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Bewildering Stories

Checker Man

by Mike Florian

This painting is called “Checker Man.” The checker man is situated beside the roller man. Every two hours, all the deckhands switch places from roller man to checker man, then down below to ice the fish, then baiting, coiling, etc. The checker man dresses the fish and throws them down below into the fish hold.

Sometimes the large halibut come into that blocked-off checker and they flip around. They are so strong that they become dangerous. In this instance the man is using a halibut club to beat the fish to death, after which he pulls it up on the hatch and begins to dress the fish.

This particular fish looks to weigh about 80 pounds. Sometimes the bigger fish — 150 lbs and up — would come up on the gear out of the deep with a mouthful and bellyful of live king crab. We would save them, of course, and boil up the crab for lunch.

The picture is dark because a lot of my memories were of getting up at 4 o’clock in the morning and working in the darkness under a floodlight until daybreak.

At least now when you might order a halibut entree at a restaurant you will have a general idea how it ended up from the bottom of the ocean to your table. These are great, powerful fish and a boat would come home from the Gulf of Alaska with about 70,000 pounds. When I fished we were paid 21 to 25 cents a pound. Nowadays I think the landed price is about 6 dollars. I age myself.

Copyright © 2012 by Mike Florian

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