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Praise for Working the Tides

Vancouver Sun Review
Working the Tides presents gripping insider views not just of salmon trollers and seiners, but of the men, women and boats that harvest cod, herring, and rockfish. Almost all of the material in Working the Tides is drawn from the archives of BC's leading commercial fishing magazine, Westcoast Fisherman.

Working the Tides is a smashing book that, without getting snagged in melodrama, is full of drama, humor and authoritative information.
-The Vancouver Sun

Langley Times Review
There's something to it you can't describe, something like opening a present every time you haul up the net. You never know what's going to be in it, if it will make you rich or put under the red line. . . oh you can't keep us off the boats."

The words of Dennis Buggit, Newfoundland fisherman and caracter in E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News. Fiction, yes, but the words might be spoken by many a warm-blooded west coast fisherman.

Editor Michael Skog is the third generation in his family to crew on commercial boats and value fishing "as one of the las of the hunter/gatherer activities." And when you're riding out a sotrm? "It's one of the most intensely real things you can experience."

Skog and colleague Peter Robson, both former editors of the Westcoast Fisherman, sifted a decade's worth of proflies featured in the commercial magazine to weave Working the Tides: A Portrait of Canada's West Coast Fishery.

Like a well-cast net, it captures the spirit of a life that partially defines this coastline.

Pick up a newspaper or tune in a newscast and most of today's fishing headlines revolve around dwindling stocks, allocation wars and buy-back schemes. As this cycle of news churns like a nasty weather front we often lose sight of the people and why they stay at it.

This collection steers clear of politics and business to pay tribute to a way of life just out of sight...somewhere near the horizon line. Its most basic elements are sea, sky, skill and luck, and its people aren't prepared to write an epitaph for the industry.

The stories are back in time to the mid-1930s, when 15-year-old Dave Miller ran away from school in Victoria to fish handlines from an open canoe as natives had done for centuries. His reward was six cents a pound for coho.

"I made 50 bucks for the whole bloody summer."

Like the salmon, he returned, eventually trolling for cod with his own boats and serving time in the Gumboot Navy–part of the ad hoc fleet of commercial fishermen and mariners who performed double duty during the Second World War.

A poignant counterpoint is an account of Japanese/Fisherman Johnny Madokoro, who, after having his fishing boat confiscated in 1942, returned from internment camp 10 years later to rebuild a fishing life aboard ‘Challenger II.’

Westcoast Fisherman’s writers are noted for getting wet, cold and just a little slimy. They step aboard working boats armed with cameras, note pads, and sleeping bags. Some are fishers themselves and know the roll of the sea, can consume gallons of boat coffee, and are known to relieve crews on duty.

These stories are spoken with authentic voices, and it's why Westcoast Fisherman magazine has a place aboard most vessels. Black and white photos document the faces and work as we join divers seeking geoduck, sea urchins, and octopus–three of 80 species harvested off our coast.

There are solitary figures like Sue Milligan who taught herself how to troll and jig for rockcod, and recounts a trip through a whirlpool with a snapped steering chain.

She came out the other side right side up and still committed to a life she loves.!"

Working couples like Ucluelet's Ralph and Judy Hodgson have fishedtogether for better than 20 years. Judy says, “We have a pretty good system on the boat. I look after the pointy end and Ralph looks after the square end, the middle is common ground.”

There are stories of 15 minute roe herring gold rushes, and bitter memories of empty nets. There are pranks, the crunch of boats colliding in heavy fog, and storms that erupt with hell-bent fury.

One chilling passage is a Transport Canada ‘Casualty Invetigation Report’ that documents verbatim the deadly swath of hurricane-force winds off the west coast of Vancouver Island in 1984: five lives were consumed by this storm that hit the salmon fleet without warning.

And they still go out. As the fictional character Dennis Buggit says, “you can’t keep us off the boats.”

If you’ve ever walked the docks of Steveston and wondered what gets inside people and can draw them onto open water in tiny vessels that bob like corks, Working the Tides has some powerful clues.
-Mark Forsythe, Langley Times