary to remove these rocks and boulders by dynamite. The work continued over a period of years at enormous expense, with the result that the beaches at this point and adjacent waters were almost entirely cleared of these obstructions. Had the obstructions not been cleared, the purse seiners would have found it extremely difficult to carry on their operations in this area.” (Statement of A.K. Tichenor, Vice President and General Manager, Alaska Packers Association, San Francisco, California, October 9, 1939, reprinted in September 1939 Hearings of Special Subcommittee on Alaskan Fisheries of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, U.S. House of Representatives, p. 247.)

Pt Adolphus sketch

Sketch of fish traps at Pt. Adolphus, in Icy Strait. Note that the seiner’s anchorage and seiner’s tent camp are shown. Seiners back then were so small that the whole crew couldn’t live aboard. (Sketch and text courtesy Jim Mackovjak.)

 1888: “Captain Killeran of the schooner Storey, is reported as saying that he saw [at Karluk in 1888] “drawn with one haul of the seine 31,500 salmon, of an average weight of 9 pounds, aggregating 141 tons of fish.”(Report of the Governor of Alaska for the Fiscal Year 1889, (Washington: GPO, 1889), 19.)

 Karluk, 1898: “The fishing is done entirely with seines from 20 to 25 fathoms in length, 3 fathoms in depth, with a mesh of 3-1/2 inches.” (Seal and Salmon Fisheries and General Resources of Alaska, 1898, p. 274.)

 1923: “seines from 2,500 to 3,000 feet long were towed and dragged around by powerful towboats and hauled in by steam donkeys on the beach, 300 feet from the mouth of the [Karluk] river.” (Statement of Ottar Hofstad, October 11, 1939, reprinted in September 1939 Hearings of Special Subcommittee on Alaskan Fisheries of the Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries, U.S. House of Representatives, p. 262.);size=100;id=mdp.39015023148375;page=root;seq=271;num=262

 Purse seine in Southeast Alaska. “It was done by small purse seine boats. We had no gas boats then, however, gas engines were just coming into operation and use. They had two little open boats with a small engine in them, and they towed around a big flat skiff, and the purse seine was operated by a small hand winch.” (P.J. Watkinson, Kodiak Alaska, 1938 Congressional hearing on Alaska Fisheries, p. 192. See Moser, 1897 for Karluk seining, around p. 151;size=100;id=mdp.39015023148375;page=root;seq=202;num=192

Another Ray Troll classic t-shirt drawing. Troll, who lives in Ketchikan has created a series of fishing related art scenes on t-shirts that can be found in most every Alaskan fishermans’ duffle bag. Famous for such fishy classics as ‘jammin’ salmon’and ‘coho ho, merry fishmas’ you can see his entire collection here.

 “One day a seine fleet might produce very tremendous quantities of fish, enough to swamp or flood the cannery beyond its production facilities. The next day the weather may turn bad, or some other cause may arise, and they may catch nothing.” (W.C. Arnold in Leasing of Salmon Trap Sites, Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce and a Subcommittee of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee on S. 1446 and H.R. 3859, Bills to Authorize the Leasing of Salmon Trap Sites in Alaskan Coastal Waters, and for Other Purposes, 80th Cong. 2d. Sess., January 1948, (Washington: GPO, 1948), 86.)