DRAGGERMEN: Fishing on Georges Bank by George Matteson

DRAGGERMEN: Fishing on Georges Bank

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A highly informative, low-key book that, unfortunately, tells youngsters more than they'd ordinarily want to know without making all that knowledge important. We're on the Elise B., a stern trawler owned and captained by Kaare Gjertsen, and for the next 130-odd solid pages (interrupted only by an occasional full-page photo or diagram), we learn about the intricacies and hazards of operating an otter net; the rudiments of modern navigation; the ways of the yellowtail flounder, cod, haddock, and anglerfish (in seperate, interspersed sections); the method of sorting and preserving fish on board, and of distributing it ashore; the greater dangers and (monetary) rewards of winter fishing; the technique of repairing torn nets; the layout of the living quarters and the engine room; the pre-1977 threat of foreign fishing fleets and the workings, now, of the 200-mile limit; and, away from the area of hard fact, something about the psychology of captaining a vessel (which most fishermen don't aspire to) and the reason why fishermen so often speak of luck: ""the careful weighing of the many factors involved in each successful decision normally defies clear explanation."" We also learn that fishing is a lucrative business today and gain a real appreciation of the skills and stamina involved. But the presentation is offhand and discursive; personalization is incidental (Kaare Gjertsen's background is not provided until p. 107, and the three other crew-members' never); and much seems to be told because it has a place in the fisherman's web of life rather than in any scheme of textual development. It's an intelligent, gracefully written work that never talks down to its audience--but it does require an audience up to its level.

Pub Date: March 19th, 1979
Publisher: Four Winds