Over the next few weeks, we will be running a Q&A series featuring deckhands working on the B.C. coast. Many fish harvesters start their careers this way, working on several boats and in multiple fisheries over the year– this series aims to celebrate their hard work and give a taste of the fishing life.
Tanner Haase is a Pender Harbour-based deckhand, and he talked with us shortly before heading out for the 2020 prawn fishery. Below is a summary of our conversation.
BCYFN: Let’s start with an introduction: Who are you? Where are you from?
Tanner Haase: My name is Tanner. I live in Pender Harbour, and I’ll be going into my third year as a deckhand. I've been fishing for most of my life, but only commercially for the last three years. My great grandpa, or maybe even my great-great grandpa, started our family commercial fishing. They were gillnetters, and now I mostly do troll (salmon), halibut, prawn, and this year might even try tuna.
BCYFN: What is it about fishing that you love?
TH: I think it’s that you can just turn everything else off, go out, and not worry about anything but fishing. You take it day by day...and, you don’t have any bills when you’re out there, which is pretty good.
BCYFN: Does the boat usually cover all your costs?
TH: Most of them. And I actually go out with my skipper’s daughter, so she’s also on the boat with me most of the summer and it becomes a family affair.
BCYFN: Lucky! When did you start fishing with him?
TH: The first trip I did with him was herring. I did that for two years, and actually got credits from the high school for it. It was a blast – I always love herring, it’s one of the most fun fisheries I’d say. Staying up all night and loading up on fish...I still can’t believe how many herring are actually out there spawning.
BCYFN: So would you say herring is your favourite?
TH: Yes, but I also enjoy going up to Prince Rupert every summer to troll for salmon. I have quite a few buddies that are also trollers – about 10 percent of the northern troll fleet is based in Pender Harbour now, so it’s fun to see friends. Halibut fishing is also really exhilarating - seeing these big fish come over, you know you’re making lots of money when you get big fish. They’re fast trips too that only last about five days.
BCYFN: What are the most challenging times out there?
TH: Slow fishing. The days you’re not getting very much, and you start thinking ‘why am I here?’. There aren’t too many days like that though.
BCYFN: After a few years of fishing, you must know the coast fairly well.
TH: Oh, I’ve travelled it a couple times now. Not to say that I know totally where I’m going, but I know most of the islands by name now. There is a sense of community that is also really nice- before I was a full-time deckhand, I trucked prawns between Prince Rupert and Kitimat, and all the guys I’d truck for were from Pender Harbour. It was always a good time when we got together and went to the pub or something. There's a true sense of community.
BCYFN: What would you say is the most rewarding about fishing, or the best lesson you’ve taken from your work?
TH: It’s a business lesson of sorts – you learn about what happens when you flood the market with halibut, or the best way to market your fish and find customers, stuff like that.
BCYFN: What would you tell someone looking to get into the industry?
TH: Get a good skipper, that would be the main thing. Make sure you’re getting paid fairly. A lot of the fishermen from around Pender Harbour are really good people; we’re a small community and small communities care more about each other.
BCYFN: I guess walking the docks in Pender would be a good place to start then! And for you, what’s your hope for the future, either personally or for the industry more broadly?
TH: It would be nice to see the B.C. fleet stop shrinking. It feels like right now, there’s a new obstacle every year to overcome and it’s tiring. With herring for example, we’ve faced a lot of push back from conservationists. But this year there was so much spawn I couldn’t believe it! At the same time, you have these thousand-dollar drones flying over our heads capturing footage to shut it down—like, we’re just trying to make a buck and put food on the table.
BCYFN: That’s certainly frustrating…why keep going? What does fishing mean to you, what keeps drawing you back?
TH: I’d say it’s having that sense of community, especially coming from Pender Harbour. For instance, my skipper went to school with my mum, they were in the same grade. I graduated in a class of 14, his might have been 17, so it’s not a huge community. And when we’re up in Prince Rupert, and we hit the dock all at the same time, it’s a really nice feeling.
BCYFN: Do you have a favourite food to eat when you’re on the water?
TH: My favourite food would be some sort of panko fish. Usually after we deliver, we try to keep a fish, like a lingcod or something. And this time of year, of course prawns are pretty good too.
BCYFN: Sounds good! Thank for the conversation, and good luck out there this year.