First Time Halibut Fishing, 1969 by Captain Art

Posted by Sena Wheeler on

Grandpa Lars on the Cape Flattery

Grandpa Lars on the Cape Flattery

 

Every now and then, if I twist his arm hard enough, my Dad will write out some of his fishing experiences.

I asked him to write about his very first halibut trip, and I got a story I've never heard before:

 

"We left Seattle mid April, 1969. The season opened approximately May 1st.  I wish I could say it was fun, exciting and profitable but it wasn’t.  

I can say it was physically and mentally exhausting, lonely and dangerous. I did learn what the lowest form of life on earth is: It’s the skipper’s daughter’s boyfriend.

We had very few fish, a very long trip and a storm where we lost our engine power and had to be towed to Cordova. From there, we ended up running all the way back to Seattle to off-load our fish and repair our ancient Atlas Imperial direct-drive engine. We hailed for 40,000 lbs, but a lot of it was rejected as bad fish. The price was about 35 cents a pound. When all was said and done, I made enough money to buy a very small box of Craftsman tools from Sears.

Chris was the deck boss. He chewed snoose, no biggie, but when he was screaming in my face, daily, about my lack of skills coiling, baiting, dressing fish, etc, the tobacco juice usually ended up in my face. It got old fast.

The first week of fishing I got so sea sick I couldn’t eat for three days. At all. The work never stopped but it gets harder and harder when food is only coming out and not in. When the weather settled down and I could eat…it was euphoric. I could feel the energy and I could keep going.

These guys were tough. I learned all about the Norwegian work ethic. The first thing I was asked by the crew was “Yah, so just how Norwegian are you?”  I replied that my grandmother was of Norwegian descent. They looked me up and down, chuckled and spat on the deck.

At that time, I was 6’2, weighed about a buck ninety, had worked on the ‘bull gang’ in a pulp mill in the summers, rowed on the crew at Washington and played for the Seattle Rugby Club. But some of these guys, I was to learn, had been in the Norwegian underground in WWII, like 25-26 years earlier. A new guy trying to ‘break in’ was actually a threat to their job security. They didn’t exactly welcome me into the fold.  So when Lars asked me if I wanted to come back, I said “No thanks”.

Four years later I did come back. But that’s another, happier, story." 

 

Art Hodgins on the AlritaAlrita

 

 

Art with youngest daughter on the Alrita

 

Art Hodgins is Sena's Dad. He ran the Alrita, a 70 foot wooden longline boat for over 20 years. They hailed out of Seattle and fished in Washington and Alaska for halibut and blackcod. Art broke Rich into longlining before retiring in 2000. 

Blackcod on the Alrita 

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Comments


  • Best part of the story, “lowest form of life is the skipper’s daughters boyfriend”. I’ve heard Rich say this.

    John d Wiese on
  • Loved this writing. Being a history buff, I found it so very interesting. Also, well written. Thanks for this bit of adventure knowledge.

    Vivian Norwood on
  • Hi Sena, We made contact first in 2020 after I had photographed the Alrita on a return trip from Whittier to Bellingham in 2015. Some friends and I had just spent almost a week camping at Wonder Lake, and one of them and I were on the way home, him to Las Vegas, me to Barbados. The photo of the boat heading into a fog bank lived for years on my computer as a background.

    In 2020, I started writing short stories, your Dad gave me quite a bit of history about the Alrita, and the boat, now rechristened ‘Akita’ became the centerpiece of my first collection on short stories, available on Amazon titled ‘Into the Mist’. The photo of the boat graces my cover. At the time, I had wanted to visit Seattle and the northwest and do a non-fiction piece to honor the long-liners of the northwestern US, but COVID came along and that project curled up and died. I wound up with a collection of strange short stories instead.

    The original project is still in my pocket, and I hope that it will eventually happen – if I live that long.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think that I’ll ever actually be able to sample your fish, but here’s hoping. I’ve followed your exploits from afar since. It’s great to know that the family still carries on the tradition, and maybe, someday, we can raise a glass in warmer climes on the beach here. Best regards to you and Rich and the family.

    Chris Alleyne

    Chris Alleyne on
  • Great story…thanks for sharing it.

    Rob Stoddard on
  • Sena, loved your dad’s story. I see where your writing skills come from.

    Kathy Taft on

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