I started as a little kid fishing off the old government wharf in Campbell River, catching perch and herring and taking them home to cook. My dad was a school teacher in Campbell River who moved here from Victoria because of the fishing. My great grandfather was a sailmaker in England; he settled in Victoria. His complete set of gear from his locker is in the museum in Victoria.
Ken Sacht was a neighbour of mine when I was growing up, and I first went out in the commercial herring fishery with Ken and his dad, Melvin, when I was about 14 years old. My mom was on the school board, so there was no problem getting permission to miss school and go out fishing for the month of March. We worked on the gear first, fished the gulf, went to Victoria for a day or two and then on to the west coast up as far as the Charlottes. It was great, there was big fishing, no limits, several nets, the herring were beautiful (way more massive than now), and the price was phenomenal. We made great money.
I bought my first boat when I was 20 years old. It was an old boat called the Viking III. I had deckhanded on it for two full seasons and bought it at the end of the second season. I paid $150,000.00 for the boat which included a straight A licence, but no salmon gear, that was about $2,000 to buy the salmon gear. I paid for most of the boat with my own money and had a bank loan of $75,000 at 24% interest. I had worked on the U Chuck II for three seasons (age 14, 15, and 16), being paid $200.00 per week, overtime after 12 hours and had several herring seasons behind me. I was living at home at the time, helping around the house while I saved my money – I was quite a miser.
I managed to talk one of my best friends into deckhanding for me. We left Port Hardy and were in Camano Sound about halfway to Prince Rupert – the weather was beautiful, and the fish were there. I was very fortunate that trip and I managed to pay my next year’s interest payments on the boat as well as taking a six month trip to Australia.
I survived the early 1980’s when interest rates started at about 11% and went up a year later to 24%. A lot of fishermen at that time folded, they couldn’t survive with the interest rates so high.
I kept the Viking III for about 8 years. It was a big heavy wooden boat. In 1986 I started the season with only 152 coho on opening day, which was an extremely poor start to the season. One of my friends suggested we start the beach party season early instead of fishing, but I decided to run out to Triangle Spit which was about a 4 hour trip to try for the night bite. That was the first year I had a colour sounder, and I had heard other fishermen say the coho would show up as little blue dots on the sounder. I went full bore left at Yankee Bank heading to Triangle Spit. About 3 hours into my trip, I started seeing little blue dots on my sounder. I got out my binoculars and could see a small group of 3 or 4 boats in the distance. I started trolling towards them and wound up with over 400 fish on the night bite. The next day I got 875 coho salmon.
I don’t think there is anything I didn’t like about the fishing life!
To contact Roger, please visit his website.