Following in his older brother Peter’s footsteps, James Mcarthy, captain of the 71 foot stern trawler F/V Coho, carries a fierce determination and drive to become a successful and well respected captain in Kodiak’s fisheries. When he is not plying the icy waters of the Gulf of Alaska, James turns his focus to his true passion, golf. In June of 2007, he caddied for his good friend Michael Berg at the US Open in Oakmont Pennsylvania, and at the local Kodiak Bear Valley golf course, James holds the unofficial course record of 67. Young men like James are the future of the industry and James’ future looks bright.
How long have you been fishing?
15 years, 14 1/2 in Kodiak.
Where’d you get started fishing?
In Ireland, back home. I went to fishin’ school when I was 16, Green Castle college for some basic trainin’ on fishin’. And after that I came over here, 6 months later my brother offered me a job.
What did you fish for in Ireland?
I was a trawler, bottom fish, mostly cod and some flatfish. Pretty much the same we do here.
What got you started in the industry?
My brothers were fishermen.
What is your ideal day at sea?
We had an ideal day once out in the Bering Sea, it took us four hours to fill up 350 thousand pounds of Pollock, and it was flat calm, we were right in front of Akutan, the net was in the water, in the fish, for maybe 25 minutes. You’d set the net in the water, and the minute you dogged the doors you’d have to start haulin’ back. The fishin’ was that good.
What year was that?
The year was…2002. That was the most ideal I’ve ever seen.
Do you have any intense stories?
Probably the one I like tellin’ is me and my brother John went fishin’ out on a trip, just me and him, because we’d fired the other guy, and it was just the two of us. We went down to the southern end of the island for one Pollock trip at the end of the season, we could only get one more in, and we went down there, and me and him were just running the boat ourselves, and the observer on board. First two tows went fine and we filled her up. Needed about 30 thousand to finish her up, and we got about 40 or 50 thousand, so we dragged the last 20 thousand pounds up on deck, and when we did the boat turned sideways… and John came back to help me pull the zipper on the back of the bag, and the zipper popped and the whole 20 thousand just came at us at once. It just came all the way across the back of the boat at us where we were standin’. It took him off his feet, and I grabbed him, and he grabbed a checker board, and I was tryin’ to hold him back while the fish kept comin’ at him. After the fish spilled out he got back to his feet, went up to the wheelhouse, tried to turn the boat around, she was listin’ pretty good, we thought we were in big trouble. But once he got up the wheelhouse and turned her we got some fish off, she cleared again. The observer had no clue what was goin’ on, she was standin’ knee deep in water on the port side. Had no idea anything was going on. We screamed at her to get up on the top deck, cuz if that happened, if we’d both gone out right there, she was the only one on the boat. But we filled her up, got to town, and had a pretty good trip for both of us.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever caught at sea?
A dead whale! The smelliest, nastiest… it hadn’t been dead long, maybe a few months, most of the meat was still there but it was rotten. It was probably the stinkiest most disgustin’ smell you can ever smell in your whole life. When I was cuttin’ it out of the net I was just pukin’, it was nasty. For about 3 months afterwards the boat still smelled like it, you had to throw every piece of clothin’ away, we tried to bleach one of the bones… but no mater what you did there was no getting rid of that smell.
If you could change anything in the fishing industry, what would it be?
Havin’ to throw fish overboard. Bring it in, utilize it, think of some better way to make us fish cleaner, but be able to bring in everything we catch. Even if it’s say… the by catch of halibut, bring it to town, maybe someone gets half of the money for those kind of fish, it goes to NMFS, maybe goes to whoever, somebody who will make the industry better so we don’t have to keep throwin’ this stuff over.
What’s your biggest challenge as a young skipper?
Tryin’ to keep up with my two brothers!
What’s your favorite thing to eat while out at sea?
Oh, I dunno…I like a good breakfast, always eat a good breakfast.
Rex sole or rock sole, any flatfish is probably my favorite, but I don’t eat round fish much because I don’t like bones. But if it’s de-boned… but flatfish, sole.
Where do you see yourself and the fishing industry in 10 years?
Myself maybe owning part or most of this boat, and in 10 years I hope to be one of the most looked up to skippers in this town like my brothers are now, I’d like to have a good reputation, and I’d like to see this industry as strong as it is now.
What do you do when you’re not fishing?
Golf is a major one for me, walking my dog. Dirt bike ridin’ in the summer with my nephew. There’s not much I do in the winter though… But golf is the biggest one that I’ve always wanted to do, if I could make enough money I would like to go back and do it again.