Interviewee: Dave Densmore

Role: Commercial Fishermen

Date of Interview: 9/27/08

Collection: Working Waterfront Festival Community Documentation Project

Click on the link below to play the audio clip from the interviewee.

Abstract: Dave Densmore’s family moved to the Aleutian villages of Alaska when he was very young. According to Dave, they “just kind of blended into the atmosphere there.” Dave’s father was a commercial fisherman and fishing was the lifeblood of the small coastal communities, so it was natural that Dave, too, gravitated to the sea. For many years, Dave has been writing poetry about fishing, in part, he says, because commercial fishermen have so many good stories, but they rarely get told beyond the boats, coffee shops, or bars that fishermen frequent. He says his poetry is a way to give fishermen some “ink.”

Transcript: “I'm Dave Densmore, this is my wife Pat. I've been a fisherman all my life. My dad was a commercial fisherman—he did a lot of things. He cowboyed all over the southwest and then he and my mom went to Alaska when I was real young. I grew up in some of the Aleutian villages. They're all gone now. There was a little village called Ikatan. It was on upside of False Pass, which is the first break in the Alaska peninsula on Unimak Island. And then [Ununga?] was another village that I grew up in, and then out on [Snak?], which is a little island about thirty miles offshore.

There was no communication with the outside world in the wintertime once the cannery closed down. We had a mail boat that came once a month. My mom would order all our groceries in the fall after we got done fishing. We'd get a shipment in, everything came in bulk. You know, potatoes, and sugar, and flour and some shotgun shells. We basically lived off the land. All the meat we ate we killed except for bacon, they'd get bacon in, but we lived on ducks and geese and seal and sea lion. There wasn't any big game animals, it was all seal and sea lion, and birds.

I've always been on islands. I'm an island, island man. I think no matter where I we had ended up I'd have ended up on the ocean because it's always been a major calling. I just, I have to be on water. As soon as I was able I was on the boat fishing and by the time I was eight, nine years old I had my first skiff, and I bought my first fishing boat, commercial fishing boat when I was thirteen. I learned it from my dad, and I learned it from the old native guys, and any kids we were always playing boats. That was the total focus when I was a kid. If you weren't playing boats you were you were carving a boat or something, but it was always about fishing and always about boats. A natural fisherman really doesn't learn it. He already knows it. I think we're born that way. I can remember in Washington sensing fish when we were out when my dad was a sports fisherman when I was six or seven. I knew where, I could tell where there was going to be fish.”

To read Dave's full transcript, click here.