Interviewee: Mike Wilson

Role: Commercial Fisherman - Active

Date of Interview: 7/15/10

Collection: Oregon Residents in Alaska's Historical Fishing

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

Abstract: Mike Wilson explains how he started fishing out of Kodiak, Alaska. After a short time working in a cannery in Kodiak he was given the chance by the boat's skipper to fill in for a crewmember on a crab trip. He explains that the first trip was difficult, but that the amount of money to be made per trip was quite large.


I was born and raised in Waldport.

I'm not a clock rider. If there is something to do I want to be doing it. I happened to that particular day nothing was broke down. I ended up helping the unloaders. There was a boat in unloading crab and so down the ladder I went into the fish hole of that boat and I'm pitching crab like a madman. The next day, that boat owner showed up looking for that big redheaded guy. He needed a deck hand. I never done it before. I don't know. Don't know. So he said, "Well, none of us knew if we could do it until we tried it." So, I went out and I was promised no pay. No pay. "If you work out, we'll talk about pay after the trip. If you don't work out, we will give you something for the trip and we'll have to get rid of you." So, I go out there and I have never been yelled at…my coaches were a piece of cake to what I was I got yelled at. I didn't know squat from nothing. Never got seasick. I thought I worked my ass off. And I've set chokers behind cats, two of them. You run to the landing you unhook them, you go back and hook the load on the next load. You follow that cat back to the landing. Nobody will ever say anything about me not being a hard worker. That's the first thing you're ever going to hear.

So I go out and make this fishing trip and I have never quit anything in my life. And I just can't say that word, you can fire me. That's your choice. It ain't mine. So we are on our way to town and I'm thinking, "I hope I get fired. You know. I got to figure out a way to get fired because this, I thought I was tough." So we are about an hour out of Kodiak and I get a call from the skipper and the owner to come upstairs. And I'm thinking, "Good, I'm going to get fired. He's telling me before we get there. I'm going to get fired." So I get upstairs and he says, "I've been fishing a long time and I have never run across a situation like this before." So he says, "What I am going to do, I'm paying you top share." He says, "You are one of the workenest guys I've ever had on my boat." "Not fired? No…" So I go back downstairs, in my bunk, and I am thinking, "Oh man. This may be the first time I have to say I quit."

So we get to town, I had no money because I had to buy all the gear to go on the trip. So, one of the other crewman, I asked him to borrow twenty bucks. He says, "For what?" "So I can eat." "Well, eat the boat's food, that's what it's there for." I says, "Well we aren't working. I can't eat the guy's food." He says, "Well no it don't work that way. You are on the boat, you eat the boat's food. You're working on the boat while you're in town." And I said, "Well I can't do that." "Well get a draw." And I said "well I only worked for four days, how can I ask for a paycheck?"

So that was it, he wouldn't lend me the twenty bucks. So I didn't eat. The next day the owner came up to me and handed me a check. He said, "Why didn't you say you needed money?" I said, "Well, I had only been working here for four days. You know, that ain't right." He said "Well you can have a draw anytime you want. You will get paid on the 30th of every month." So he hands me this check. I hand it back and said, "Well somebody made a mistake with this." He says, "Well no. That's a draw check." I said, "How much of this do I share with them other guys?" He says, "None, that's your draw check." I said, "How much did I make?" He said, "Well, I don't know, I don't have time for that. You know, you get 10% of the gross dollars and figure it out. You know what we delivered." I said, "So that's all mine? $5,000 for four days? I can do this again." Them guys can yell at me all they want. There is not a problem here. So out the next trip and it got easier. Because you learn as you're going. And back in those days they didn't teach you nothing. You'll learn as you're going.

To listen to Mike's interview, click here.